Carmelo Bene  

In between two theatrical stints, Bene made 6 bizarre films. His approach is to take literature or texts, massacre them, reduce the scattered scenes and dialogue to some kind of primitive and wild chaos, overturn and drive them to excess, and thus discover... something or another about the material. In a way remotely similar to Rivette, he sees the actors as the creators of the play/movie while on stage, pushing them into an intense state where they may express something raw about the scene. In addition, he experiments and tears apart the scene using camera tricks, colors, disorienting inserts, sounds, imagery, and shocking content for no apparent rational reason except to attempt to discover new angles and interpretations of a story. This is the theory. In practice, he is an insufferably artsy theatre director who made bizarre movies under the dreaded auspices of so-called avant-garde creativity and flamboyant art. Absolute lunacy posing as art and just another naked Emperor. Died in 2002.


A follow-up to Our Lady of the Turks with another string of comically surreal or bizarre vignettes and exaggerated acting: Two artists fighting with a hammer and sickle (subtle!), a car-crash pile-up in front of a sexy lady, an old man sneaks out on a naked young lady with all their clothes, old men converse at a dinner table while a naked lady serves them repeatedly, more old men with young giggling ladies, making-out mixed with increasingly violent car crashing and explosions, some Mexican hoods, and various other oddities, all perhaps saying something obscure about Italian society's approach towards relationships, people and women. Relatively more humorous and enjoyable than other Bene works, but still a bunch of crude nonsense.

Don Giovanni  
Based on Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly version of Don Giovanni which I haven't read. Besides being incomprehensible, obscure and non-narrative based, the movie features more of Bene's wild acting experiments. Stagy sets are used here, the actors overacting in a method that wanders between expressionism and raw madness. A family scene suddenly has the couple banging on teacups or fussing over some little girls face for a few minutes, Don goes into an energetic acting fit that looks like epilepsy while wrapped in steel wire, there is dizzying camera work and fight scenes are chaos, all the while jarring sounds and an incongruous recitation run in the background. Insane excrement.

Various historical bad-boys and icons of horror like Frankenstein and Countess Bathory wander around cheap stagy sets ruminating and soliloquizing about random subjects in a pretentious artsy meditative movie about life and the ingredients of modern society. An American goes in search of the Mona Lisa, Attila makes a speech while riding naked on a horse, Frankenstein wanders around the set in existential agony for ten minutes, then monotonously intones for another ten minutes, a woman endlessly verbally assaults her wimpy husband, people break into song while standing next to a huge penis, etc. If this sounds like your thing then by all means grab it, but this is the kind of thing that gives artistic movies a bad name.

One Hamlet Less  
Knowing Hamlet very well I assumed I would at least be able to identify what Bene has done with the elements of the story. Then again, this is based on Jules Laforgue writings, and the lunacy is all Carmelo Bene. Imagine a Hamlet where lunatic asylum inmates are given a room full of random props and costumes, told the highlights and various elements of the story, then instructed to act them out with all the energy and whimsical creativity they can muster. So in between the punishingly wild recitals of Hamlet's lines and faint traces of the story retold through madness, we get lots of naked nuns with many closeups of their butts, giant balls, thousands of books or candles, gaudily colorful costumes in what looks like a messy backstage set with random props, Hamlet madly slices up his mother's curtain in a fit of editorial energy, there's a graveyard-beach, and the actors die in the end while folding clothes. Besides finding a new pointlessly avant-garde and almost campy way to perform Hamlet with vulgar and ugly visuals, this version adds nothing to the story except a masturbatory vision and a headache.

Our Lady of the Turks  
Bene's first is based on his own writings and is uniquely experimental as well as hailed as his masterpiece, but it's complete nonsense. Mixed with a (fake?) documentary-like narration of a Turkish invasion and massacre at Ontranto, are completely unrelated comical, meandering and bizarre vignettes involving a man's attempts to meet, interact and live with an archetypal saintly woman. He is chased by gunmen in some kind of thriller, he climbs endless castles with flowers, is haunted by her in his bed, muses philosophically about the Madonna, injects himself in the butt in the middle of a street as he gets dressed, has an insane conversation with a bearded version of himself, appears in a romance, a medieval tale, makes love to a leftover-covered dish-washing woman while in full armor, and many more random odds and ends. Sometimes it feels like this a Godardesque collection of deconstructed genres and scenes that involve interaction with women, but the end result is still chaotic nonsense.

Perhaps this was an attempt to rattle and shock an audience with an energetic, psychedelic interpretation of the play, but Bene may have succeeded in making the most annoying movie yet. For starters, everyone is wearing what looks like eye-bleeding neon costumes in flamboyantly stagy sets. The editing doesn't allow any shot to stay for more than 5 seconds, actors overact and yell repetitive lines, and there is no attempt at telling a story or making any coherent statement. The statement of camels jumping through the eye of a needle becomes a silly animation of a camel doing exactly that repeated ad nauseam, Jesus getting abused becomes a wild slap-fest, John's confrontation with Salome becomes a repetitive yelling match while he gets hit over the head with a book and they all flail their arms, there are vampires, spanking, men eating live sheep, graphic nudity and various perversions, Jesus attempts to crucify himself while Salome dances, etc. It's amazing what passes as art sometimes. A useless headache.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents