Fernando Arrabal  

The missing link between Dali's dark surrealism, Bunuel's surreal mockery and derision, and Jodorowsy's intellectual neo-Dadaism. He was active as an artist, sculpturing, drawing, and writing plays (he wrote Fando y Lis) and was one of the founders of the Panic Movement. He is rebellious, controversial and unconventional but his surrealism is not as wild as the others, often lending to symbolism and abstract intellectual interpretation, with a parallel goal of provoking and disrupting society and politics. Also made a slightly eccentric children's movie with some childish fantasies called 'Emperor of Peru'.

Of Some Interest

Automobile Graveyard, The  
An anarchistic, absurd story of Jesus relocated to a car-dump populated by an assortment of punks, rockers, pimps, whores, criminals, weirdos and perverts. They live in a post-nuclear hole in the ground amidst skeletons of cars while being hunted by eccentric police on a bulldozer with a fetish for exercising. Jesus performs miracles, walks on water (a swimming pool), heals, raises the dead and performs on stage, but the Pontius Pilate-like head pimp has other plans for him. Features comic, absurd symbolism, synth-punk atmosphere and music, chaotically weird costumes and performances, various odd vignettes, rituals and locations featuring mermaids, Jesus in a jar and more. A moderately entertaining stagy mess.

Fando y Lis
See Alexandro Jodorowsky.

Farewell, Babylon!  
A strange, unique movie that blends footage from Arrabal's previous movies with guerrilla-style film-making in the streets, telling the surreal tale of a woman in search of meaning and a kindred soul, while haunted by memories of her father's execution (Arrabal's own memories) and provoking passersby in the streets with strange behaviour. It is the fascinating narrative that ties it all together and creates the movie however, a combination of provocative poetry and thoughts, describing her thoughts and telling absurd stories that shape and change the content of what we are seeing on screen (even cameos by Spike Lee and others are voiced-over). She runs around with a huge pencil, lying on the ground, kissing fish, walking backwards, meeting various people only to become disappointed by them, painting them with makeup, turning them into carps and gutting them like the dead fish they are.

Grand Ceremonial, The  
Based on a play by Arrabal, featuring relationship symbolism sometimes reminiscent of Fando y Lis but the direction isn't as surreal. A 'Casanova' has an unhealthy relationship with his smothering, controlling mother and many mannequins, many of which he sends on trips in trunks since he can't leave his home. When he meets a wild thieving woman they hit it off, she submits to his sadistic, controlling tendencies and his mother freaks out, but slowly she teaches him to get rid of all his hangups, dolls and mother in a grand ceremony. Too soft and unchallenging.

I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse  
Arrabal's El Topo and a fascinating, near-masterpiece of surrealism. A man who has Freudian issues with his suffocating mother runs away with her jewels after her (accidental?) death and encounters a mystical, innocent man in the desert. He soon falls into a complex loving relationship with him and attempts to bring the child-like man who has special powers into modern society. This serves as a perfect plot device to make fun of society's hypocrisy, cruelty, religion and superficial social conditioning using a mixture of straightforward scenes and surrealism. The nasty images involving incest, cannibalism, bizarre sex, and fecal matter usually serve as symbols as well as gratuitous shock. Essential viewing for surrealist fans, but as with most movies in this genre, the main drawback is the disappointing shallowness behind the shocking art.

Tree of Guernica, The  
The Spanish Civil War as experienced by a small Spanish village, with a heavy bias towards the Republicans, seekers of democracy, liberalism, Communism and even anarchy. The opposing force consisted of conservatives, Catholics, Fascists and even monarchists. The bias blames atrocities, torture, murders and wrong-headedness only on the winning side while the villagers are portrayed as mostly peace-loving, much weaker victims. As this is an Arrabal movie however, surrealists are emphasized, Catholic imagery is attacked and blasphemed with midgets masturbating on Mary statues, etc., and violence is mixed with numerous shocking, bizarre images to underline the didactic political propaganda. A village woman is almost raped by rich powerful men but she fights back with snakes, midgets want equality but are treated as toy bulls in a cruel matador performance, the imagery associated with villagers are innocent, dancing naked children, and the tree of Guernica stands as a symbol of liberty after surviving a bombing massacre.

Viva la Muerte  
A very personal piece that tells Arrabal's childhood tale of his father who was arrested for progressive thinking by Franco's regime and committed suicide. The boy suspects his mother of betraying him after finding a shocking letter, and the fanatical catholic and fascist elements in his life only make things worse. His imagination starts to stray into nasty or cruel surreal images, and the boy's fantasies become more depraved. The movie is an attack on Catholicism and Fascism but is mostly a tale of a child growing up under such conditions. The barrage of imagery is at times crude and includes his mother doing all sorts of nasty and violent things to his father (eye gouging, defecation), bizarre sexually suggestive scenes (licking and biting off a lizard's head while peeking at a woman through a keyhole), and the slaughter of an animal in order to sew up a man inside its carcass (I'll leave you to figure that one out).

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents