Awakening of the Beast (José Mojica Marins / Brazil, 1970):
(O Ritual dos Sádicos; O Despestar da Besta)

Lang envisioned a film about a girl's LSD reverie leading to impalement, José Mojica Marins' reading has the coed succumbing to a bacchanalia of wastrels and tokers attended by a staff-toting, sadistically horny Moses. Brazil is hit with rushes of orgies and depravities, starting with a comely junkie stripping for an audience of businessmen to the tune of an anti-war hippie chant (the ground-level shot of the nude figure lowering onto a pisspot slides from smutty to architectural) and covering every stratum, from the virgin's fright at the casting couch to the fetishist's bliss at washing women's panties. "What message do you see in such pornographic visions," a psychiatrist (Sérgio Hingst) is asked on a talk show, revealing a nation's writhing fantasies (and the picture's tricky meta-structure). Mojica Marins is a fellow panelist at the event, bearded like Ginsberg while expounding on the (Jerry) Lewisian split between performer and persona: "My name is José, Zé do Caixão is back in the graveyard." Four addicts are picked for an experiment, fed drugs and taken through São Paulo's underground scene, including flickering views of a discotheque and a lengthy, vérité clip from a performance of Brecht's In the Jungle of Cities; their most startling visit, naturally, is the trip to the theater where This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse is playing, so Zé do Caixão himself materializes to take the quartet through a Dantean Technicolor jaunt that must have excited the jealousy of Jodorowsky. "Couldn't you make a film with a positive message?" "Answer censored." The procession of inspiringly hideous liberties is met with a disembodied sound design of moans, cackles, shrieks and tinny samba -- an Artaudian cyclone, replete with genius. The erudite locus is a mock TV trial, where the auteur defends his artistic depredations before exalting cinema as the true hallucinogen, in the Dalí sense. With Ozualdo Candeias, Andréa Bryan, and Lurdes Riba. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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