Review: The Fernando Arrabal Collection 2 DVD

STUDIO: Cult Epics | DIRECTOR: Fernando Arrabal
RELEASE DATE: 2/23/2010 | PRICE: DVD $79.95
BONUSES: new English subtitle translations
SPECS: NR | 347 min. | Foreign language | 1.66:1 widescreen (Discs 1 and 2); 1.33:1 (Disc 3) | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Cult Epics’ second collection of the films of Fernando Arrabal offers a quintet of rarities by the noted and still-active Spanish surrealist. And believe us when we say that this stuff is rare! So seldom-seen, in fact, that we couldn’t even dig up a good picture from any of the five films included in the DVDs. (We settled, instead, for a painting that’s generally associated with the Panic Movement, the international surrealistic collective co-founded by Arrabal with Alejandro Jodorowky and Roland Topor in the early 1960s.)

Arrabal 2 is comprised of two feature-length films and three shorts, none of which have ever before been available on DVD in the U.S. Unlike the movies available in the first collection — 1970’s Viva La Muerte and 1975’s The Guernica Tree — four of the five selections in this anthology aren’t exemplary of the violent, surreal constructions for which Arrabal is best known. The exception is Car Cemetery, Arrabal’s 1983 adaptation of his own stage play which is essentially a twisted version of the Christ story set in a crumbling, post-apocalyptic junkyard populated by thugs, naked women, gay men, punks, killers and other charmers. Though it’s not as raw and effective as his earlier films (perhaps the play carried more oomph), Car Cemetery is good-looking and provocative and, strangely enough, has the feel of the kinds of films that Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and Jean-Jacques Beineix (Diva) were making at the same time. Hmmmm, who’s zooming zoom, here?

Also included on the DVD are the strange-but-not-strange-enough TV movie The Emperor of Peru (1982) starring Mickey Rooney (The Fox and the Hound); the shorts Farewell, Babylon! (1992), based on Arrabal’s 1969 novel of the same name; and the documentaries Borges: A Life in Poetry (1998), about one of Arrabal’s greatest influences, and Arrabal: Panik Cineaste, where the man turns the camera and recorders on himself and reveals “I hate cinema…” Well, there you go…


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.