Thursday, January 8, 2009

Film Review - "Conspirators of Pleasure" (1996)

Conspirators of Pleasure
Jan Svankmajer

This is a fucked up movie, and Svankmajer is a sick puppy. If you know the stuff I expose myself to on a regular basis, you would know that this means a lot coming from me. But anyway…
Conspirators of Pleasure is a dark comedy from renowned experimental Czech animator, Jan Svankmajer. It’s an ensemble film about a bunch of sleazy motherfuckers who, rather than simply going and getting laid (as it is shown in the film that each one wants the other), go through extremely elaborate, almost Rube Goldbergian masturbation techniques… And that’s the movie. Oh, and did I mention that there’s not one word of dialogue? Yeah. That’s pretty much par for the course for a Svankmajer film, isn’t it? And, as is also usual for this guy’s works, there’s a lot of disturbing stop-motion and Lynchian mindfuck surrealism.
Let’s go through the characters, shall we? We’ve got a swingin’ bachelor (*cough*sleazeball*cough*) who spends the majority of the film constructing a giant papier-mâché chicken mask and a pair of wings, which he takes out into the woods and wears as he terrorizes a stuffed dummy made to resemble his neighbor. Then there’s the neighbor, a sultry older woman who takes a stuffed dummy of the bachelor out to a hidden altar, performs a black magic ritual to bring it to life, and then spends the day raping him, beating him, and engaging in all kinds of brutal acts of domination against his will, before killing him. Then there’s the creepy older guy, who apparently enjoys soft things, and thus goes about making some makeshift massage toys (I found this to be the least compelling character, and due to the lack of dialogue, I spent half the movie thinking he was building a set of prosthetic breasts to wear). Then there’s his neighbor, a TV news reporter who is turned on by having her feet submerged in a tub and nibbled by fish, all while she’s on the air reporting. Then there’s the shopkeeper, a Danny Devito-esque man who has a massive hard-on for the reporter lady, and his current project is to build a multi-armed robot to massage him and jerk him off at the same time while he watches his favorite news program. And, finally, there’s the cutest postal worker in Czechoslovakia, and her poison is rolling bread up into tiny little balls and then snorting them up her nose through a rubber hose (and at one point, sticking a funnel into her ear and pouring a bunch of them in there as well). I am dead serious; you can’t make up shit like this.
I was apprehensive about watching a 90-minute film with absolutely no dialogue, but I found these feelings disappearing within minutes once I actually started watching the movie. There are all kinds of bizarre, surreal bits of humor, and several laugh-out-loud moments. Also, you’ve really got to hand it to the actors, considering that they do such a phenomenal job expressing their respective character’s personality, motivations, and so on without ever opening their mouths to speak – you barely even notice that nobody talks in the whole movie. The body language is just that good.
There is some brilliant satire, and the subject matter, like it or not, is universal – everybody’s been there at some point in their lives (though in most cases not to the same extremes as the colorful characters in this film). The stop-motion is awesome… It’s creepy, hilarious, and everything else you could want from it – after all, were are but humans, and sometimes, there are just no greater pleasures in life than to witness a cheaply-animated man with a giant chicken mask and a cape sliding across the ground in a static pose at high speed while orchestra plays.
This film is definitely not for everyone. If you’re not paying attention, it can be confusing, and even if you are, it’s full of David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky-style abstract storytelling, which can be extremely off-putting for some. If you’re feeling very experimental (ha-ha) and open-minded for a wild new experience (hee-hee), check this out. It’s a great little gem.

RATING: 8.5/10

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