Saturday, 9 November 2013

Black Moon (1975)

Boyfriend and I have a "happy place": Video Difference, a 24-hour, 3-storey DVD rental outlet (yes, they still exist) on Quinpool Street. It's a cineaste's paradise. They stock every movie under the sun and, if you request a movie under the moon, they will move heaven and earth to get it for you. I have applied for a job there numerous times but, despite my excellent GPA, my film studies minor, and my university film studies prize, they have never so much as called me in for an interview, and I've been forced to seek genuinely gainful employment instead.

On any given weekend, often in the wee hours of the morning, Boyfriend and I may be found at Video Difference, perusing racks of Criterion movies, sending staff to dig into the deep archives, and generally having a delightful time renting movies we've never heard of, hoping to discover an unknown masterpiece. But while I've rented films from Video Difference that wound up on my All-Time Greatest Movies Hit List (Belle du Jour, Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Viridiana) my recent luck has been terrible. In the last month or so I've taken home Black Orpheus, which was utterly boring; Haxan, which was just OK; and most recently Black Moon (Louis Malle, 1975), which, I don't know, maybe I should stop renting movies I don't know anything about altogether.

The only thing that kept me on the couch watching Black Moon, and not doing anything, anything else, was the fact that my nails were drying. My manicure is now perfect, but in the immortal words of Kim Kardashian, is it worth it?

The answer is no.
The film opens with an extended shot of a badger on a highway. ("Ladies and gentlemen, an art movie," Boyfriend observed, prophetically.) The badger is then run over by a car. In the car is Lily (Cathryn Harrison: Rex Harrison's granddaughter, sources say, although what Rex Harrison was doing allowing his progeny to sully the family name in tripe like this is mysterious indeed). Lily drives through the countryside, trying to avoid the guerilla warfare being fought by armies divided along gender lines (one of only two interesting ideas this film ever has; the other is daisies that scream when you step on them).

Lily stumbles upon a farmhouse in the country, inhabited by a crazy old woman, twincestuous adult siblings, and about two dozen naked children (whose elders, once again, should never have allowed them to feature in this film). Various utterly stupid and frustrating events happen for no fucking reason. A unicorn (well, a very fat Shetland pony with a horn affixed to its head) appears and Lily follows it all over. Lily throws a half-dozen alarm clocks out a window. The Goler twins and their birthday-suited offspring perform selections from a Wagner opera. People breast-feed one another. Lily helps bury a dead soldier and then, in an act no way loaded with obvious and heavy-handed symbolism, allows a garter snake to slither between her legs. This is more or less the blessed end, after an hour and forty minutes of unbearable nonsense.

Lily also falls all the time in this movie. Like, she must have an inner ear problem or something.
At first, this movie comes across as an extended metaphor for sexual abuse. Then, it starts coming across as an extended metaphor for sexual abuse, produced by someone who didn't know anything about film-making. Then, you finally realize that it's not an extended metaphor for anything, except the importance of being more careful what movies you take home from Video Difference.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. This is hard to explain. Sometimes, bad movies happen to good film-makers. This is easier to explain, but just as frustrating. "At the time of release, Black Moon received mixed reviews and vanished into obscurity," says Wikipedia. Good, and I wish it had stayed there instead of being resurrected under the Criterion label. They're handing those things out like candy.