• [The Daily] Cannes 2017: Kornél Mundruczó’s Jupiter’s Moon

    By David Hudson

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    “Kornél Mundruczó’s Jupiter’s Moon is a messily ambitious and over-extended movie with some great images,” writes the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw: “[L]ike his previous picture White God it leaves behind the somewhat torpid realist mannerisms of his even earlier films such as Delta and skirts the fringes of sci-fi and fantasy. In fact, it is about a Syrian refugee who recovers from bullet-wounds inflicted by a trigger happy immigration cop and realizes he has a superpower. He can fly!”

    “This serious-minded, ambitious oddity shoots for the moon of a far-off planet, but it really only finds the grace it’s looking for in its magnificent supple camerawork,” writes Jessica Kiang for Variety.Jupiter’s Moon wants to take on the immigrant crisis, the Western world’s loss of religious faith, miracles, redemption, terrorism, sacrifice, guilt and modern urban alienation. It is a thriller, a chase movie, a Christian allegory, a family fable about ersatz fathers embracing their frightened would-be sons and a visceral social-issues drama detailing the Hungarian state’s heavy-handed and inhumane response to the refugee crisis. Its title adds yet more to the pile: In the crisp non-explanation that opens the film, we’re told it pertains to the moon Europa, considered by scientists to be among the likeliest prospects in our solar system for a new life-supporting home. But science and space exploration place a very distant second to the questions of faith and religion that are Mundruczó’s main concern.”

    “Zsombor Jéger plays Aryan, a young Syrian man who sneaks into Hungary after a perilous journey, only to be gunned down by László (György Cserhalmi), a callous director of a local refugee camp,” writes Tim Grierson for Screen. “But instead of dying, Aryan inexplicably stays alive—and now has the power to levitate. Seeking help from a crooked doctor, Stern (Merab Ninidze), Aryan wants to track down his father, who was separated from him during their entry into Hungary. But Stern has other ideas, convincing him to team up on a series of scams where they’ll trick wealthy, ailing patients into believing that the kid is a miracle worker. As with White God, Jupiter’s Moon wields a clever sci-fi premise in service to topical observations about man’s inhumanity to man.”

    “Almost imperceptibly the story shifts into a zanier mode that will include a major car chase, shootouts and SWAT-team action in the grand Budapest Hotel, with a satisfying side of redemption,” adds Barbara Scharres at RogerEbert.com.

    IndieWire’s David Ehrlich: “Mundruczó, who combines Alfonso Cuarón’s penchant for long takes with Steven Spielberg’s gift for layering several planes of action in a single shot, can turn the most mundane story beat into a viscerally arresting masterclass of cinematic movement (much credit belongs to his usual cinematographer, Marcell Rév).” Still, “over time the film also exposes the characters as cheap stand-ins for simplistic moral lessons.”

    “The film was written by White God’s co-author Kata Weber, an actress-turned-screenwriter who debuted in Mundruczo’s first film, Pleasant Days,” notes Boyd van Hoeij in the Hollywood Reporter. “The biggest weakness of her screenplay is that its connecting tissue and overall narrative arc aren’t as thorough as its set pieces are creative and beautifully conceived.”

    At Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier finds that “the heavy burden of the subject matter ends up weighing the film down and playing on a fairly repetitive loop with slight dramatic variations.”

    “Even though it’s not at all clear what Jupiter’s Moon is attempting to say or do by the time its gun-popping finale comes around,” writes Little White LiesDavid Jenkins, “it takes no political sides when it comes to the issue of global human traffic and the value of a spiritual life. This careful fudging of anything that could get it pegged as promoting one position over the other might make Mundruczó a perfect candidate for a Hollywood run out—especially as, above all else, this appears to take many of its narrative cues from that Tinseltown perennial: the superhero origin story.”

    Updates, 5/20: Dispatching to the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang writes that “finally, and most wearyingly, the movie is an earnest religious parable, executed with a leadenness that can feel at odds with Aryan’s gravity-defying new abilities. The moments you remember are the flashiest: Aryan making a room spin in Inception-style circles or levitating over a city street, like a melancholy homage to The Matrix and Wings of Desire in one. In these moments your eyes pop out of your head, but at other points they might be more inclined to roll.”

    Jupiter’s Moon is engineered to drop jaws, one showboating set piece at a time,” writes A. A. Dowd at the A.V. Club. “It’s maybe the most muscularly elaborate staging in a quasi-indie since Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, which Mundruczó often blatantly imitates. Unfortunately, the movie’s often-astonishing imagery—a multi-floor hotel shoot-out; a kinetic car chase through rush-hour traffic; an entire room spinning destructively in circles—has been applied to a mainstream thriller that might charitably be called goofy and more accurately described as powerfully stupid.”

    “The most abstract connection, perhaps, is the rather clunky idea that squabbling humans might just forget their differences for a moment if united by some grand event or greater good,” writes Rory O’Connor at the Film Stage. “Even the film’s chief antagonist—a worn-out/devout detective named Laszló (Gyōrgy Cserhalmi) who is responsible for Aryan’s shooting at the start—begins to question his own beliefs and actions. Such pious departures, however half-baked and pretentious, only add to the pleasure and mystery of this strange, oft derivative, but undeniably unique genre outing.”

    “Laden with heavy-handed religious symbolism, Moon makes the Hungarian director’s previous feature—the infinitely better White God—feel almost like a documentary in comparison,” finds Nikola Grozdanovic at the Playlist. “How is it possible that a story tapping into the Syrian refugee crisis can sound so spectacularly original on paper, only to percolate, stagnate, and suffocate on its own ideas in a span of two hours, leaving a stale corpse of a picture in its wake?”

    “The parallels between Aryan and Jesus Christ, both left for dead, and both seemingly having the ability to move to higher spheres all by themselves, are easily drawn,” notes Marc van de Klashorst at the International Cinephile Society. “And the protagonist’s name seems to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to Hitler’s master race, while still fitting for a refugee from Syria (the name derives from the old Sanskrit), laying bare the abusive relationship Europe has had with the Middle East, both historically and more recently. . . . So, symbolism abounds throughout the film, but unfortunately it fails to connect to the plot, which is far more banal than the possibilities this backdrop has to offer.”

    Update, 5/22:White God co-writer Kata Webér’s screenplay cribs its compromised, corrupted characters from noir thrillers,” writes Michael Leader for Sight & Sound. “Mundruczó has his sights set firmly on Hollywood-scale genre filmmaking, but, either due to lack of funds or vision, his stylistic box of tricks is very limited, and the director is content to show off these few flourishes early and deploy them often.”

    Updates, 5/23: “How this kind of magic-realist spectacularism helps to improve the lot of immigrants is anybody’s guess,” writes Sight & Sound editor Nick James.

    “I wanted to adopt a cinematic language that reflected the chaos, the tension and the pressure that I feel every day in Budapest at the moment,” Mundruczó tells Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa.

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