Combustible Celluloid
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With: Pavel Liska, Jan Triska, Anna Geislerová, Jaroslav Dusek, Martin Huba, Pavel Nový, Stano Danciak, Jirí Krytinár, Jan Svankmajer
Written by: Jan Svankmajer
Directed by: Jan Svankmajer
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Czech with English subtitles
Running Time: 118
Date: 03/18/2013

Lunacy (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Meat and Murder

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For his fifth feature film, Czech-born animator Jan Svankmajer continues to move away from his surreal, grotesque animated shorts and into increasingly conventional, longer narratives. The material is still just as uncomfortable, but the audience must sit still for lengthier periods of time. His great film Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) played like a series of intertwined short, partially animated films, but Little Otik (2001) focused continuously on one narrative, and less on animation, while Svankmajer exhaustingly hammered away at the same ideas. Fortunately, these ideas are twisted enough that they still hold a certain kind of interest. The new film Lunacy plays much the same as Little Otik: a shabby, saggy fellow, Jean (Pavel Liska), with perpetual dark circles under his eyes and a perpetually unshaven chin suffers from nightmares in which men in white coats take him away. His nightmares are so violent that he tears his room to shreds. After the latest episode, a Marquis (Jan Triska) offers to pay for the damage and invites Jean to stay with him for a few days. During those few days, Jean witnesses a series of bizarre events, from pagan sex to burial rituals. The plot shifts to an asylum and to Svankmajer's ultimate point: should we, as inmates, be allowed to roam free with the freedom of choice, or should we be punished and controlled? Between sequences, Svankmajer drops in little animated bits, mostly depicting meat and body parts crawling around. (Svankmajer claims to have been inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade.) I enjoyed Lunacy on a subversive level for about a half hour, but then my joy eventually dissipated into a kind of cold respect. I can recommend this film for its intelligence and fearlessness, but I'm not crazy about it and probably wouldn't be interested in a second viewing.

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