Steward Willons | Illinois | 06/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This handsome collection from Cult Epics gives fitting treatment to Fernando Arrabal's rarely seen surrealist films. American audiences haven't had many opportunities to see these films as the original DVD releases have been out of print for a long time. Cult Epics released the previous DVDs of both "Viva la Muerte" and "I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse", but then made them unavailable for a time. I didn't own the original releases, but from what I can tell, these are the same discs as before - no new extras or remastering beyond what was initially done. If you already own the first two films, I'm not sure that "the Guernica Tree" justifies the purchase of this set.
These films have quite a reputation for being remarkably offensive. "Viva la Muerte" in particular is widely known for its scenes of "shock, cruel violence." If you can ignore the hyperbole surrounding the film, you'll be surprised to find a rather sweet, wistful coming of age story. Arrabal has said this loosely autobiographical film was an attempt to capture his childhood and the wonder and mystery of life seen through the eyes of a young boy.
I felt that there was significantly less violence than a typical Hollywood action picture. The film isn't mean-spirited in anyway. There are shocking images and the film IS deeply subversive, but it is surrealism after all. This is to be expected. Arrabal tends to cross the line more than Luis Bunuel ever did, but it never ventures into exploitation. Where Bunuel would subtly hint at the subversion of, say, Catholicism, Arrabal goes ahead and shows it. If one is unable to see what Arrabal is trying to do, these films will most certainly be offensive. It's surprising, when the films are so light-hearted, that they could be seen as anything other than playful.
This set is limited to 4000 copies, so if you have any interest, pick this up now before it goes out of print again. It really is a nice collection, though it doesn't have the same polish as a Criterion release. Cult Epics should be commended for releasing some of the most controversial DVDs around, but their finished products still don't equal Criterion. Regardless, the films make the collection worthwhile. If you're a fan of surrealism or are simply looking for something out of the ordinary, the Fernando Arrabal Collection certainly delivers."
A poor man's Jodorowsky...
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 05/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fernando Arrabal is a poor man's Jodorowsky, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Arrabal's films don't have the many layers that Jodorowsky's films do, but there are always excellent moments in them. Viva La Muerte is the best of the 3 films here. Viva takes place during the brutal repressive Franco regime, and it's very critical of Franco and the Catholic church in particular. Some scenes in Viva are truly startling, including a woman dancing around in steer's blood (the animal is slaughtered on screen), and a priest being castrated and feeding himself the object of his castration, so to speak. I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse has some great scenes, but overall it seems like warmed over Jodorowsky, and a strange emphasis on coprography in some scenes. It is also quite obvious in its theme of nature vs. civilization. The Guernica Tree is the weakest of the bunch, with very little of Arrabal's surrealism. It's mostly a political film, and unless you're into Spanish politics, you probably won't understand it or enjoy it. It makes some good points about speaking out against repressive regimes, but it's not particularly moving when it should be. And there are some silly scenes just done for shock value. It does, however, have a spiritual, beautiful ending, which makes it worth seeing. Is the box set worth buying? Probably not, because only Viva is really worth owning. But all of the films are worth seeing at least once."
gam | MEXICO CITY | 10/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Viva la Muerte is among the best films i have watched, there is a scene which is pure surreal, the one with the bull killed, it is so poetical, there are another movies which in order to shock shows animals killed like Cannibal Holocaust in order to give a continuation to the movie.
There are more great things about this movie, but this is one of the scenes that impact me for its beauty.
I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse is good, not as much as Viva la Muerte, yet with shocking images.
finally, The Guernica Tree is based upon the attack at that place during the spanish civil war in 1937.