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Jan Svankmajer is one of the most interesting filmmakers working in the world. He takes bizarre fables and makes them his own. His use of stop-motion animation is what originally brought his films to my attention. Little Otik is my favorite of his, I was lucky enough to see it at the Seattle Film Festival in 2000, and fell instantly in love. I sought out the rest of his films, each interesting in their own right, but none of them have the cohesiveness of Little Otik; it has just the right mixture of weirdness, stop-motion and a wonderfully out there, but still relate-able story.

I was excited to see that his latest film, Lunacy, had made its way to DVD. The story is a mix of Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade, I don't even pretend to know either of their works well enough to know what parts are what. The film concerns a young man, whose mother has just passed away in a lunatic-bin, and from the beginning it's quite obvious that a touch of her madness has been passed down.

A man only know as the Marquis takes a liking to the boy, putting him up in his castle; which is full of it's own lunacy. There is a wonderful scene where the Marquis is nailing huge spikes into a statue of Jesus, with all kinds of debauchery going on around him, and he's calling to God to come down and prove that he exists. Soon more weird things are going on and the young man willingly checks himself into an insane asylum that is run by the inmates. Basically everybody and everything about this film is nuts. It's worth checking out if you're into strange films.

What disappointed me about the film was that Svankmajer's stop-motion is an afterthought. Instead of using it's other-world qualities to express some of the visions that these crazy people see, it's wasted as little interludes. Every 5 to 10 minutes we see pieces meat dance around and do other strange little things, each time to the same song. What starts out as fun, gets very tiresome by the end. I guess that it was supposed to signify the characters descent into madness, but I wish they'd used it to develop the story.

If you're a fan of Svankmajer's, definitely check it out, even if take out the stop-motion and you've got a wonderfully weird film. But if you've never seen any of his films, make sure to rent Little Otik.

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