2005, NR, 118 min. Directed by Jan Svankmajer. Starring Pavel Liska, Jan Triska, Anna GeislerovÃ¡, Jaroslav Dusek, Martin Huba.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 15, 2006
When Jan Svankmajer dies, I want his tongue. I want to frame it and put it on the wall above my monitor, or maybe I'll build a radio-controlled armature to slip inside it so that it can wag and wriggle and crawl around all day long, leaving little gobbets of decaying musculature on the rug for the dog to find and rejoice over. Does that sound nuts to you? If it does, then it's a safe bet you're unfamiliar with the Czech director's hallucinatory and visceral work, which frequently incorporates the more moist bits of human and animal anatomy via stop-motion animation. In his four-decade career, Svankmajer has explored both the metaphysical and the meatier aspects of the human (and, occasionally, inhuman) condition and, generally, found them wanting. But wanting what? In Svankmajer's world, it's often sex, which gets an even more laciviously unnaturalistic working over than usual in Lunacy. Based very loosely on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Premature Burial" and "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether," Lunacy begins weirdly, as Jean (Liska) awakens from a nightmare of men in white coats only to soon find himself in the company of the Marquis (exactly what he is the marquis of remains mysterious), who graciously offers to give the peripatetic Jean a ride in his horse-drawn carriage and livery. Which is disconcerting, since everyone else in this world appears be living in the present; the Marquis, however, is pure de Sade, giggling maniacally like Tom Hulce on acid and mayonnaise. With his white-powdered wig and fastidious looting of Adam Ant's wardrobe, he's so obviously deranged that it's a wonder Jean doesn't bolt the second he sees him. But this is Svankmajer's creepy-crawl, and by degrees it slowly becomes one of the most mordantly beautiful of the director's films, an asylum-set anti-love story with mobile body parts and splashy theatrics. Its view of mankind is unkind, to say the least, but any race that can produce such remarkably garish gore as this is perhaps salvageable somehow, someday. (AFS@Dobie)