Saturday, January 2, 2010

Malpertuis (1971)

Director: Harry Kumel
Barrel DVD OOP

The Overlook Guide to Horror's entry on this one gives away a lot of information. So much so, that I wonder if they were writing about the film at all or if they got all the info from reading the novel by Jean Ray. I also wonder about it's inclusion in a guide for horror films. While there are some fantasy and horror elements, it doesn't have the look, feel, or themes that are typical of the genre. To give away too much is really a disservice if you're interested in the movie at all. But I'll give it a shot, read on at your own risk of the dreaded spoiler! So, an androgynous sailor (Mathieu Carriere) gets off a boat in a town he grew up in, looks for his home which is now gone, gets in a bar fight, and is then transported to a different house in a pocket dimension after being hit on the head. There his sister and other relatives (including Orson Welles as his uncle) and servants are trapped and forced to live a bourgeois life for eternity, like a Bunuel wet dream. And one of them is a taxidermist. The narrative certainly lives in a dream state but ultimately felt tedious. Watching it I felt like this is a movie that could only exist in an art house in the seventies. It's unfortunate that the film wasn't better but Kumel's other effort from the same year (Daughters of Darkness), holds up much better.
Even though the DVD is only a couple of years old, it is already out of print. It's a two disc set with the first disc containing the director's cut in Dutch with English subs. The print looked great and there is also director commentary and two featurettes. The second disc has the shorter cut that was shown at Cannes and a 75 minute interview with Kumel. The price is getting bad on this one but if you're interested in the novel, film, or Kumel, it's worth picking up.


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