A Cat in the Brain (Lucio Fulci / Italy, 1990):
(Un Gatto nel Cervello; Nightmare Concert)

The cerebellum is Lucio Fulci’s: The high-angle camera descends on the maestro’s dome and dissolves from his fervid brainstorm of cinematic punishments ("hacked to death... drowned in boiling water... sawed in half...") to the actual grey matter, which here is pulsating red. (A kitty -- Lewis Carroll’s? -- feasts greedily on it.) Cinecittà is the setting, a misogynistic cannibal opus is being shot, the director steps out for lunch only to find himself plagued by visions of the gore he’s orchestrated. Fulci helplessly takes a hatchet to cans of crimson paint at home and mistakes a German documentary crew for the Nazisploitation orgy he had just been filming, he can’t turn on a faucet without precipitating images of dismemberment. "A kind of identity crisis." The psychiatrist (David L. Thompson) has clogged-id issues of his own and uses the hypnotized cineaste on his divan to go on a merry slaying spree. Fulci’s splatter meta-comedy is founded equally on sardonic censor-baiting ("Doesn’t that stupid theory say that seeing violence on screen provokes violence?") and the true confessions of a conflicted auteur ("If only I could find a reason in any of these stories..."). Fulci’s zooms into his own face are like slaps, he mimes dismay at clips from his blood-soaked productions with a directness that outclasses Fellini. Still, the ultimate horror for a filmmaker is losing control of the mise-en-scène -- you get lost in the studio and wind up on location, or so says Powell’s inspector in Peeping Tom. Very much an "autoportrait de décembre" (JLG/JLG), closer to Baudelaire’s flowers ("Paysage") than to Poe’s felines. The joke told, Fulci sails away with a babe on a vessel named "Perversion." Ciao, critics. With Jeoffrey Kennedy, and Malisa Longo.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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