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Friday, August 26, 2016
I WILL WALK LIKE A CRAZY HORSE, aka J'irai comme un cheval fou (1973), features yet another warped mother-son relationship (a la VIVA LA MUERTE) that makes me wonder how much of it is also drawn from Arrabal's own experiences and/or hangups, and how much is just him messing with us. The main part of the story, however, is like a wish-fulfillment dream that mixes the surrealism of his other work with the childlike fantasy of THE EMPEROR OF PERU, building to a bizarre yet oddly optimistic ending.
After apparently murdering his rich, clinging mother and fleeing with her cash and jewels into the desert, Aden Ray (American actor George Shannon) encounters a primitive Pan-like troll named Marvel. This naive and gentle soul lives in a cave with his goat Theresa and various snakes, scorpions, and insects, and knows nothing of the outside world. When asked if he can read, Marvel responds, "What does 'read' mean?"
Marvel asks about civilization, and as Aden tells him how wonderful it is we see people in gas masks making joyless love and racing around with shopping carts. Television, he explains, is "a blind woman who teaches philosophy and caresses the foulest recesses of our brains."
Every time Aden describes the wonders of his world his words seem hollow and meaningless, although the naive Marvel finds them intriguing and funny.
Fascinated by Marvel's utterly guileless innocence and mystical communion with nature, and reveling in the first taste of freedom that he's ever known, Aden nevertheless can't wait to introduce the eager naif to the big city, which, of course, will have consequences both delightful and dire. All the while, police continue to close in on the fugitive Aden, and his newfound happiness with his soulmate Marvel proves fleeting.
While VIVA LA MUERTE was unrelentingly downbeat, this time Arrabal renders dreamlike images both dark and enchanting. The former dominates early on as we see some of the traumas that warped Aden's childhood, including the time he stumbled upon his mother (Emmanuelle Riva) being willingly sexually abused and degraded by the handyman. While she gets what is commonly known as a "facial", a distraught and confused Aden masturbates himself into a frothing epileptic seizure.
Heavily symbolic scenes include the boy Aden as Baby Jesus, mouth taped shut, as his Virgin Mary mother drives needles into his penis, and the older Aden lying catatonic in his mother's arms as she lights his erect member like a candle. Yikes. It's no wonder that he fantasizes about nailing her outstretched tongue to a table.
On a lighter note--traditionally handsome Aden and childlike dwarf Marvel make quite a pair. Their first meeting is hilarious--Marvel offers Aden some food, which he likes. What is it, he asks. "I wrapped it in rose petals," Marvel says proudly. "A little flour...mixed with goat shit." Aden watches in wonder as Marvel greets the morning by twirling ecstatically like a top beneath the rising sun until he levitates. Some blind desert dwellers arrive and implore him to heal them, which he does by dabbing their eyes with his saliva.
Hachemi Marzouk is perfect in the role--you can't help but be captivated by this grotesque little bundle of joy as he scurries around with no ambition whatsoever except to know and give happiness, and dispensing miracles without a second thought. "What is happiness?" he asks, and while Aden ponders the question, Marvel answers it himself by scampering down a sand dune with joyful abandon.
When the two arrive in the city, we fear that the awestruck Marvel will be corrupted by its sin and temptation. Yet it's as though he has a force-field of innocence that prevents this from happening. When a scheming circus owner tricks him into dancing around in boxer shorts for paying customers, Marvel not only enjoys the experience but shares his joy with everyone else by releasing some lions from their cages, causing a panic. Aden keeps trying to get unwilling hookers to give him his first sexual experience, yet Marvel, with his sweet personality, manages to snag a beautiful woman into a whirlwind marriage ceremony presided over by his goat.
One of the most vividly moving sequences takes place in a church after Marvel impulsively insists on attending mass. As a dour priest haranges his flock about their impending damnation, the tearful Marvel approaches a large crucifix and gently removes the crown of thorns and a nail from one hand, magically drawing blood. "Blasphemer!" everyone angrily accuses, yet for a moment we see the image of a loving Christ smiling down upon him.
The DVD from Cult Epics is in 1.78:1 widescreen with French soundtrack and English subtitles. Extras include a lobbycard gallery, the trailer for VIVA LA MUERTE, a six-page foldout booklet with liner notes by Rayo Casablanca, and another interesting interview with Arrabal.
After the on-the-nose autobiographical odyssey of VIVA LA MUERTE, I WILL WALK LIKE A CRAZY HORSE finds Arrabal beginning to express other feelings in other ways. The final gripping minutes are both horrifying--some will find them utterly disgusting--and inspirational, climaxing in a thrilling moment of hard-earned transcendence. The horror has barely faded before a happy ending leaves us smiling, and the swirling maelstrom of Arrabal's imagination seems to have been allowed a brief moment of peace.
Read our review of THE FERNANDO ARRABAL COLLECTION