This movie begins with a shot that I will never forget. An androgynous child, sharply illuminated in an almost totally dark space, sits on a bunk in what appears to be a bedroom. The door opens and a man appears, in silhouette against the light behind him. The camera pans down to find a young woman, her face ghostly, sitting in the foreground, staring zombie-like before her. None of the characters is looking at the other. The man crouches down, puts a cigarette in the woman's mouth and attempts, in vain, to light it. (What would French films be without cigarettes?) The man then removes an enormously long cigarette from his pocket, puts one end in his own mouth and the other end in the woman's, and lights the middle of the thing, whereupon it splits apart into *two* cigarettes. (Shades of "Now Voyager"!) The adults rise and leave the room; the child is alone. What makes the scene memorable is the eerie silence (the film was shot without a sound track) and the ultra-high contrast black-and-white photography, by Michel Fournier, that makes the whole movie seem like the recording of some primitive rite. This short picture is notorious for having been shot while the entire adult cast and crew was high on LSD, which is not surprising, given its strangeness. What is surprising is the extraordinary maturity of its imagery and technique: though the director was only twenty when it was made, it feels like the work of a master. The night scenes in the forest are incredible, not least because Bernadette Lafont's eerie eyes and loping gait provide an amazingly disturbing image of schizophrenia (or else she was having a very bad trip). Though cars and other humans are occasionally glimpsed, the family appears utterly isolated, and there is an apocalyptic sense to the whole film (hence, presumably, the film's title, which evokes St. John the Apostle and the end of the world). The total love and devotion which the family members long to express for one another, and their simultaneous alienation from themselves and each other, give the picture its poignancy. Directed by Philippe Garrel, who is most famous for his relationship with the singer-songwriter Nico, this is the obscurest of obscure masterpieces.