DIRECTED BY: Carlos Atanes
FEATURING: Octavi Pujades, Manuel Solas, Sasha Slugina
PLOT: A man travels to Antarctica planning to rendezvous with a woman there later; he seeks refuge from the cold in a chicken shack, where he enters into philosophical discussions about pornography with the proprietor.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Carlos Atanes slaves away in relative obscurity, continuing to make defiantly weird movies his way, despite a lack of funding and mainstream notice. His work as a whole arguably deserves representation on this List. While I wouldn’t say that we will automatically restrict “Atanic” entries to a single candidate, as of now, the apocalyptic fetish musical Maximum Shame is the Atanes film to beat. Poultry fetishists, however, may disagree.
COMMENTS: The tagline proclaims this a “pornophilosophical film,” and so it is, although it’s probably heavier on the porno than the philosophy. Still, as far as academic name dropping goes, you’ll hear shout-outs to thinkers like Antonin Artaud, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean Baudrillard, along with discussions of Bertrand Russell’s “barber’s paradox.” There is also the debate, between the mournful lover and the Antarctic poulterer, about the philosophy of pornography: the latter considers obscenity to be a species of topography, and an illustration of Gallino‘s putative thesis that human beings are essentially “donuts.”
But, this movie is not all abstract speculation. You can’t satirize pornography without making pornography, and there is plenty of filth here, although of an exceedingly strange sort: to wit, if you have a fetish for seeing women deep-throat chicken drumsticks, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for your whole life. “Fisting” is also a major subplot, and in another episode the planet of Jupiter gets violated in its red spot. The movie’s climax (forgive the wording) takes place in a sort of greasy trans-dimensional chicken-tube glory hole; the afterglow involves first contact with three “Sidereal pornstars.”
There’s also some weird stuff in there, including a Spanish actor playing a Spanish fried chicken magnate pretending to be from Texas, speaking Spanish with a Spaniard’s idea of a Texas accent. Things get so strange that the two main characters in the Antarctic chicken shack debate whether they’re trapped in a dream; they conclude that they cannot be, because things seem incoherent to them, whereas in a dream impossible things seem natural.
As for conventional carnality, the movie has only two short topless sequences. Most of the flesh on display is of the extra-crispy variety. The substitution of a poultry-based erotic system allows Gallino to get away with imagery that would otherwise make this a XXX feature, evoking the queasy arousing-yet-repellant feeling we experience when we see someone acting out a sexual fetish we don’t share. Today, we live in a world that’s awash in smut, but actual pornographic iconography rarely makes it into mainstream films. Even the explicit moments in arthouse films like Antichrist refer to real human sex acts rather than the fantasy rituals of porn. Gallino looks at pornography obliquely, the way an alien might view it; it appears both ridiculous and strangely poetic, a landscape full of symbols and secrets. Atanes is well aware of how the average person (or average critic) will view Gallino‘s assault on the viewer’s narrative and sexual sensibilities. He takes a shot at preempting criticism via an in-movie film critic who says, about the work of fictional art-porn director Gropius Cantor: “it’s a vulgar and disgusting concatenation of pseudo-pornographic shots lacking any appeal.” (While he says this, we watch an unrelated scene of a woman shoving her lubricated fist down another woman’s throat). Of Cantor’s legacy, the critic concludes, “his films became worse with time, more cryptic, more obtuse, more unappealing and utterly unwatchable.” Atanes’ films are becoming more cryptic and obtuse, but the more unappealing and unwatchable they become to “normal” people, the more fascinating they become to us.
Movies like Gallino, the Chicken System find themselves in an impossible marketing position. They really need rental outlets to allow people to take a low-cost chance on them, so the movie can eventually spread its reputation by word-of-mouth. Yet, they are too specialized and weird for outlets like Netflix to stock. Gallino is being sold in the U.S. in a DVD-R version. It includes numerous behind-the-scenes clips, all in Spanish.
DISCLAIMER: A copy of this movie was provided by the distributor for review.