Lunacy

Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., Oct. 13–Thurs., Oct. 19. Not rated. 118 minutes.

Connoisseurs of the disgustingly visceral will find Jan Svankmajer hardly mellowed at 72. Lunacy is dark, scary, and yucky—even by the Czech animator's standards. By way of a prologue, Svankmajer appears on-screen to warn that Lunacy is no aesthetic exercise. Rather, it's a tract on the treatment of insanity, couched as an "infantile tribute" to Edgar Allen Poe and the Marquis de Sade. Lunacy's luckless protagonist, Jean Berlot (Pavel Liska), suffers through a recurring dream in which two demonic attendants burst into his bedchamber to bung him off to bedlam. Given his violent response—setting the room on fire—the nightmare proves prophetic. Another guest at the inn, namely the Marquis de Sade, takes the unstable young man under his protection. The evening's entertainment chez Sade—a black mass and prank premature burial—prompts Jean's voluntary commitment to a madhouse administered according to a tolerant, Sadean regime. Jean's misadventures are punctuated by hurdy-gurdy-scored, stop-motion interludes in which slabs of raw meat slither into glasses and scuttle through the mud. Lunacy may be an ideological argument, but this cavorting, copulating chorus of mindless meat puppets provides the full Svankmajer flavor—as well as a comic metaphor for human existence itself. J. HOBERMAN

 
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