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DIRECTED BY: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Saul Gilbert, Ruth Michelly
FEATURING: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Raymond Devos
PLOT: A man patronizes a shop that sells human heads, trying to find one which will please his beloved.
COMMENTS: It took me a while to realize that the baby-faced, clean-shaven, curly-headed protagonist of “La Cravate” was actually director Alejandro Jodorowsky as a young man. The director’s early style, as seen in this mime piece, is almost as unrecognizable as his face; but look hard and you can see the seeds of themes and styles that would haunt his later work, in primitive and innocent forms. There may be none of the shock imagery, no blood or nudity or deformity, no pools of bunny blood or lactating hermaphrodites; but the theatricality, the spirit of the circus, the focus on archetypes rather than characters, the eyes turned always towards the strange, all are here in germinal form.
Created as a 28-year old expatriate studying pantomime in Paris, “La Cravate” is just about exactly the kind of production you’d expect from someone who was palling up with avant-gardists Jean Cocteau and André Breton while interning with Marcel Marceau. It’s essentially a silent film, with a soundtrack supplied mostly by calliope and accordion. Like a collection of Keatons and Chaplins, the characters communicate humorously and non-verbally. Jodorwosky’s rival’s arrogance is obvious from his dismissive glances and the way he slides in front of the slimmer man to gaze into a shop window, forcing Jodorowsky to keep peeking over and around his broad frame. Alternating smiles and scowls, his inamorata jerks Jodorowsky backwards and forwards like a hooked fish on a line. The characters act in front of painted backdrops representing both the interiors and city streets. From the beginning, Jodorowsky is utterly uninterested in realism as a style, even if the conventional theatricality here isn’t as unique and radical a break from norms as the surreality of his successive works would come to be.
Since the plot involves a literal head shop where noggins can be swapped out at will, the story is macabre, but whimsically so. This short might delight children, which is something that can’t be said for the rest of Jodorowsky’s corpus. Although the director’s future mystical/philosophical preoccupations don’t show up here, the scenario toys lightly with the concept of identity. Once the protagonist’s head is (willingly) detached, has he been split in two? The head seems perfectly happy perched on the shopkeeper’s mantle, where he can play fruit checkers by nodding his approval of the appropriate move, and serenade his owner with a recorder sonata in the evening. [efn_note]The dynamic between Jodorowsky’s detached head and the shopkeeper whose arms manipulate objects for him prefigures the mother-son relationship in Santa Sangre, though this appears to be a coincidence more than a continuing theme[/efn_note]. When his rival’s head is placed on his old body, it continues to try to seduce the cold woman, then shows buyer’s remorse and longs for reunion with its original face. If anything, the main personality seems to inhere in the costume, symbolized by the long purple cravate (which very nearly ends up doing duty as a noose). Weird stuff, when you think about it, although the whole scenario slides through the mind casually as a charmingly cartoonish fancy.
“La Cravate” was inspired by a Thomas Mann story. Co-star Raymond Devos went on to become a successful French comedian (even making an appearance in Pierrot le Fou). The film was once believed to be lost, but a print was discovered in 2006. You can only find it as an extra on Jodorowsky box sets.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“This odd comedy manages to incorporate a bit of the absurd and the surreal on a light level.”–Adrian Halen, HorrorNews.net (DVD)
(This movie was nominated for review by “quirkdee” with a simple “its AJ’s first nuff said.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)