The Fernando Arrabal Collection
By: David Michael Brown on May 29, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Hard Corps (Australia). All Regions, PAL. The Guernica Tree: 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse & Viva La Muerte: 1.66:1 (16:9 enhanced). I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse & The Guernica Tree: French DD 2.0, Viva La Muerte: Spanish DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 274 minutes
The Movie
Director: Fernando Arrabal
Starring: Mariangela Melato, Cosimo Cinieri, Ron Faber / George Shannon, Hachemi Marzouk / Mohamed Bellasued, Mahdi Chaouch
Screenplay: Fernando Arrabal
Country: Mexico
Year: 1975/1973/1970
At the beginning of the Sixties; three men gathered in Paris and founded The Panic Movement. Taking its moniker from Pan, the God of nature, and heavily influenced by surrealist Luis Buñuel and Antonin Artuad's revolutionary Theatre of Cruelty, this Parisian collective was made up of three men: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Roland Topor and Fernando Arrabal. These men meant business, one recorded performance given in 1965 featured crucified chickens, naked women covered in honey and turtles being thrown into the bemused audience. Where Jodorowsky being reborn from a giant vagina comes into all this I'm sure only the members of the Movement know, but I'm sure it made for entertaining viewing. Where do you go from there? Well, Jodorowsky went on to direct such wildly eclectic films as El Topo and The Holy Mountain, illustrator Topor wrote the source novel to Roman Polanski's The Tenant and Arrabal joined Jodorowsky to become a filmmaker.

The pair first worked together on Jodorowsky's Fando and Lis; the movie was based on a play by Arrabal. It wasn't long, however, before Arrabal was directing his own films and this DVD collection represents a fine introduction to his cinematic work. The set includes The Guernica Tree (1975), I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse (1973) and Viva le Muerte (1971.)

The Guernica Tree has been ably reviewed recently on this site but makes for the perfect starting point as it is possibly his most accessible film. Arrabal uses his film's to vent his spleen on fascism, Franco and WWII and The Guernica Tree brings all of the director's cinematic predilections to the fore. Surreal images verging on the sacrilegious, often shocking moments of violence, and he joins his friend Jodorowsky with his near obsessional use of dwarfs in his film, his latest film is the perfect way to enter the weird world of Arrabal.

I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse is a surreal sermon that takes on modern religion using a string of increasingly bizarre and offensive set pieces that will have many reaching for the eject button. Aden escapes to the desert after killing his mother. Here he befriends a wandering midget called Marvel who teaches him the real beauty of the world and soon Aden finds himself falling for his pint-sized tutor. Smitten, he takes Marvel back to "civilization" and soon realizes that the wonderful life he has lived in the wilderness will be destroyed by modern society. Told in a decadent mix of flash backs and strange vignettes we see a young Aden being tortured and tormented by his mother. This parental abuse has affected his life to the bitter end. When Arun dies Marvel does what any lover does in the face of intense grief, he eats Arun in a graphic scene of cannibalistic decadence and gives birth to a fully formed adult clone of Arun. As you can see this isn't your normal everyday film; its scenes of sex, cannibalism, defecation, children wearing gas masks dragging crosses and other such novelties will have many looking on in baffled disbelief.

Arrabal's debut feature Vive Le Muerte takes place after the Spanish Civil War and tells the story of Fando, a young boy who's family is ripped apart when his father is arrested and killed for being a communist. The child's confusion is even more exasperated when he realizes that his religious zealot mother may have had a hand in incriminating his father. Arrabal again pushes the boundaries of good taste. Real animal slaughter and the mental and physical torture head the bill of atrocities. Visually the film uses bright primary colour washes that reduce the impact of some of the scenes, which many will feel is a good thing. The striking impact of some of the scenes, especially the father buried up to his neck in sand, will haunt the viewer well after this film has finished. Often beautifully shot with an eye for making the most out of his landscapes, Vive Le Muerte is a striking first effort and the beginning of a long line of anti war protests for this most political of directors.
The transfer on all three films is pretty good. The image is sharp without too much grain and the colours are strong and vibrant. The Guernica Tree is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, while I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse and Viva La Muerte have been given anamorphic 1.66:1 transfers.
The Dolby Digital stereo mix is adequate. There is a bit distortion on all the discs but it doesn't impede the viewer's enjoyment too much.
Extra Features
Each disc is given a small selection of extras. The Guernica Tree features trailers for the three films in the box-set and images from a French Lobby Card set along with footage of Arrabal traipsing the streets asking unsuspecting people if they know who he is. I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse features a gloriously bizarre interview with the director during which he clutches a wooden chair for no apparent reason and gets a phone call from God who he has a chat about erections with! The disc also includes a stills gallery and the trailer. Vive le Muerte includes another interview with the director all with a lobby card set and the trailer.
The Verdict
There is no denying it, these films are hard work. There is an obvious talent lurking beneath the blood, naked flesh and excrement, but it is often hard to see past the shocking imagery and attempt to fathom what Arrabal is actually getting at. The films are often too surreal for their own good which is no surprise coming from a director who was arrested for his art and has written books with the likes of Salvador Dali. Approach with caution, even Jodorowsky fans will be perplexed by these films.
Movie Score
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