Thursday, October 19, 2006

TAXIDERMIA - insane Hungarian body horror

I had a technique of vomiting named after me!TAXIDERMIA makes DUMPLINGS and JOHANNA look like mild, main-stream movies. It's outrageous, out-landish and very clearly out of its tree. You might tear you hair out in frustration with it, but I can pretty much guarantee you won't see anything more original, more memorable or more visually stylish this year. It's getting a near-zero release but if you can, you should definitely keep an eye out for it on DVD or at your friendly local film festival.

But let's get back to basics. TAXIDERMIA is a low-budget independent flick from Hungary by way of the Sundance institute. The first half hour introduces us to a young soldier charged with servicing (ahem!) a portly mama and her two daughters who live in a farm-house in the middle of nowhere. There's a lot of masturbation and some butchery which culminates in our hero siring a little boy with a pig's tail. The segment focuses on every hair and bump of cellulite on the human body. This is no Hollywood-waxed-and-nipped representation of the human body and all the more refreshing for that. That being said, one bravura technical shot aside, I found this segment the least interesting. I was just clinging on for dear life in this sea of bizarr-O images, with nary a plot point or character development to cling on to.

The second half-hour segment is Pure Comedy Gold. Our little piggy is all grown up and, in 1960s Hungary, represents his country as a professional sport-eater. The segment is a wicked satire on professional sports films and TV coverage as well as our obsession with the body beautiful. There is much chundering, much scoffing of sausage and beans and formation dancing from lots of little Soviet kids with balloons. The attention to production detail is akin to a Wes Anderson movie. The vomiting techniques are not.

The final half-hour sees the film take off into even more surreal territory. It is modern-day Hungary and our sports-eater is a morbidly obese lard-bucket kept alive by his skinny taxidermist son. All I can say is that this segment is pure body-horror. Worse than any mainstream horror movie you are likely to see. It is unflinching in its close-up footage of the body and the gruesome sound effects. The ending is bleak but also blackly comic. The director cocks a snook at all of us critics who would try and read meaning into the depravity.

What can I say? This is the most memorable film I have seen in a year of strong contenders. Go with a strong stomach and some patience and don't bother buying any popcorn....

TAXIDERMIA played Hungary, Cannes, Toronto and London 2006. It opened in France and Belgium in August and in the Netherlands in October and opens in Hungary next month.

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