Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Scenes from Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Fando y Lis" [1968 Mexico]

Any worthwhile discussion about nudity in cinema is simply incomplete without mention of a certain Alejandro Jodorowsky, mystic guru of the absurd - with a capital 'A'..!

About the great man:
It'll be a challenge to keep this brief, but I shall try - born in Chile and established in Mexico, Sr. Jodorowsky has dabbled into pretty much anything one might call art or craft - be it puppetry, mime, illustration, painting, literature, or theatre, he's dipped his brush and left lasting imprints on everything that had aroused his curiosity. Even if it was his cinema that opened him up to a worldwide (and devout) audience. Founder of the so-called 'Panic' movement (after the mythical Greek Pan) as a reaction to surrealism that was becoming in his words 'petit bourgeois', it aims to express itself in an uninhibited free form by using whatever motifs at disposal. Subsequently his works can either be seen as unadulterated genius in full flow, or an absurd exercise. The latter is also true, but the absurdity is methodical, like in a dream, like a trance, borne through knowledge and logic. But his work is anything but heavy - there are no profound truths to reveal that you may not already know, and contrary to what some believe, it is also not surrealism. Inquisitive, playful, and mischievous even - it is merely an unabashed expression through various motifs, sometimes symbolic. You don't watch a Jodorowsky for its technical merits, but if you allow, it will take you on a trippy journey beyond all kinds of 'isms'. Alejandro Jodorowsky is part of a special group of people I'd dearly love to have a chat with, but for now I'll contend with discussing his films, starting with his first full-length feature, "Fando y Lis" [Eng. Title: Fando and Lis].

After the world as we know is bombed to rubble, Fando takes his paraplegic fiancée Lis on a journey to 'Tar', supposedly the only city to have survived unscathed - to cure her, and possibly start life afresh. But neither knows how to get there despite setting out enthusiastically on their journey. They meet different characters along the way, sometimes asking for direction, but none seems to know for sure. Where is this 'Tar' - is it really somewhere you need to travel to find? Is it actually a place or a state of being? Whatever the case, can they ever get there..?

About the film:
Based on a play by the same name and originally penned by his long-term associate, the equally great Fernando Arrabal (The Guernica Tree), Jodorowsky adapted it freely to infuse some of his own themes into his project - I won't go into those details, you can gather all his thoughts in his revealing commentary that comes with the DVD. Personally, I can look at the film from two viewpoints - as a post-apocalyptic version of The Pilgrim's Progress, or as a story about man and woman, inseparable - possibly an Adam and Eve trying to make sense of life after loosing innocence. Either way, it's a mystical film with the odd bit of visual outrage thrown in. Though tame by today's standards, the film's festival premiere in Acapulco actually caused a furore with people out to lynch Jodorowsky - he escaped with his life that day. The eventual theatrical release also caused a riot. As an exercise in cinema, it is raw and uncultivated, but you'll nevertheless see inspirations drawn from it in Fellini's "Satyricon" (1969), Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point" (1970), and even more recently in Medem's "Lucía y el Sexo" (2001) - not too bad for a 'crazy' Latin American's debut feature, don't you think. As a post-surrealist response and symbolic allegory, as crude as it might be, it is an important film that expanded cinematic horizons, and for that reason, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

About the DVD:
Mine is from the Anchor Bay box-set. It comes with 4 DVDs (4 of his films and a feature-length documentary), and 2 audio sound track CDs. The problem is they needlessly have a Region 1 lock on it, but if you know how to work around it, great value for money.
Amazon Box-set Link

Compilation: Valerie Jodorowsky and Diana Mariscal
Visually the weakest transfer of the lot - the film is letterboxed widescreen, it however comes with an interesting commentary from Jodorowsky himself.

Valerie Jodorowsky and Diana Mariscal in Fando y Lis

Scene Guide:
  • Fando is 'seduced' by some glitzy types amidst the town ruins - oblivious to the destruction they'd helped cause. The woman beckoning Fando is played by Valerie Jodorowsky, the director's then girlfriend and future wife (they're divorced now). In the DVD, you'll also be able to follow some of his cheeky comments about the scene.
  • Fando and Lis meet a decadent priest and a pregnant woman on their way (symbolising mother Earth). Strangely, the priest is played by an actress, one of several quirky (or perverse) casting decisions by the director.
  • Fando and Lis encounter people wallowing in mud signifying their material existence and lethargy. Jodorowsky had wanted to film them entirely in the nude, but couldn't as he had government observers looking over him on set. :)
  • Wild but beautiful scene of Fando and a fully mobile Lis during a fantasy where they paint their names over each other. Lis is played by the cute looking (but rather bold for her time) Diana Mariscal.
  • Fando's treatment of Lis swings from love to hate frequently, and these swings become increasingly extreme as the film progresses. In this long sadomasochistic scene, Fando humiliates Lis by calling in strangers to ogle and grope her. But when he tells them that she's his fiancée, they leave in disgust.
  • This is the end, or is it perhaps a new beginning..?

No comments:

Post a Comment