Jun 10, 2012

Man, Woman and Beast

Man, Woman and Beast (1977) aka L'uomo la donna e la bestia aka Spell - Dolce mattatoio is most assuredly one of the most lavishly, methodically, and harmoniously crafted works of lecherous high-sleaze ever concocted. Directed by Alberto Cavallone of Blue Movie (1978) infamy, Man, Woman and Beast has all the aberrant auteur ingredients one would expect from the unabashedly debauched Italian filmmaker: killer sex (both literally and figuratively), sexually impotent artists, apprehensive commie verbal spew, and immoderately crude scatological fixations. Easily Cavallone’s most well-known and most artistically eclectic effort, Man, Woman and Beast manages to do the seemingly insurmountable by seamlessly hybridizing both the sensational surrealism and quasi-cinéma vérité realism that the filmmaker is celebrated for. Unlike the mental maestro’s subsequent effort Blue Movie – a work that was essentially assembled in an improvised manner on a nonexistent budget over the course of a week or so – Man, Woman and Beast has the certified picturesque stamp of an idiosyncratic 1970s masterpiece of Italian cinema, as it features obsessive direction and polished technique that is surely in recherché company with the 'self-indulgent' later works of Federico Fellini, yet it also includes incendiary libertine content that rivals that of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), except executed in a charmingly campy fashion that is more akin to Dada than to de Sade. In fact, Man, Woman and Beast is a work that pays humble, if equally intimately perverse, homage to its aesthetic influences. Featuring appearances of artistic works by artists including Hans Bellmer, Salvador Dalí, Gustave Courbet, and José Posada, as well as thematic nods to literary lechers including Comte de Lautréamont, Jean Genet, Georges Bataille, and to a somewhat less noticeable and more anachronistic extent – Marquis de Sade – Man, Woman and Beast is a work that although culturally cultivated, does not attempt to mask it’s influences in a borderline plagiaristic fashion. Out of all its morally execrable influences, a delightfully deleterious tribute to Georges Bataille’s short novella Story of the Eye (1928) is ultimately the most assuredly memorable, negligently nefarious, and perversely potent. Despite its many scenes of somber and severe sadism, Man, Woman and Beast is indubitably a mischievously mirthful work that has few contemporaries in regards to its bodacious bestialized badinage and overall ribald absurdism. In short, Man, Woman and Beast is an ungodly and exceedingly audacious avant-garde work that pays paradisiacal homage to Dadaism like no other cinematic work before nor after it. In fact, Marcel Duchamp himself could not have done a more desirable job capturing the essence of the innately irrational art movement in celluloid form. 

 Upon superficial glance, Man, Woman and Beast seems like a domesticated Italian neo-neo-realist work due to its sometimes everyday portrayal of a seemingly traditional and typical Italian Catholic village, but underneath the thin veneer of normality lies a copious collection of vicious, violent, untamed, and even murderous sexual pathologies that would even astound the most seasoned of Reichian psychoanalysts and cannibalistic gay pornstars. In the village of wanton vulgarity featured in Man, Woman and Beast, a butcher packs his meat with his own unkosher meat, an Electra complex is utterly appeased via incestuous progeny-begetting familial relations, a lapsed-Marxist maniac attempts to tame his even more deranged wife, and a conspiring priest uses images of saints and the labor of unsuspecting children as a parasitic means to sell lottery tickets.  Unsurprisingly, Man, Woman and Beast was filmed around the period of the so-called 'Anni di Piombo' (aka Leaden Years) during the mid-1970s in Italy when a nation-revamping revolution seemed like a very real possibility and when right-wing and left-wing were in unofficial camaraderie in their campaign to blow-up as many government buildings and officials as possible. Man, Woman and Beast does a most decorous job expressing this corrosive countrywide phenomenon at the community-level by the way of man’s most rudimentary, if base, form of social interaction: sexual intercourse. What becomes most apparent while watching the mostly sadistic sexcapades featured in Man, Woman, and Beast is that not one of the characters featured in the film approaches eroticism from a natural and utilitarian manner, hence the predominant theme of a society in disorder. In Man, Woman and Beast, sacrilegious sexual dysfunction and frivolous fetishism become sport and societal degeneration an uncontested, if unspoken and strategically veiled, matter-of-fact. Cavallone did a marvelous job highlighting this perturbing paradox by assembling a series of contradictory collages and montages comparing society of the old (outdoors and in public) and new (indoors and in privacy). For example, toward the end of Man, Woman and Beast, footage of jubilant villagers dancing jovially during an annual religious festival is spliced together with images of a young woman murdering her unsuspecting partner with scissors and scheiß during an impassioned session of sexual intercourse. Strangely (but most appropriately), the film ends with the melancholy face of an impressionable young lad who is undoubtedly symbolic of Italy's problematic future. It is not unlikely that this boy would grow up to be like Marco Corbelli; the lurid cross-dressing lunatic behind the Italian noise project Atrax Morgue who committed suicide by the way of hanging in 2007 after a lifetime of necrosis fetishism. 

 Director Alberto Cavallone once admitted that the character of a Christ-like homeless man featured in Man, Woman and Beast was his alter-ego. Fittingly, this mystery man is a herald of change, but – unfortunately for the villagers and himself – their damned futures are already foretold. The uncanny wanderer also meets a deplorable doom that would anticipate the thoroughly demented defecation-phile anti-hero of Cavallone’s successive film Blue Movie. Indeed, in the wretched realm of Man, Woman and Beast, god has died a most unflattering death and has gone to waste in literal human waste. Even the fanatical godless commie of the film has lost his faith in Marxist propaganda and the world revolution, as expressed by him vocally and when he superimposes an image of Vladimir Lenin over a picture of a woman’s sin flower, which is most certainly a bantam and frolicsome expression of Cavallone’s own newfound political disillusionment. Unquestionably, Man, Woman and Beast is an uncompromising expression of nihilism and a bold testament to the apocalyptic arrival of der letzte Mensch, but also a work of active artistic nihilism that had the potential to spark a revolution in cinema that was only vaguely hinted at by future subversive arthouse filmmakers like Jörg Buttgereit, Karim Hussain, and Andrey Iskanov. Disenchanted with commercial success and (arguably) cinematic artistry in general, Cavallone would later get give total way to his abased aesthetic proclivities as expressed by the hardcore pornographic nature of most of his later works. Aside from possibly his lost masterpiece Maldoror (1977), Men, Woman and Beast is unmistakably Cavallone’s crowning achievement as a filmmaker and his celluloid magna opera.  Like his vital influence Georges Bataille, Cavallone is one of few artists that successfully proved that artistically-refined works can be pornographic and vice versa. If it were not for his later propensity for creating mostly incoherent esoteric hardcore pornography, Cavallone may have gone onto consummate a reputation as grand and venerated as fellow Italian filmmakers Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini, as he certainly deserves it, even if only for Man, Woman and Beast; a blissfully carnal phantasmagorical work that does the seemingly inconceivable by vigorously raping the senses in a spellbinding and inordinately multi-orgasmic way with salacious sin-ridden scenes of grotesque human depravity. As Nietzsche's Zarathustra once preached, "as for me, I rejoice in great sin as in my great solace."

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

The bird on the DVD cover looks like Tina Turner in "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" (1985).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its good that the directors later works were starting to revolve almost wholly and exclusively around the graphic depiction of sexual activity because he was obviously realising that those kinds of images represent "the future" and literally everything else represents "the past", i wish everyone else would realise that as well because it would help to bring "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" to a thankful and merciful end much more quickly.