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Viva La Muerte!

Dir. Fernando Arrabal Tunisia
1972 35mm 90min.
French with English subtitles

Unlike fellow Panic theatre alumnus Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal has sadly been deprived his due, and it is only now that his lysergic cinematic visions are gaining any kind of recognition stateside.

The writer of Jodorowskys Fando and Lis and director of the frenetic I Will Go Like A Crazy Horse, Arrabals world is one of sex, violence and redemption -- similar in many ways to that of the Chilean auteur but somehow more frank.

Viva La Muerte begins at the moment of Francos victory, and borrows its title from the dictator's adopted slogan of "Long Live Death!" Relying heavily on Arrabals own subjective childhood memories, the film plays out like a Fellini-esque 400 Blows; its central character is the young Fando who sees his mother betray his father to the authorities, and then goes to live with his aunt who consistently begs him to flagellate her.

Societys valued institutions have crumbled around him the Church, the Family and Fando finds himself wandering alone through a hallucinatory emotional wasteland. Seething with an Oedipal lust bordering on the psychopathic, Viva La Muertes bloody closing sequence pushed the cruelty envelope so far that members of the crew purportedly stormed off set in disgust.

Kier-La Janisse