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A maverick of the French cinema ,Mocky is an acquired taste indeed;he retains a small but strong cult over here.
It was not the first time he had tackled the fantasy and horror genre :in the sixties,his fans remember "La Grande Frousse" ,from Jean Ray's "La Cité De L'Indicible Peur".
"Litan " was awarded the critics prize at the Festival D'Avoriaz ,but reportedly booed in the theater;it was a big flop at the box office :anyway ,Mocky's approach is too oblique to gain a wide popular audience.
"Litan" is more painstaking than usual:here Mocky really creates an atmosphere ,with impressive pictures:probably influenced by the fetes he attended when he was a child in the east of France ;the movie begins with a nightmare and ....continues in a nightmarish area ,in The village of Litan (the spelling of which is close to that of Lithan ,spirit of evil);in fact,Nora is the only person in the whole movie to find the village she moves in eerie,maleficent,and threatening.Even her partner Jock tries to communicate,to react to events whereas she almost never does.That's why I sometimes wonder whether everything does not take place in her mind and/or whether she has gone crazy ...because Jock might be dead ,and as they sail on the subterranean river (the Styx?),both in the same coffin (which might remind one of Hergé whose dreamlike pictures are disturbing in" TinTin and Les Cigares Du Pharaon" ).The last sequence -the only one which is not pagan- shows Nora ,in mourning ,and in her eye ,we can spot a "vision" of her (lost?) love .
You have to search your memory to find something vaguely close to "Litan" :apart from Mocky's movie I mention above,we can feel,perhaps,some influence of indie American works such as "carnival of souls" or " seconds" and of his French peers' weirdest efforts ,stuff such as Chabrol's "Alice Ou La Dernière Fugue " and Malle's "black moon" .
The nightmare scene is particularly successful ,with these masked figures,this man standing on a wire with a motorcycle,and this sinister-looking guy who's doing a very strange work;these elements reappear as Nora's fear increases .
Marie-José Nat is ideally cast as this woman lost in a world she does not understand;Nino Ferrer,cast as the head of a research center,wrote a baroque ,but effective score which enhances this strange feast in this heathen town.
For all that,in spite of pictures which can put the viewer into a trance ,or at least mesmerize him,"Litan" ,in some respects ,is a botched job ,the weakest link being ,as it is too often the case with this director ,a desultory screenplay ;hence the commercial failure .
Although not accessible enough,"Litan" is part of the handful of Mocky's movies you should watch.
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