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With: Sergio Kleiner, Diana Mariscal
Written by: Alejandro Jodorowsky, based upon a play by Fernando Arrabal
Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 96
Date: 01/01/1968

Fando & Lis (1967)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Geek Love

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ah, the wonders of DVD. The very first DVD produced in the San Francisco Bay Area is not a mainstream Hollywood film like Mrs. Doubtfire. It's a little obscure Spanish film from 1967 that caused riots and then disappeared. It's being distributed by the new Fantoma Films, a company that sprung from the great Laser Cinema video store.

Fando & Lis (1967) is by Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, best known in this country for his 1970's midnight cult hit El Topo and his 1990's video cult hit Santa Sangre. He also made a commercial movie, The Rainbow Thief (1990), starring Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharrif, and Christopher Lee, that went straight to video. Fando & Lis made its debut at the 1968 Acapulco film festival alongside such other movies as Rosemary's Baby, and it caused such a debacle that Jodorowsky had to save his own life from angry mobs by hiding in the trunk of his car.

Fando & Lis is pure surrealism. The best way to describe it is as a cross between Luis Bunuel and John Waters. In fact, it owes a good deal to Bunuel and Salvador Dali's surrealist classic Un Chien Andalou (1928). It has a dreamlike structure and no logical storyline is followed. The plot consists of our two heroes, Fando (Sergio Kleiner) and Lis (Diana Mariscal) searching for the mythical city of Tar, where all their dreams will come true and they will be happy forever. Lis is paralyzed from the waist down and must be pushed around by Fando on a cart. They tromp around a rocky landscape meeting all kinds of kooky characters like mud people, a blind man who drinks blood, some old ladies who play cards for peaches, a group of drag queens, and a woman in a bikini with a whip. We also see flashbacks to Fando and Lis' miserable childhoods, and there's even a man playing a burning piano (an homage to Dali). Jodorowsky also throws in purposely annoying sound effects for some scenes, like sirens, buzzing mosquitoes, and a gurgling noise when Lis is having her blood drawn. The effect of the whole movie is to jolt the viewer into a new place, to cause them to abandon their normal thoughts and ideas. Like watching a horror movie and getting scared, Fando & Lis exercises mental muscles that don't get used very often.

Seeing the film on the new DVD is definitely a plus. The beautiful letterboxed black-and-white transfer is from the original negative. Subtitles are available in either French or English (the film is in Spanish). Plus we now have the option to find out what Jodorowsky was thinking with both his commentary track, and the inspirational 1994 documentary La Constellation Jodorowsky, which features interviews with Peter Gabriel, Marcel Marceau (with whom Jodorowsky got his start--working as a mime), and cartoonist Jean "Moebius" Giraud. The package also includes a full-color booklet packed with information about Fando & Lis.

The DVD was pressed at Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope studios. Now that the equipment has been fully tested, the next project is a new DVD of Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979).

Presumably, if one has a DVD player, you're a real film fan and you may appreciate something as odd as Fando & Lis. Perhaps it was because it's the first time I've viewed the new format, but I quite enjoyed myself, and I plan to buy my own copy when I get myself a player. I look forward to more releases by the brave little company, Fantoma Films.

Note: Fantoma's DVD has since gone out of print, but the film and all its extras has been re-issued in the 2007 box set, The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

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