Thursday, November 16, 2006


Directed by José Mojica Marins
Brazil; 1971

We love the ‘Zé do Caixão’ films around here, especially the first two, AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL and THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE, which I would personally regard as two of my all-time faves. These films grip you with a wild and manic cinematic primitivist aesthetic, and darken your head-space with an existential mean streak that’s utterly unique in all moviedom. But FINIS HOMINIS is a bit different. While it too is a unique beast, with its own odd rhythms and perspectives, it doesn’t really work as something to be viewed and enjoyed. It is really weird, and worthwhile to see for this weirdness, but it’s a weirdness that just eats itself, the oblique mise-en-scene disappearing up its own proverbial ass. Director and star José Mojica Marins seems to be offering us an apocalyptic inverse of the Zé do Caixão films, as the title character reveals the weakness and hypocrisy of humans and their feeble institutions by basking in Christ-like beatitude and working miracles of everyday kindness, instead of ‘Coffin Joe’s threats to the same by his megalomaniacal and homicidal existentialism. Although, strangely you end up more sympathetic to Ze than to Finis, who despite a sort of gypsyesque saintliness comes off rather aloof and maybe even a little sinister. FINIS HOMINIS is interesting for these reasons and there’s enough off-the-cuff surrealism and Z-grade ambiance that it almost works. The cast would seem to be entirely composed of non-actors which, along with the static cinematography, gives the movie a rough and tumble kitsch value that’s reminiscent of an H.G. Lewis production. But it’s an H.G. Lewis production with the ambition of an Alejandro Jodorowsky. And ultimately it doesn’t fit together in any sort of satisfying way. It can’t quite muster enough low-budget charm or weird mystical bent to make it a film you’d want to revisit very often. That said, I’m glad I watched FINIS and would recommend it to all José Mojica Marins fans who feel the need to venture further into his idiosyncratic oeuvre. I was fairly entertained and a little bit bewildered by its meandering episodic structure and cheap-o religious pretensions, but in the end it’s more a curiosity piece than an awesome cult film in it own right.

Print provided by an import DVD I rented at Scarecrow Video.
DVD availabe to purchase at Xploited Cinema.

No comments: