Lunacy

Slithering, severed tongues mount each other in an erotic clinch. Perambulatory brains seek refuge in the cranium of an animal skull while swarms of rolling eyeballs pop into its empty sockets. Marionettes made of meat dance to the sounds of a carnival hurdy-gurdy, and raw something pulsates from the side wound of a wooden Christ. In LUNACY Czech master...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Slithering, severed tongues mount each other in an erotic clinch. Perambulatory brains seek refuge in the cranium of an animal skull while swarms of rolling eyeballs pop into its empty sockets. Marionettes made of meat dance to the sounds of a carnival hurdy-gurdy, and raw something pulsates from the side wound of a wooden Christ. In LUNACY Czech master animator Jan Svankmajer has crafted his finest live-action feature to date; punctuated by such charnel-house interludes, it's a surrealist mini-manifesto that serves as a remarkably clear-cut statement of purpose inspired by the nightmarish works of Edgar Allan Poe, the Marquis de Sade and the gristle of his own imagination. The setting is the French countryside and the time appears to be the 19th century, though cars share the highways with 18th-century barouches. While en route from the insane asylum at Charenton where he's just buried his poor, mad mother, humble Jean Berlot (Pavel Liska) encounters the decadent 18th-century Marquis (Jan Triska) at a roadside inn. Despite the stranger's vaguely sinister manner, Jean accepts the Marquis' offer of a lift, but soon finds himself on the way to the nobleman's chateau, and made the butt of his host's perverse childish pranks. After a troubling night during which he witnesses a debauched, blasphemous parody of the Eucharist, Jean prepares to leave in righteous disgust, but his departure is delayed when the Marquis seems to choke to death during breakfast. It's then that Jean learns the real reason for his presence at the chateau: He is to assist the Marquis' servant (Pavel Novy) in a "therapeutic funeral" that will hopefully purge the Marquis of his morbid fear of being buried alive. In return, should he actually resuscitate and safely escape his tomb, the Marquis will help Jean overcome his own fear of going insane, one which gives him night terrors. The Marquis' solution involves committing Jean himself to the sanitarium run by his good friend and fellow libertine Dr. Murlloppe (Jaroslav Dusek), but it soon appears that the inmates have actually imprisoned the real doctors in the basement, and now live in total freedom, coming and going as they please. The lunatics have taken over the asylum: It's an old metaphor (one that's at least as old as Poe's "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether") but one that achieves a certain poignancy in Svankmajer's hands. As the repressed authoritarian figures of the "good" doctors come streaming from the basement, tarred and feathered and mercilessly wielding batons, one can't help but think of the brutal aftermath of the Prague Spring, when a Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia put an end to a few brief months of relative freedom in 1968. Svankmajer's film is poignant on a still more personal level: It was the last film on which his late wife and kindred spirit, the surrealist artist Eva Svankmajerova, collaborated before her death in 2005.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Slithering, severed tongues mount each other in an erotic clinch. Perambulatory brains seek refuge in the cranium of an animal skull while swarms of rolling eyeballs pop into its empty sockets. Marionettes made of meat dance to the sounds of a carnival hur… (more)

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