10th November 2000
Review by Mark Pilkington

It takes the courage of a fool or the genius of a madman to attempt the impossible and there's plenty of both on display in this celluloid working inspired by the infamous proto-surrealist text of 1868. Written under the name of Lautreamont by the young Parisian Isidore Ducasse, Maldoror is an astounding work; a mercurial outburst of rage and beauty narrated by the daimonic misanthrope Maldoror. Ducasse himself died an anonymous death in 1870, at the age of 24, but his creation lived on to become a key inspiration for the Surrealists.

This collaboration between London's Exploding Cinema and Germany's Filmgruppe Chaos is a wilfully erratic portmanteau of 12 five to ten minute films, four German and eight from the UK, shot on Super 8 and blown up to 16mm. Each interprets a different section of the book, a chapter, line or moment, the only connecting thread being Maldoror's narration - though in some sections even this is abandoned. The results vary wildly in approach. Some attempt to follow the text literally - notably in a sequence where Maldoror copulates with a (toy) shark - while others are more impressionistic mood pieces.

A kaliedoscopic range of techniques is displayed here, often within the same segments; viewers are assaulted by an orgy of wonderfully disturbed clay (or was it?) mation, blurs, stills, washes and loops. Similarly the tone of the pieces ranges from the malevolent to the downright daft. Some segments capture the book's essence more successfully than others, and it's only natural that people will respond to each according to their own aesthetic. But the constantly shifting tableaux of sounds and images ensure that everyone should find something here to enthral, disturb or revolt, so echoing the book's own unpredictable nature.

As Maldoror himself warns at the opening of his narration "Only a few will be able to savour this bitter fruit with impunity." Made for under 2,000 over two years and "a complete nightmare" according to co-ordinator Karsten Weber, this is true underground cinema. Currently, screenings are limited to the odd film festival - like the upcoming Volcano in London - but catch it if you can, and hold on tight.

FORTEAN VERDICT: Delicious malodorous potpourri