Lunacy

Film
MARQUIS IDOL Triska welcomes us to the madhouse.
MARQUIS IDOL Triska welcomes us to the madhouse.

Time Out says



At the beginning of his latest film, Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer cautions his audience that what it is about to see is not a work of art but a horror film concerning “an ideological debate.” The statement is partly tongue-in-cheek, of course, but the brief intro illuminates how the 71-year-old director’s Lunacy, while rooted in familiar Svankmajer fixations like Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade, represents a departure, particularly in its plot construction and overt political pessimism.

Following a reasonably straightforward narrative, Lunacy is surprisingly conventional by Svankmajer standards—that is, as conventional as a film can be while still pausing periodically for interludes of stop-motion animation that feature various cuts of dancing meat and body parts such as pulsating tongues and disembodied eyeballs. Haunted by a recurring nightmare of white coats carrying him off in a straitjacket, Jean (Liska, resembling a hollowed-out Johnny Depp) is on his way to the asylum where his mother recently died, when he gets a lift from a creepily charming Marquis (Triska), whose preferred leisure activities include ritual blasphemy, sacramental rape and having himself buried alive. The mixed-period French setting creates a pervasive undertone of uncertainty, culminating in a paranoiac sequence of institutional terror that’s alleviated only by the occasional interruptions of that dancing meat. (Now playing; Film Forum.) — Joshua Land

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