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Being the only film of 1972 solely written & directed by a woman who would tragically commit suicide 10 years later at the age of 55 would, surely, cancel out any impact a gratuitously experimental and excruciating experience like this one might have to offer. But Jane Arden's linear-free schizo-mental health examination remains brain numbing hard work for anyone with the courage & patience to sit through it.
Beginning with images & ambiance similar to that found in the previous year's Lets Scare Jessica To Death (itself an exploration of a woman losing her marbles), TOSOTU Starts promisingly but quickly buckles under the weight of a too-much-too-soon dosage prescribed by the heavy-handed Dr Arden.
A young lady pulled from a lake in an undisclosed part of the Welsh countryside winds up in what can only be described as an all female funny farm for avant-garde theatre performance artists. There is no plot or characters so to speak of, only a bloody-minded desire on behalf of the filmmaker to set her creative co-ordinates to eleven on the launch pad and blast off into the solar system for the best part of two hours before crash-landing somewhere in the region of Zeta Reticuli. One can only assume by that point the coffers must have run dry for film stock.
There is certainly no question of the director's earnest sincerity broaching the weighty subject matter. But the ruthless disregard for linear dynamics disallows any point of entry other than to smirk or guffaw at the serious-as-a-heart-attack images of women sharing beds with sheep whilst taunted by Mr Punch's ugly sister or, birthday suited nymphs flanking cellos in the Green Green Grass of Home (at least composer Sally Minford's oppressive string arrangements hit the vulnerable dark spot).
I find it hard to believe that even back then this was considered fresh and challenging, especially considering the likes of Ken Russell had been there, seen it and vommed on the t-shirt with this sort of visual excess a million times before already. Meanwhile, over at the BBC, the Monty Python gang were running full throttle dropping raspberry stink- bombs on targets like Arden's school of pretension with devastating precision. Their merciless lampooning of the great King Ken's work in the 'Gardening Club' sketch should give you a good idea of what you're letting yourself in for.
Whilst I do have a big appetite for seeking out the more cutting edge offerings to be found hidden away in the dead-letter-office of secret cinema, this is one I feel has not stood the test of time and would've preferred to have left under lock and key.
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