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FANDO AND LIS (1969).

Just when I thought I'd run out of Alexandro Jodorowsky films to fawn over (psychedelic mindbenders EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, as well as debacles like TUSK and THE RAINBOW THIEF), I locate a copy of his earliest feature. (Actually, the guy's first film is lost, according to all sources. Based on "The Severed Heads" by Thomas Mann, it was a fable done in mime, and even Jodorowsky doesn't have a copy.) This definitely shows what was to come from this unorthodox, inconsistent genius. Based on Fernando Arrabal's play (which Jodorowsky had previously directed on stage), the flick was castrated by its distributors, Cannon Films, after causing a fracas at the Acapulco Film Festival for being too "corrupting"...Working with no budget to speak of, and filmed on weekends, the production reeks with Bunuel influenced surrealism and pretensions. Sergio Klainer and Diana Mariscal star as the title characters, a young couple in search of the enchanted city of Tar, where ecstasy can (supposedly) be found. Fando is impotent, Lis is paralyzed, and together they travel across a rocky landscape (with the bleach blonde Lis wheeled along or carried), equipped with their only possessions, a drum and an old fashioned phonograph. Basically, it's a road movie that takes these holy innocents nowhere, as they encounter bizarre characters, experience childhood flashbacks, play cruel jokes on each other, and sit on rocks, rambling banalities. They argue, they split up (Fando runs off and Lis sits there bawling), they get back together, and when Fando gets sick of her whining, he drags Lis around by the feet. Sure, there are plenty of striking images along the way (i.e. a musician sits amidst urban rubble, playing a flaming piano), but the first half of this flick is an incoherent, maddeningly edited mess that makes even Fellini's most indulgent work look coherent. It's not until Jodorowsky ups the tripped-out absurdity that the movie begins to hit you on a gut level. Such as when Fando is whipped by a bikinied torturess and eyed by some horny transvestites, or encounters vampires drinking snifters of blood (as an additional note, Jodorowsky said that all on-screen blood was real). And what other director would keep a straight face while live pigs are being pulled from Lis' vagina? (Yeah, you read that correctly.) Or when supporting characters crawl into their own graves to perish, politely thanking the grave digger as he covers 'em up? But if Jodorowsky wanted the title characters to be enchanting kids, fouled by society's ills, he failed. Because though his vision is charmingly morbid and scattered with unintentional laughs, the leads are dead weight. Along the way, I realized I didn't care about either of 'em or their heavyhanded quest. It's dense going for Jodorowsky amateurs, yet a field day for fans of murky, symbolic baloney.

© 1993 by Steven Puchalski.