Running away from the police, Aden goes to the desert where he meets an uncivilized man who has a special link with Mother-Earth. He ends up by convincing the hermit to come along with him into another desert... the big town!
When his mother dies, the police want to talk to Aden Rey, but Aden, a guilt-ridden epileptic, has left for the desert. There he comes upon Marvel, a noble savage. Aden, Marvel, and Marvel's goat become companions through travels, a wedding, an examination of Aden's role in his mother's passing, a trial, additional deaths, and various meals. There are also flashbacks to Aden's childhood and his relationship to his mother. Meanwhile, the police step up their efforts to find Aden. Written by
The late 60's/early 70's were a time of experimentation for most filmmakers. In fact filmmakers got away with things back then that few would be able to get away with now. Arrabal and his first two features, VIVA LA MUERTE and this, are no exceptions.
One thing you still can't do without scandal is full frontal male nudity - especially of children. The scene where the little naked boy is gunned down by a firing squad of an Army of Christians could be reinterpreted today as a metaphor for how children always get caught in the crossfire when religions declare war on one another. The nudity symbolizes innocence. The 10 second scene is in no way pornographic but try doing that today and you will be shut down before you can call action.
One scene predate's THE CRYING GAME by 20 years. It's too good to give away. The character of Marvel would be seen now as a Arab stereotype for sheer ignorance of all things western. Political correctness aside, the character is too funny and likable to hate.
Cannibalism, still a taboo topic, is treated by Arrabal here as a mere plot device. No wonder this movie had censorship problems, which Arrabal addresses in the DVD interview segment. My only regret is that he didn't include scene by scene audio commentary as Jodorowsky did for DVD of FANDO & LIS -which is based on the Arrabal play. It would be especially helpful in this particular scene because it looks like they may have used an actual cadaver. This finale even tops the VIVA LA MUERTE finale in which a bull is sacrificed on camera. Unless you're doing the latest installment in the FACES OF DEATH series, you just can't do that kind of stuff in a narrative feature today.
Those who see this now as merely a pretentious art film, forget how shocking it must have been then. That's especially true when you consider that it's a gay love story. One of the most unusual ever filmed. It's unsettling in a way that is stimulating. This movie was buried by the censors in 72. No major studio would green light such a production today. If you think you've seen it all, this is one you've got to go back and see in order to say that. Filmmaking could move forward if filmmakers looked back at the "scandals" the "Panic" movement of Arrabal, Topor and Jodorowsky caused in those days. It's a miracle that a film like this can survive intact. Definately not for all tastes but 10 of 10 anyway.
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