Der Leone Have Sept Cabeças (Glauber Rocha / Congo-France-Italy, 1971)

The linguist joke of the title states the multinational condition of oppression in Africa, and maybe Glauber Rocha’s state as an artist in exile. The revue of Antonio das Mortes is transposed in any case to the Congolese savanna, where the kind of footage shot for Mondo features becomes groundwork for a scorching political fantasy. The first shot has a bwana couple writhing in half-discarded big hunter regalia, and so it goes, an arresting new idea every ten seconds. Jean-Pierre Léaud in white robes punctuates his sermon by pounding a mallet into the ground, the local women assembled are mildly intrigued: His litany ("The beast... has the paws of a bear... the throat of a lion...") might be a description of the film, though Rocha’s creature is not a chimera but a hydra. A lily-white cabal of Euro buccaneers and CIA agents (which include Rada Rassimov, Reinhard Kolldehoff, Gabriele Tinti and Hugo Carvana) spout imperialist crap in ventilated terrazzos ("In Latin America it was easier"), the people outside are mobilized for the revolution. A stooge is propped up as ruler, given colonial peruke to complete the frogged ensemble from The Emperor Jones; resistance rests on the mating of the spear (Baiack) and the machine gun (Giulio Brogi). The Scriptures are quoted and rejected, "Lili Marleen" and "La Marseillaise" are sung in garbled accents, Don Quixote, saxophones, guerilla bellowing. "In moments of imaginative stultification, there is always someone assuming power" (Ici et Ailleurs). Rocha understands the paradox of the rebel without a state, and ends on the image (out of Preminger) of revolutionaries out on their own Exodus. And, if you don't like that, there’s the spectacle of a Dziga Vertov Group prophecy of Cannibal Holocaust. With Aldo Bixio, Andre Segolo, and Segolo Dia Manungu.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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