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Mexico, 1968 (MIFF 1969, Programme 9)

Director: Alexandro Jodorowsky

Once there were two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, who spent their days waiting for Godot. Now a young couple, Fando and Lis, go in search of a city called Tar. On the way their quest is harried by various beings. J. B. Priestley attempted a similar theme in his play, "They Came to a City". And long before him, there was John Bunyan. . . .

The theme is age-old and universal. One treatment differs from another mainly by virtue of qualities like depth and wisdom. As each new generation evolves, human beings come to ask deeper questions about themselves, to confront their undiscovered natures with renewed courage, and rediscover their archetypes in a new guise. It's the theme of death and transfiguration, of crucifixion and resurrection, the dark night of the soul, the voyage of the Ancient Mariner, the Odyssey.

This film is based on its director's memory of a play by Fernando Arrabal. Jodorowsky and Arrabal were behind the Parisian "panic art" movement, in which theatrical happenings emerged out of ceremony, ritual, humour, terror and excess. Now Jodorowsky is the enfant terrible of the Mexican art world and this film suggests he has graduated from smashing pianos and directing and acting in his own plays, themselves an extension of the theatre of the absurd.

He avoids whatever traditions, tricks, or cinema cliches may have tempted him, constantly seeking an idiom beyond Reason, one which would act as a bridge to the unconscious. The actors themselves were persuaded to endure a via dolorosa, for they were actually stripped naked, tortured and beaten, and artificial blood was not used. Plenty of rare meat, in short, but no ketchup. Shooting took over two years.

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