Thursday, March 01, 2007

Movie Review: LE MOINE



aka THE MONK
Directed by Ado Kyrou
France/Italy/West Germany; 1972

Ado Kyrou’s film of Matthew Lewis’ gothic classic THE MONK is genuinely odd and confrontational movie, full of sex, violence, black magic and anti-clerical intent. Decried by some as being dull and rather flatly filmed, I would have to disagree, at least somewhat, as I found it to be a fascinating slow-burn of a chiller, luring you into a sense of the usual period drama ease before dropping bombs of surrealism and insanity into your brain. It benefits greatly from a wonderful lead performance from the terrific Italian actor Franco Nero, here dubbing his own voice as usual for his work during this period, who lends the film a terrific and realistic sense of human weight and tragedy to counterbalance the odd fantastic elements. It’s a dark and weird film, sleazy and dreamy, but with a dramatic focus and earthiness that catches you off-guard. This allows the films to be daringly and almost subliminally dangerous, it’ll torch you with it’s sleaze before you realize it’s even that kind of movie.

The story concerns a frankly rather pompous clergy-man (Nero) who is manipulated by a decadent pedophiliac nobleman (an excellent and well-cast Nicol Williamson) and his gorgeous henchwoman into a fury of violent lusts. Nero, fuelled by an illicit relationship with the aforementioned henchwoman posing as a male monk, soon finds himself trapped by his animalistic lusts into an obsession with a beautiful, young orphan and willing to descend into murder and sorcery to achieve his goal of seduction. With a script by cinema’s premier ugly surrealist Luis Bunuel, LE MOINE has all the anti-catholic clergy elements one would suspect out of a version of this torrid romance by the great director. Kyrou, a major figure in surrealism himself and, as a film critic, an important influence on the development of the erotic horror film in Europe during the 1960s and 70s directs the movie with a subtle and underwhelming mise-en-scene, which allows the fantastic and satiric elements to bloom in startling and unusual ways. Full of cheap special effects, startaling (and perhaps illegal) nudity and outright blasphemy, LE MOINE is a movie only a staunch conservative Catholic or an unimaginative cineaste could dislike. It’s never less than hypnotic even when it stumbles across the sometimes uninspired visuals. And it waits to catch you unaware with its weird and uncanny qualities, which blend with its offhand and deliberate blasphemies to create, if not a masterpiece, then certainly a truly unique film experience, not quite like anything else made during this time.

If you can track down the Spanish DVD, which features the preferred English language dub, check it out. It’s worth the time. As stated before Kyrou was a big influence on Eurohorror, particularly on the career of the gloriously haphazard French auteur Jean Rollin. So if nothing else, this film bears an historic importance even if it disagrees with you cinematically. I think it’s something fairly special on its own, though. And worthy of a first class DVD restoration. It’d be perfect for one of Mondo Macabro’s euro-reissues. How ‘bout it, Pete and Andy? I for one would snap it up in an instance.

Available for rent at Scarecrow Video!

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