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THEMROC (1973).

Barely released in the U.S. and ignored by all but the most fanatical arthouse deviants, this surreal French satire is steeped in pitch-black weirdness. And even when writer/director Claude Faraldo loses his (tenuous) intellectual footing and settles for pure gonzo silliness, this surrealistic vision of an Everyman's mental breakdown is worth a look, if only for its audacity. But the most inspired aspect of this Working Class Rant is the fact that nobody on-screen utters a single word of intelligible dialogue, with the entire story told in grunts, howls or simple gibberish. At first glance, the middle-aged Themroc (Michel Piccoli) seems like your typical, brutish, dirty-undershirted factory laborer. And his day goes straight into the crapper once he arrives at his dreary job, and is called onto the carpet after playing voyeur on a manager and his leggy secretary. With a lifestyle this demeaning and repetitious, it's no big surprise when Themroc suddenly goes bonkers, and for the first time in his miserable life, breaks free of his 9-to-5 shackles. The second he gets home, this disgruntled wacko wrecks his apartment (unlike modern-day Americans, who'd prefer to grab a gun and shoot their boss) and begins acting like a modern-day Neanderthal. To the dismay of his grey-haired hag of a mom, Themroc begins fondling his sister (sultry Beatrice Romand, best known for somnambulistic Eric Rohmer fare like CLAIRE'S KNEE) and transforms his dreary li'l flat into a literal urban cave (to match his new-found primitive desires) by knocking a huge, ragged hole in the side of his building, then tossing all his modern conveniences into the courtyard. Further chaos appears in the form of the local police, who are threatened by Themroc's anti-social activities (not to mention, the fact that Themroc's actions begin encouraging his uptight neighbors to do the same). But they're easily repelled by our urban savage, who holds the heavily-armed troops at bay (imagine if Ionesco had adapted DOG DAY AFTERNOON). Better still, what's the poor guy supposed to do for food during all this turmoil? How about bringing a policeman home for dinner? Literally. Right down to barbecuing him on a spit (and in one of the flick's best visual gags, the filmmakers use a pig carcass in place of the cooked cop). Don't get the false impression that this is continual, gale-force insanity though, because it's slow going at first, and Faraldo tackles his themes with all the subtlety of a drunk with a chainsaw. Of course, this type of sledgehammer storytelling is nothing new for Faraldo, whose earlier work included LA JEUNE MORTE in which a father and son are eaten by dogs, and BOF!, featuring a striking worker who plans to murder his wife and take up with his daughter-in-law. One thing's for sure: You certainly get the feeling that Faraldo, the cast and crew had a ball during the production. Especially the raw 'n' commanding Piccoli, who had a knack for embracing oddball projects throughout the '70s, including Marco Ferreri fare such as LA GRANDE BOUFFE and THE LAST WOMAN. Well, this flick takes the prize for being one of his most bizarre choices, with Piccoli going so far as to fund much of the movie out of his own pocket... It's obvious why nobody seems to make movies like this anymore. Because Faraldo is unsparing in his ridicule, while giving the finger to corporate scum, police, family, and lemming neighbors. After sitting through this non-verbal diatribe, you can imagine that if Faraldo hadn't gotten into filmmaking, he probably would have ended up as one of those aging crackpots who stand on street corners, screaming their conspiracy theories at the top of his lungs. (On the other hand, since we haven't heard much about the guy recently, he might be doing that at this very moment.) This crude 'n' rude social satire grabs Civilized Behavior by the balls and twists 'em off in the name of audacious laughs and puddle-deep polemics. Without question, it's best appreciated by every working class slob who ever wanted to chuck it all into the trash and revert back to simpler, Cro-Magnon pleasures of the flesh.

© 1995 by Steven Puchalski.