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CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE

Czech Republic / Switzerland / UK, 1996 (MIFF 1997, International)

Director: Jan Svankmajer

Self-appointed 'militant surrealist' Jan Svankmajer describes his most recent film as a 'grotesque black comedy'. This latest work from the Czech director combines his signature Surrealist preoccupations - the uncanny, the unconscious, the power of the found object - with a concerted exploration of desire. The eccentric cast of conspirators in this combina­tion of live-action and puppet animation is thus a bunch of ordinary folk with an extraordinary propensity for pleasure. The postie, the local store owner, the mild-mannered neighbour explore pleasure in the fullest sense of the word, indulging in the standard fetishist's arsenal of feathers, fur and leather.

But equally, and often hilariously, banal and everyday objects also become unlikely sources of erotic gratification; after watching this film you may never feel quite the same about rye bread, roast chicken or fresh fish again! But as with Svankmajer's extant oeuvre, and the tradi­tion of black comedy, pleasure here is also invested with a dark and sinister edge. The dis­turbing imagery and expressive, visceral sound design thus renders the horror as well as the humour of these eccentric erotic encounters. The film is an absolute must for both aficiona­dos and newcomers to Svankmajer's work.

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