Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Insanity: Brilliant and Maddening

The first of two, er, really, one and a half screenings today:

"Lunacy" ("Sileni") (dir. Jan Svankmajer, 2005, Czech Republic, 118 mins.) Who else but Jan Svankmajer ("Alice" "Little Odik" "Conspirators of Pleasure") would take a short story by Edgar Allen Poe (about lunatics who take over an asylum), and then rewrite it in the style of the Marquis de Sade, and pepper it with stop-motion animated butchered meat? No one. Which is why he is a genius. I LOVED this! It is incredibly grotesque and beautiful to look at. It is blasphemous and ultimately spiritual. It is pornographic and, well, no, it isn't ever erotic. At least not to me. The film reveals itself in sequences, which on one hand seem to drag the pace down. However, those sequences are stunning little shorts unto themselves (spoilers follow, NOT that it matters much in a Svankmajer film): the asylum run by chickens, both real and tar-and-feathered humans; the re-Crucifixion and Holy Communion Chocolate Cake orgy; the carriage rides over highways. His visuals are so rich and deeply layered that I can watch them for hours and still find details that shock and amuse me.

The one hesitation one might have is that Svankmajer is still steeped in a post-holocaust, Soviet dominated Eastern European aesthetic, and that the film feels like it was transported from 1979. The director opens the film with a short speech about how this is not 'art' since 'art' is dead. This is just a horror film, with no social relevance at all. And then he intercuts an animated beef tongue, just to be beligirent and tells us that his little speech is all lies, anyway. He continues to focus upon the human existence as being nothing more than meat to be ground up by 'the system', and in "Lunacy" that system is Medicine and Religion. The body and soul are the victims in his asylum, and Svankmajer is such a pessimist that he doesn't see any escape for the inmates or their keepers.

Please keep in mind that this is MY interpretation, as I have yet to read the relatively hefty press packet that was presented at the screening. I could be misinterpreting Svankmajer completely! At the very least, I want convey how the time is well worth descending into his insanity.

Unfortunately, the time spent descending into the insanity of the MPAA would prove a bit more frustrating.

"This Film Is Not Yet Rated" (dir. Kirby Dick, 2006, US, ?? mins.) This documentary revealing the history and faces behind the MPAA Ratings Board was decently paced for a 'talking heads' documentary that included a lot of clips exemplifying the ironies and dichotomies that the Ratings Board has ensued itself. The cast of interviewees include a 'Who's Who' of directors and performers, i.e. John Waters, Kevin Smith, Allison Anders, Maria Bello, etc. It also follows a private investigation team as they uncover exactly WHO are the members of the Ratings Board. Unfortunately, at the 90 minute mark, the fire alarm at the Metreon (where I was seeing this) went off and the film stopped and the audience was asked to leave. So, I will have to remark upon this at a later time, after I've seen the entire film. I just wanted to throw this film in here to give it some extra notice, as it has some eye-opening facts that even I (and my friends Jimmy and Gretchen) were unaware of! I want to see it all!

Of course, the Metreon in its typically non-communicative and crowd displeasing manner, had no information as to what was happening at the complex, if it was necessary to evacuate, if the film would restart. We were just sort of pointed in the way of the box office for refunds/passes, which we didn't need anyway. (Nor do I really want from the Metreon to begin with, at this point.) Not to mention, this sort of topped my day after having parked in a tow-away zone during "Lunacy". Ironic, huh?


Maxxxxx said...

re "Lunacy": "Such a pretty bird! Such a good bird!"
re "This Film Is Not Yet Rated": nor has it really been seen, so Maxxxxx will comment later...

Michael said...

There was more meat on the move in that movie than in even some of my favorite pornos!!

Alex Ruhmann said...

Jay! They restarted the film last night after herding all of the filmgoers to the lobby. I heard that the reason for the evacuation was a teenager that thought it would be funny to pull the fire alarm. Luckily, about 1/3 of the theater returned for the last 15 minutes and a great Q&A by the director. I believe that we will be providing a synopsis on the Film Society SF360 community page...so you should check it out later today!