Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Marquis (1989, France)

A highly intriguing oddity from the land of the baguette directed by Henri Xhonneux, who co-wrote the undeniably unusual film with the late Roland Topor, a man known as the creative source behind such entertaining movies like The Fantastic Planet (1973) and the novel on which Roman Polanski based his fun film The Tenant (1976). Marquis is a surreal, not quite child-friendly presentation of the Marquis’ delightful experiences while imprisoned in Bastille. What makes the contents of the film more palatable than the good Marquis' rather repetitious and boring books is that all characters are played in animal masks, including that of, amongst others, a camel, goat, cow, horse, rooster and pig. Topor takes his unusual approach yet another step further by presenting recreations of the Marquis’ writings and dreams as clay animation segments, utilizing the technique in ways that The Aardvark Studios of England would probably never dream of doing. To all that is added the character of Colin, the Marquis’ own huge, talking prick, with whom the imprisoned and impoverished man/dog constantly bickers, discussing the various platitudes of love and sex. (In what is probably in a far cry from reality, the count is presented as a creative intellectual who prefers the platonic form of the former while his dick prefers the latter.) To the sexual debauchery and other fun stuff, Xhonneux & Topor add a story of political intrigue in which the Marquis should be made to take the responsibility for a pregnancy actually caused by the king. Marquis is, obviously enough, a parable, exploiting the machinations of the church and state of 18th century France—the revolution brewing darkly—as a forum for a decidedly odd discussion about creative, personal and sexual freedom. This visual discourse includes such memorable scenes as the Marquis screwing a wall, a man/rat being butt-fucked by a boiled lobster, a cow being tortured by the brutal manipulation of her udders until the milk she gives is mixed with blood and, not at all the last of many an extreme scene, a scene of the earth being raped by a coffin. The originality of the filmmakers' vision fits the story better than one would think, and the extreme brutality of the acts the Marquis and others experience, fantasize and narrate lose much of their inert repulsiveness due to the overall oddity and cuteness of the presentation. The film might be a bit too intellectual for the average lover of low grade video silage, but it is a pungently entertaining film nonetheless. And besides, who actually watches stuff like this for its intellectual content? In any event, Marquis is without a doubt required viewing for any fan of the wildly obscure and odd.

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