May 9, 2014
One of my best friends growing up was literally the most infamous and all-around worst behaved kid in school and like many bad boys, he had a curious relationship with his mother that even seemed borderline incestuous (once, my friend and I walked by his mother's bedroom and saw her standing in front of a mirror naked, as if it was normal to get undressed with your door open while having three sons always running around the house). No matter what crime my friend committed—be it hitting the high school principal in the head with a full bottle of Gatorade or stealing expensive pieces of equipment from school—his mother still babied him as if he were the absolute epitome of baby Jesus-like purity. His mother also taught him and his friends (myself included) that all women were whores that would ruin a man’s life without thinking twice, so naturally my friend did not treat his lady friends that well (even breaking one of their noses, hence one of the many reasons why I stopped hanging out with him). Although my friend is not a French mannequin-loving rapist serial killer, he certainly does remind me a bit of the Oedipal-plagued antihero of the avant-garde counter-culture frog flick Weird Weirdo (1969) aka Le grand cérémonial directed by Pierre-Alain Jolivet (Bérénice, Black Mirror). A playfully aberrant and aesthetically and thematically quasi-autistic piece of mod-art-molested artsploitation cinema that is based on a play by Spanish auteur filmmaker/Renaissance man/Panic Movement founder Fernando Arrabal (Viva la muerte, I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse) that was once lovingly described as “Arrabal’s weirdest play yet,” Weird Weirdo is the sordid semi-surreal story of a wayward young man with sadistic tendencies who falls in love with an equally wayward woman with masochistic tendencies who suffers from kleptomania in a cinematic work that strangely proves that opposites attract, especially when they are sexually dysfunctional whack jobs. Directed by an obscure French auteur who is best remembered, if at all, for his rather rough yet strikingly aesthetically pleasing sadomasochistic arthouse flick The Punishment (1973) aka La punition—a work about a high-class hooker who faces sexual displeasure under pernicious patrons with exotic S&M tastes—Weird Weirdo features a strangely hypnotic hodgepodge of trashy and classy themes and aesthetics that will appeal to both Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jean Rollin fans alike, though Arrabal fanatics might find the film to be not insane enough for their liking. Indeed, while Alejandro Jodorowsky's Arrabal adaptation Fando y Lis (1968) is even crazier than its source material (Arrabal even admitted this himself), Weird Weirdo was made to be palatable for more ‘general’ audiences, sort of like a date movie for decidedly debauched dudes and dames as a work with a tinge of melodramatic romance, not to mention a strangely happy ending. Like Jacques Baratier’s Piège (1970), Weird Weirdo also features a cameo from the playwright as an eccentric shop owner and thus should be a cult classic of sorts by now, but due to its unavailability (the print I found looks like it was found in a Mexican garbage dump), it will just have to remain in the celluloid dustbin of history.
Cavanosa (Michel Tureau) is no Casanova as a hysterical and homicidal momma’s boy who thinks all women are whores and treats them as such by scooping them up at night and ditching their corpses in large boxes at a railway station. During one of his daily drop offs, Cavanosa spots a young beauty named Syl (played by Marcella Saint-Amant, who appeared on the American soap opera Days of Our Lives during the mid-1960s) being chased by an angry crowd yelling “stop thief!” because she has just stolen a purse, which she hands to the crazed young man. Later, Syl finds Cavanosa and accuses him of waiting for his mommy (indeed, he has been spending the entire day thinking of his equally mental mother trying to kiss him), but he claims that he killed her. Cavanosa’s mother taught him to hate woman, so he seeks solace in semi-anatomically correct mannequins, which he seems to have hundreds of. That night, the deranged young man confesses to his insane mother (played by Ginette Leclerc, who previously starred in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1943 masterpiece Le Corbeau: The Raven) while being tucked into bed like a toddler that he is in love with, “A very young woman. Very beautiful. Very pure.” Needless to say, the Mother, who practically carries her progeny’s testicles around in her purse, becomes agitated by her son’s declaration of love, thus upsetting him in the process, so when Syl gives Cavanosa a bouquet of roses the next day, he flips out, rips up the flowers, stomps on the torn petals and tells his love interest “Commit suicide immediately. Here. In front of me. That’s what I want,” which only turns her on all the more since she is a major masochist who delights in being degraded by young dandies. When Syl begs Cavanosa to kiss her, he responds quite hysterically by stating, “You’re just a whore who kisses every guy she meets […] Me, I’m the one nobody wants to kiss. I’m doing my best to be hated. Only my mother loves me. And I killed her. And she died because of you, slut!,” even though his mother is clearly still alive. Ultimately, the demented dandy agrees that Syl can spend the night at Cavanosa’s house so long as she lets him kill her that very same night. Meanwhile, Cavanosa’s mother goes to a police superintendent and tells him that her son is the serial killer that is responsible for dropping off dead chicks in boxes at the train station, even going so far as to describe her beloved son as follows: “He’s is hunchbacked, he’s lame, he’s repulsive.” On the other side of the city, Syl brings Cavanosa to meet with her (ex)boyfriend, who she tries to dump. Eventually, the tableside bizarre love triangle results in jealously and resentment on the maniac momma’s boy’s part, so Cavanosa essentially tells Syl and her boyfriend to go fuck off and die.
After attempting to buy lingerie from Fernando Arrabal for his mother but forgetting her size, Cavanosa once again meets up with Syl, who has bought a whip so that he can beat her with it. Before they go back to Cavanosa’s casa, the young man forces his new nubile little girlfriend to get naked in public. When Cavanosa arrives back home, his mother accuses him of losing his virginity and tells him that Syl is nothing but a dirty whore who wants to “pump a child out of you.” Cavanosa is so irked by his mother’s irrational hatred, he attempts stabbing her with a knife but chickens out at the last minute and buries his head in her crotch as if he wants to reenter her womb. Of course, Mommy Dearest lets her little boy know, “All women are whores, my darling. I’ve sacrificed my life for you.” When salacious Syl arrives at Cavanosa’s humble abode, he undresses her and makes her say the word “Volubilis” (the name of an ancient Roman city located in what is now Morocco that fell to local tribes around 285 and was never again reclaimed by the Romans as it was in an indefensible region in the southwest corner of the empire). From there, Cavanosa makes Syl wear a white dress and a crown of thorns as his mother laughs in a maniacal manner while watching them through a peephole. In a semi-foreshadowing phantasmagoric dream-sequence, Cavanosa has ditched all of his mannequins in a dump and kills Syl, but not before telling her he loves her. After the dream-sequence ends and the viewer is transferred back to some semblance of reality, we watch as Syl admires her boyfriend’s eclectic mannequin collection. Undoubtedly, the centerpiece of the life-size doll collection is a creepy black mannequin with a third eye in its forehead and a hand protruding out of the top of its cranium. When Cavanosa joins Syl in the mannequin room, the two proceed to blowtorch all of the dolls, mainly their faces, breasts, and crotch regions (aka the most important physical parts of a woman). After the pyromaniac fun is over, the Mother breaks into the room while in a seemingly demonically possessed state and irrationally accuses her son of being a bastard. Indeed, Cavanosa is such a bastard that he ties Syl to a bed and begins to violently rape her, but the little lady is not completely satisfied and tells him to do it harder. Unfortunately, Syl’s ex-Boyfriend randomly pops in to save the day before Cavanosa can sexually savage her some more. Luckily, Cavanosa beats up the ex-Boyfriend and ties him up in the bathroom and everyone else proceeds to drink tea at a small dinner table (indeed, Syl, Cavanosa, and Mother manage to all get along for a second or two). Ultimately, Cavanosa lets the ex-Boyfriend go and then puts Syl on a leash like a dog. With Syl by his side, Cavanosa decides to get rid of all his childish possessions and destroys the rest of his mannequins in a large bonfire outside. After Syl throws Cavanosa’s favorite mannequin into a lake, the two proceed to make passionate love. Later on, Cavanosa asks his lover “Do you think mommy is dead?” and Syl sets him straight by slapping him in the face like a little bitch boy. Indeed, in the end, Cavanosa has finally gotten over his mommy issues and can now go on with a normal romantic relationship, as a sadist who has found his masochist.
Apparently, Fernando Arrabal’s original play version of Weird Weirdo concludes in a less classically romantic fashion with Cavanosa finding another masochist madam in what is a bitingly ironic conclusion. Personally, I did not mind the somewhat unexpected Hollywood-like ending of the film, as Weird Weirdo already has enough unhinged perversion, nasty nihilism, and flagrant misogyny and misanthropy crammed into it to keep me happy. The only thing that I found somewhat outmoded and annoying about the film is a pseudo-documentary scene towards the end where a news reporter asks random strangers who they think might be responsible for killing chicks and dumping their bodies at the railway station. While one 'racist' fellow proclaims that there is no way that an indigenous French man can be capable of such crimes (he assumes an Algerian is the culprit), another man blames the cops, remarking that if the police spent less time beating up far-left student activists and focused their efforts on the killer, they would have found him by now. Of course, as a fundamentally feminist-free work featuring a female kleptomaniac who falls in love with a deranged dude of the murderously sadistic sort who incessantly threatens to kill her, Weird Weirdo is not exactly a left-wing work, at least in the traditional sense, even if it is an adamantly anti-bourgeois film. Indeed, compared to French left-wing counter-culture works of the same era like those directed by Agnès Varda and Jean-Luc Godard, among countless others, Weird Weirdo seems radically reactionary. On top of featuring a number of otherworldly and equally titillating tableaux, the film is nearly immaculately accented by an eerie and ethereal yet melodic soundtrack created by relatively unknown French composer Jack Arel (a regular collaborator of Jean-Claude Petit who co-composed the song “Psychedelic Portrait,” which was featured in an episode of the British cult TV series The Prisoner). It should also be noted that the film received its English title ‘Weird Weirdo’ from Beat filmmaker/film distributor Antony Balch (Secrets of Sex aka Bizarre, Computer Killers aka Horror Hospital)—a collaborator of William S. Burroughs who directed the short films Towers Open Fire (1963) and The Cut Ups (1967) and produced the 1968 version of Benjamin Christensen's silent masterpiece Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages featuring narration from Burroughs—who bought the film and distributed it in the UK (Notably, Balch was also responsible for re-titling Joël Séria’s sacrilegious cult masterpiece Don't Deliver Us from Evil (1971) aka Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal). Indeed, for fans of surrealism, bizarre counter-culture cinema, the Panic Movement, celluloid sadomasochism, wayward misogyny and/or curious cult cinema, Weird Weirdo is certainly worth digging up and devouring with a date who does not mind a bit of sadomasochistic cinematic debauchery.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:28 PM
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