Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taxidermia (Revised for the US (Region 1) DVD release)

"Taxidermia" (dir. György Pálfi, Hungary/Austria/France, 2006, 91 mins.) is the anxiously awaited (by ME anyway) 'sophomore piece' from the director of Hukkle, which I LOVE and waited for FOUR YEARS for something more from him! Well, I've got it! And, well, Mr. Pálfi is my new cult figure. The man is severely twisted. "Taxidermia" opens with a man masturbating and ejaculating fire. I only mention this as it is featured on the poster as it was released in Europe, therefore it is NOT a spoiler. The film progresses into two other segments, each following the next two generations of men. The fire-ejaculation-man's son is a competitive speed eater, and his son is a taxidermist. There appears to be a lot going on here, though it isn't as blindingly apparent as at the end of "Hukkle". Pálfi's continued references to the birth process, from conception to delivery must be leading us somewhere, though I am not exactly sure.

Part of my confusion lies in Pálfi's strongest aspect and possible weakness, that is his visual style. It is so outrageous at moments, that I was completely taken away from what was happening. In the first sequence, there is a rotating pan of a giant wooden basin (symbol for the uterus?) in which we see a dozen life events take place in it. The basin is set at a 90 degree angle on the screen and then we spin around it, going through the floors and walls. Hard to describe, but breathtaking, nonetheless. The next two sequences suggest Terry Gilliam or David Cronenberg at their most brilliantly disgusting. Sequence two in particular might drive people out of the auditorium with it's revulsion. Sequence three is nearly a horror show, transcending any comparison to any other artist out there.

"Taxidermia" can be a very difficult film to watch. The performers are all thoroughly dedicated to Pálfi's vision. They are asked to participate in a physical grotesqueness that is beyond the call of duty. However, the extremity of that grotesqueness is what captivated me. Particularly in section two, where I found myself having to distance from the hyper-realism of what was happening on screen to ask "HOW did they do that?!"

The film is finally available on Region 1 (US) DVD!! It has been available in Europe for nearly three years. (It was also available in the 'bittorrent universe', where I first saw it.) The DVD comes with a "Making Of..." which is 42 minutes long and in Hungarian, German, some English, with English subtitles. It is unusually thorough. That, or I have gotten used to having "Making Of..."s broken down into smaller featurettes, i.e. the CGI sequence could have been a chapter in itself. There is a lot of information on the screen to keep involved with. At one point, during the German section, it is subtitled in Hungarian, supertitled in English and there are sections where there is split screen work, mostly horizontal, as the film is in 2:35 aspect ratio. Director Palfi does seem young and eager and quite anxious and hopeful that people understand how and why he has woven together the three short stories.

The video transfer is viewable, though not overly remarkable, considering the source material. It is presented in anamorphic 2:35 widescreen. The audio transfer is surprisingly clean and crisp!

1 comment:

Michael Hawley said...

Jay, I hope you get to see this on a big screen some day; it's amazing! (I saw it at Palm Springs back in 2007). It's bizarre that none of our Bay Area festivals ever screened it, especially genre fests like Hole in the Head, or even YBCA which tends to show edgier stuff. Thanks for the heads up on the making-of DVD extra. Will definitely check that out.