Another great Tartan Video release with a terrific in-depth interview with the film's director, Japon (Spanish for "Japan") is a resonant film whose title, says director Carlos Reygadas, is meant to symbolize the rising sun--i.e., the renewal of life.
Most of the characters in the film are non-professional actors and this is certainly true of the two leads, a late 50s-year old artist who says he wants to commit suicide, and the 80s woman he eventually stays with, in a completely isolated mountain village in Mexico.
As is true for the best Westerns, the land is a major character here and Reygadas manages, with his keen and skillful eye, to fuse the broad vista of what could be called a "soft" mountainous terrain with a growing sense of innocence on the part of the painter who, coming from a city (likely Mexico City), begins to feel the effects of a rural life in how he sees things, thinks about things, understand things.
The culminating scene of a sexual encounter is a powerful one--startling, completely unexpected, and all the more emphatic of the film's theme, as stated by the director, on the basis of that very intensity.
Sometimes what you think you want is not what you actually do--because it is not what you really want. Sometimes you discover that what you thought you wanted was less than what life means to you. And so you then do what life really means you to do--your life. It's your choice.
Japon succeeds brilliantly because its simplicity--which is no doubt what the director was striving for--penetrates our thinking hearts, our feeling minds. A man, a much older woman, the land.