Svankmajer's homage to Surrealism and its precursors.
darragh o'donoghue | 04/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Imagine Ophuls' 'La Ronde' remade by a Czech Surrealist, with 'professional expertise' (as the end credits state) from Sacher-Masoch, de Sade, Freud, Bunuel, Ernst and Brauk. After an opening credits montage of 18th century erotic prints, scored to a lovely, kitschy waltz, 'Conspirators of Pleasure' follows five fetishists whose narratives interlock in bizarre ways. The first is an unshaven young man who enters an adult shop to buy an adult magazine. Examining his purchase in his tenement apartment, he spills beer all over the centrefold, in an early example of the film's outrageous visual punning. He enters his closet for certain private activity (having first checked posters of James Dean and a male bodybuilder, as if he's socially in the closet too), before being interrupted by the doorbell. The registered letter, written in cut-and-paste newspaper print, notifies 'Sunday'. He gets to work - asks his blowsy neighbour to decapitate his rooster, modelled on which he builds a papier-mache mask, glueing the girlie pictures to its surface, and then covering it with the real rooster's feathers. The shopowner, meanwhile, has built a contraption that enables him to 'enjoy' sexual relations with a TV newsreader. This latter, who finds novel use for fish, peeps at her mad husband, who builds strange gadgets of arousal from items he steals during the day (contraceptives, fur from women's stoles etc.). The postal worker obsessively hollows loaves of break, making little balls she inserts into cranial orifices. The neighbour, who leaves used sanitary towels around the house for her cat, keeps a body in her closet and pilfers straw from dustbins.The sexual needs underlying these acts undergo increasingly eccentric permutations as the film continues, often of a ritualistic or hermetic nature, taking place in bombed out churches, for instance, or a shed. The film's movement is primarily visual, the patterned images emphasising orifices, phalluses, fluids, hair etc., classic Freudian sybmols pushed to absurd signifying limits. The film's repetitive logic is that of the archetypal dream, proceeding by transference, displacement, condensation and interruption. But 'Conspirators' is more than a mere illusitration of ideas from Svankmajer's heroes - the Prague setting is characteristically concrete, entering into a dramatic conflict with the surreal events and Svankmajer's style, relentlessly closing in on objects and parts of the body. Although there is very little puppetry in the film - Svankmajer, as if to demonstrate his theme, teases us by providing materials and set-ups for his familiar art, but delaying the animation - all the characters are substitutes for the director, artists-manque who use objects from the everyday world to create new, startling, living arragnements. The film's surreal view of sexual relations and the police is as sharp and funny as Bunuel's 'Un Chien Andoulu', with Svankmajer repeating Bunuel's method of musical leitmotifs for satiric effect."
Exquisite cacophony of images
Jessica Donohoe | Berkeley, CA USA | 07/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jan Svankmajer, whose name is almost always mentioned in the same breath as the Brothers Quay, is an animator with a deeply philosophical, psychological bent whose mode de employ is the infinite variety of the grotesque. If you appreciate Joel-Peter Whitkin's stills, you will love Svankmajers films. Objects animated are people, tubers, taxidermilogical failures, etc. Svankmayer takes a thousand separate, shocking little pieces and combines them into a sublimely shocking whole. The end product is always bafflingly surreal and so over the top as to be beatific. His filmography is made up mostly of shorts, and two other feature length films, Alice (1988) and Faust (1996), all would be worth some footwork to catch a glimpse of his intricately wrought madness. Conspirators is a cohesive series of vignettes about obsessive-compulsive fetishists whose paths cross, in so doing sparking a series of respective erotic destinies that are fulfilled via a spiraling puzzle like path. The movie itself defines fetishism, turning the everyday object or occurrence into a meaning laden ritual; in these cases lives are compelled by a collection of huge fetish projects: the porno stand engineer who is so in love with images that he constructs a television that can be made to love him back; the mail carrier who maniacally turns loaves of bread into compact little balls that she delivers to the news anchor who feeds them to carp who live in a bucket under her desk and get her off on camera (as part of the engineer's project); her husband who hears symphonies in pursuit of junk he later constructs tools that de Sade would have cried over; and a pair of neighbors who obsess over each other's murders, whose will finds a magical way. This film is a must-see just for the exquisite detail with which the nameless protagonist constructs the piece de triumph of all fetish objects- it cannot be hinted at in less than a volume. These frames speak volumes, a wordless cacophony. Conspirators could be seen as a sort of "The Making Of" a Jan Svankmajer animation- the sympathetic voodoo magic worked by a team of discreet players so intense that genius is sparked and makes vital and gorgeous the previously inert and obscene. I'd give this film one star for each story's achievement, plus one for the opening sequence of *truly* bizarre 17th Century porno woodcuts. A must see."
Step inside the cabinet of Jan Svankmajer
Michael Sean | Seattle, WA - US | 02/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Master animator Jan Svankmajer delivers another masterpiece with this feature-length effort, following the routines and rituals of a half dozen everyday folks (a man who keeps to himself; a woman across the hall from him; a newscaster and her husband; a mailwoman; and a magazine storekeeper). While still incorporating some very impressive stop-motion segments, this film is primarily live action and amazingly uses no spoken dialogue (so there aren't any subtitles or alternate audio tracks on the disc). Each character is represented with their own background music, and their paths cross interestingly as the events unfold. Examining the hidden desires and fetishistic nature of us all, Svankmajer has his subjects walking in and out of closets both literally and metaphorically. The imagery, as always, is equally fascinating and disturbing. His short film, "Food," is also included on this disc. The three segments ("Breakfast,""Lunch" and "Dinner") make some surreal statements about the way we all eat. If you enjoyed his mind-blowing "Alice" and "Faust," you owe it to yourself to experience this DVD."
Continues the Czech absurdist tradition
John Ronald | Sugar Land, Texas | 12/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I make no bones about it, I love Jan Svankmajer. _Conspiritors of Pleasure_ was a delightful film; it dragged in places, and some segments worked better than others (hence only 4 stars), but it was poingiant, sensitive, and sometimes hysterically funny.Svankmajer's storytelling does for cinema what Czech writers like Hrbal, Hasek and Kundera have done for traditional print literature. The Brothers Quay are grimmer, grittier and lack the subtle humor, warmth and humanism of Svankmajer...a side of the filmmaker that shines thru especially in THIS film."
A bizarre mixture of animation and sexual deviance.
Michael Sean | 05/18/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"To try and put into words the visual imagery of this film is an impossible task. Czech animator Svankmayer gives us glimpes into the internal world of some very ordinary people who have some very strange desires. There tales are comically interlinked and illustrated with real (not CGI) stop motion animation. Very good chicken scene."