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Arthur Allan Seidelman
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I love experimental and avant garde cinema, even though once one strays past the superstar directors (Bunuel, Cocteau, Robbe-Grillet, Jodorowsky, Arrabal, etc.) it can be tough sledding. Alain Fleischer's ZOO ZERO is one of the dumbest of the failures -it makes Fred Haines's film of STEPPENWOLF look professional.
Fleischer's non-career is littered with these alliterative titles (REGLES, RITES; ROME ROMEO), signalling abstract surrealism, and that's what he delivers up. With an annoying soundtrack that emphasizes Mozart's "The Magic Flute" but includes distorted sounds worthy of Herschell Gordon Lewis amateurish HOW TO MAKE A DOLL, he has created a film designed to test one's patience.
It's shot at night with monochrome or duochrome effects, in an apocalyptic setting of the zoo, lorded over by guest star Klaus Kinski (who speaks only through a trendy vocoder stolen apparently from Peter Frampton but suggesting Stephen Hawking (!)), and a cabaret setting starring the ethereally beautiful & decadent Catherine Jourdan. She's a singer doted on by Pierre Clementi, without whose presence a film like this would feel half empty, while dwarf Pieral looks after Jourdan's career as her mean manager. Add to the mix an endlessly laughing guest star Alida Valli (she provides the project with "instant class" given her previous career). Silliest touch is casting that sturdy French character comedian Rufus as the chauffeur of the vintage Cadillac, who has a part-time career as a ventriloquist with a duck as dummy named Donald (!).
If this sounds stupid, it is, with a capital S. It's all atmosphere, visual allusions, and mucho tedium as Fleischer tantalizes and frustrates the viewer in equal fashion. In my film festival-hopping days (back in the '70s) there were many films like this floating around, of which only the most grotesque (and sexually charged -c.f., WEDDING TROUGH or years later SINGAPORE SLING) got one's attention. Fleischer keeps Jourdan under wraps except for one brief scene, and his film suffers.
The presence of dwarf Pieral, who was so brilliant in the Cocteau classic directed by Jean Delannoy, THE ETERNAL RETURN, hints at Jean Cocteau as the inspiration for this nonsense. Cocteau wrote the guidebook for avant garde effects with his classic ORPHEE, and Fleischer studiously copies.
Staring at Jourdan kept my attention but I was quite disappointed at the misuse of Kinski here - it falls squarely in with his sincere love of working for "manageable" (read: HACK) directors. Shortly after watching ZOO ZERO I saw Gerry O'Hara's 1965 Swinging London movie THE PLEASURE GIRLS, and Kinski was outstanding in that forgotten softcore opus -again able to push the director around. Claire Denis was an assistant director for this one, and she tried her hand at this sort of crap with TROUBLE EVERY DAY.
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