If English-speaking audiences have managed to digest La Grande Bouffe and perhaps some audacious (celluloi)diners have tasted The Harem or Bye, Bye Monkey, they can now proceed with a more substantial course consisting of eight succulent ‘delicacies’ prepared by the chef in person, monsieur Marco Ferreri.
However, far from being an easily digestible experience Ferreri’s cinema is as necessary as it is disturbing, it being an unreformed look into our sclerotic social body. And as for him, he is one of the most solitary and elusively free figures of Italian cinema after neo-realism, whose ashes he does not hesitate to disperse, exposing the phoney liberality of the ‘real’ in order to reveal its hideous essence.
It is impossible to classify Ferreri’s work and yet in front of his films the spectator immediately senses that the poetic object being observed conveys more than its images and narrative devices would at first seem to suggest. His films induce a tactical relation, an unappeasable cinematic experience asking for more, more of those desecrating images unhinging middle class conventions whilst desperately suggesting (im)possible alternatives and – significantly – set in the suburbs, far from the aseptically gentrified centre(s).
The new box set offers a chronological introduction to Ferreri’s filmography and I must say that, besides a couple of debatable choices and missing titles – La Dernière Femme followed by Ciao Maschio and Chiedo Asilo is essential to comprehend his ‘Male’ trilogy – it succeeds in its purpose (hopefully there will be a vol. 2).
El Cochecito (The Little Coach, 1959) filmed in Franco’s Spain, is the poetic debut of Ferreri despite being his third feature, an aggressive parable on the ambiguity of the notion of normality shot where the body’s monstrosity finishes and the soul’s monstrosity begins. There then follows a huge temporal gap overlooking Ferreri’s return to his native Italy and the consequent scandal that caused (with films such as L’Ape Regina or Marcia Nuziale) and proceeds directly to the apocalyptic Il Seme dell’Uomo (The Seed of the Man, 1969) where the relation of man and woman is precluded by the existential cannibalism pulsing at the core of a dying society. Shot in 1968, Dillinger e’ Morto (Dillinger is Dead, 1969) is the unforgivable absence of this box set, a prophetic look at the incapacity of revolution, encompassing a whole generation alienated by its daily gestures and unable to get rid of its masks. This film, strangely enough, has been ignored by the reactionary May ‘68 celebrants.
Touche Pas à la Femme Blanche (Don’t Touch the White Woman, 1975) is an optimistically militant (surreal) exception – a hymn against gentrification that somehow predicted the recent uprisings in the French suburbs – where the historical battle of Little Big Horn (when native Americans defeated General Custer) is (re)enacted in the Paris’ neighbourhood of Les Halles where the popular market was being destroyed to build a shopping mall, giving birth to the most eccentric western of all times. In Ciao Maschio (Bye, Bye Monkey, 1978) Ferreri ratifies the demise of the Historical Male in the desolated phallocratic landscape of New York where the American dream has turned into an impotent nightmare. Chiedo Asilo (Seeking Asylum, 1979) is the libertarian response to this deceased Male, whose only model can be the infant and its pure essence, (un)able to defy the repressive authorities’ calling for order and security.
Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981) is neither an interpretation of Bukowski’s classics nor a mere transposition on film but rather, a (re)interpretation of his author’s marginalised existence, his life as a reject amongst rejects: namely, the impossibility of authentic art to fit into society.
In La Casa del Sorriso (The House of Smiles, 1988) Ingrid Thulin – one of the most sectioned faces by Ingmar Bergman – is the protagonist of a passionate love story set in a rest home where the Ferrerian couple comes to its ultimate destiny. Morally unacceptable, it is forced to migrate to an outer place.
Going to the cinema is like eating or shitting, is a physiological act, is urban guerrilla warfare, a young Ferreri would claim, unwittingly signing the epigraph of an artistic existence spent desecrating the sacred – in religious as well as in ideological terms, way before the term post-modern was coined – confronting his art with humanity’s sick carcass, whose viscera mirror the hypocrisy of official culture.
Nonetheless his films magically erupt with visionary charm as if, quoting Jean-Lucifer God-Art, each of Ferreri’s film was at the same time a conte de faits (a tale of facts) and a conte de fées (a fairytale)… So, finally, here it is, the legacy of this unsung genius of cinema who, as Hanna Schygulla said, felt the need of a renaissance of humanity and had the (un)realistic strength to imagine its signs.
Guilty of having revealed the monstrous truth hiding behind the daily masks we all wear, the void of our lives, Marco Ferreri, aggressive and participating, has never apologised and these eight films are here to testify his ultimately innovative nature.
CLF is a collectively multiple entity carrying out a cultural guerrilla war against the collective inertia in which the spectacular empire is caging us all. In celluloid we (don't) trust but we firmly believe in the subversive detonation of a laughter that will bury you all! Le cinéma est mort, vive la bande Bonnot! Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org