Tag Archives: Joe Dallesandro

209. BLACK MOON (1975)

“I see it as a strange voyage to the limits of the medium, or maybe my own limits.”–Louis Malle on Black Moon

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Therese Giehse, ,

PLOT: A young woman is driving a car during a shooting war between the sexes. Escaping from a checkpoint where male soldiers are executing females, she finds refuge at an old farmhouse inhabited by a batty old woman, a mute brother and sister, a band of nude animal-herding children, and a unicorn. Initially rejected by the chateau’s residents, she gradually finds herself becoming part of this strange alternate society.

Still from Black Moon (1975)
BACKGROUND:

  • Although Louis Malle had dabbled in light surrealism before with the whimsical Zazie dans le Metro (1960), there was nothing in the respected director’s then-recent oeuvre (mostly documentaries and historical pieces like 1974’s Vichy drama Lacombe, Lucien) to prepare his audience for the bizarreness of Black Moon. Sven Nykvist won a Caesar for his cinematography, but the film was mainly a commercial and critical failure, and quickly lapsed from circulation.
  • Black Moon was a transitional work in Malle’s move from France to the USA. He shot the film in France, at his own estate near Cahors, but in the English language, with a British, American and Canadian actor in the cast. After this movie, the director went to America where he scored a series of critical successes with Pretty Baby, Atlantic City and My Dinner with Andre.
  • Joyce Buñuel, Malle’s co-writer, was ‘s daughter-in-law.
  • Therese Giehse, who plays the bedridden woman, died before the movie was released, and Black Moon is dedicated to her. Malle credited her with partly inspiring the idea for Black Moon by suggesting he make a movie without dialogue (although the eventual script did have dialogue, it is sparse and often nonsensical).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Appropriately for a dream-movie, the indelible image is an imaginary one; it’s the transgressive event you see transpiring in your mind’s eye the minute after the film officially ends on a provocative freeze-frame.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Gender genocide; portly unicorn; resurrection by breast milk.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Black Moon concerns a young girl’s flight from an absurd world—where camo-clad men line up female prisoners of war and execute them, while the gas mask-wearing ladies returning the favor to their male captives—into a totally insane one. The movie is an unexpected assay of the irrational from nouvelle vague auteur Louis Malle, and although it’s congenitally uneven, it makes you wonder how wonderful it would have been if every master director had indulged himself by unleashing one unabashedly surreal film on the world.


Original trailer for Black Moon

COMMENTS: A frayed fairy tale set in no time or place in particular, Continue reading 209. BLACK MOON (1975)

LIST CANDIDATE: BLACK MOON (1975)

Black Moon has been promoted onto the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies Ever Made. Comments on this post are closed; please visit Black Moon‘s official Certified Weird entry.

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Louis Malle

FEATURING: Cathryn Harrison, Therese Giehse, Alexandra Stewart,

PLOT: A 15-year old girl flees a shooting war between the sexes and ends up at a farm estate inhabited by a bedridden old woman, a brother and sister both (like her) named “Lily,” a gang of naked children who herd pigs and sheep, and a unicorn.

Still from Black Moon (1975)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST:   If we were making a list composed only of European-style arthouse surrealism, Black Moon would easily make the List.  Here at 366, Black Moon has to fight for its space not only with other Buñuel-based concoctions, but also with the mutant species of crazed B-movies, the maddest of midnight movies, and intentional and unintentional oddities of every stripe; the competition makes this (admittedly very weird) experimental art movie a more marginal choice.

COMMENTS:  Mercurial auteur Louis Malle (Au Revoir les Enfants) had dabbled in light absurdity with 1960’s Zazie dans le Metro, but audiences weren’t prepared for the sudden onslaught of full-on surrealism he unleashed in 1975 with Black Moon.  The movie concerns a young girl’s flight from an absurd world—where camo-clad men line up female prisoners of war and execute them, with gas mask-wearing ladies returning the favor to their male captives—into a totally irrational one.  With Malle behind the camera, we know that this will be a deliberate, quiet, beautifully-shot film.  Indeed, there are lots of long atmospheric shots and no dialogue at all for the first fifteen minutes, until Lily, the fleeing girl, finally comes upon the villa hidden deep in the woods and meets its insane inhabitants.  Her adventures are loosely inspired by that old weird warhorse, “Alice in Wonderland.”  There’s a pig /baby that may be an explicit reference to “Pig and Pepper,” and the characters Lily meets have the casually insulting demeanors of the denizens of Wonderland: the bedridden old lady says she looks “stupid… and she has no bosom, no bosom at all!’  In a Caroll-esque exchange, the unicorn accuses her of being “mean” for trampling some daisies (who, disturbingly, scream), while the myth is munching down on the selfsame flowers.  But don’t let the Alice references confuse you into supposing Malle’s film is a light absurdist comedy; although Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: BLACK MOON (1975)

CASPULE: TRASH [ANDY WARHOL’S TRASH] (1970)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Holly Woodlawn

PLOT: All the women (and the men dressed as women) want hunky Joe Dallesandro, but he’s impotent from shooting too much junk; he lives with a woman who furnishes their hovel with castoff items she finds left on Manhattan curbs for trash pickup, and the two dream of getting on welfare someday.

Still from Andy Warhol's Trash (1970)


WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Though Trash is about weird people and has its “off” moments, it’s not quite weird enough for the ListTrash was cutting-edge in style, concept and subject matter when it came out in 1970.  But in the forty years since its debut, the sad lives of lowlife junkies and social outcasts have been tapped many times, and Trash‘s casual, near-documentary approach (accurately) makes a drug addict’s life seem painfully banal most of the time.  Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol have collaborated on weirder projects.

COMMENTS: Told in a pseudo-documentary style with partially improvised dialogue, on one level Trash is a gritty and realistic slice-of-life drama about deadbeat druggies on Manhattan’s lower east side.  It glides from meaningless episode to meaningless episode; Joe Dallesandro searches for his next fix and can’t get an erection no matter how many ladies try to seduce him; Holly Woodlawn keeps searching through the neighbors’ trash for stuff she can use, but she never finds any hidden treasure.  Their dreams are pathetically small but still far beyond their grasp, and by the end the conjoined losers end up exactly where they started.  Fortunately for us, plenty of weirdos drift into their lives in the meantime—a go-go dancer, a rich girl looking for an acid connection, an out-of-his-depth high school student, Holly’s pregnant sister, a welfare bureaucrat.  A few of these encounters are completely naturalistic, but most have an absurd edge to them.  Trying to turn Joe on, the go-go dancer breaks into a song and dance number, backed by swinging strands of Christmas lights on the stripper’s stage she has in her living room. The welfare functionary can’t approve a junkie for the public dole, but he’s willing to strike a fairly Continue reading CASPULE: TRASH [ANDY WARHOL’S TRASH] (1970)