Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Viva La Muerte! (Fernando Arrabal, 1971)

Perhaps it's because I still have The Holy Mountain in mind, but Fernando Arrabal's surrealist Vive La Muerte! didn't hit the mark. Arrabal and Jodorowsky were collaborators (I believe) as well as influences on one another, so it's normal that the two filmmakers be tied together. But what Arrabal tries to do in this film, juxtapose the everyday with the holy, the divine and the profane, would be better done in Jodorowsky's film two years later.

The plot revolves around the desperation of Franco's Spain, where young Fando's father is dead. His mother tells him his father killed himself in jail, but Fando doesn't believe that. He has a vivid, at times shocking imagination, as well as a pretty big Oedipus complex. The mother-son sexuality is treated as one of the least shocking elements in the film. I can see how, at the time, the mixture of religious and sexual/violent imagery was shocking, but having seen Jodorowsky's work, as well as countless other, less talented filmmakers who have tried the same tactics, it's almost passe in contemporary times. Arrabal did shoot this film gorgeously, however. Fando's internal sequences were colored over with technicolors, such as bright pink and yellow, that sometimes blend and change during the sequence. While at first, this seemed inventive and different, after a while, it seemed almost amateur (too obvious a delineation between the real and the imagined) or film-schooly.

If you like surrealist film, I do recommend Arrabal's Viva La Muerte! because, as I said, some of the images are stupendous: the mother with the knife in her mouth and Fando's bath scene come immediately to mind. But for surrealist imagery (young girlfriend with a turkey companion) that has a real gut impact, you're best to look elsewhere. Of note: there is a graphic animal murder (of a cow) onscreen that made me really upset. Sensitive vegetarians like myself should be aware - it comes near the end of the film and is definitely an eye-covering scene.


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