Black Moon (Criterion) (Blu-Ray) (Version française)
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Louis Malle (The Lovers, Au revoir les enfants) meets Lewis Carroll in this bizarre and bewitching trip down the rabbit hole. After skirting the horrors of an unidentified war being waged in an anonymous countryside, a beautiful young woman (Cathryn Harrison) takes refuge in a remote farmhouse, where she becomes embroiled in the surreal domestic odyssey of a mysterious family. Evocatively shot by cinematographer Sven Nykvist (Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander), Black Moon is a Freudian tale of adolescent sexuality set in a postapocalyptic world of shifting identities and talking animals. It is one of Malle’s most experimental films and a cinematic daydream like no other.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • Archival interview with director Louis Malle • Gallery of behind-the-scenes photos • Alternate French-dubbed soundtrack • Original theatrical trailer • New and improved English subtitle translation • PLUS: A new essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau
French writer-director Louis Malle attracted American moviegoers in the late 1970s and early '80s with Pretty Baby, Atlantic City, and My Dinner with André, but those looking for signs of things to come will be hard-pressed to find them in Black Moon, their immediate predecessor. Variously described as a "mythological fairy tale" (by the director himself) and "an elaborate surrealist fantasy," this is a film with no story line, little dialogue (some of which is delivered by animals), and much strangeness. In what might be the director's broad interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, we follow 15-year-old Lily (Cathryn Harrison, granddaughter of the British actor Rex Harrison) as she drives Malle's "wild, archaic landscape," where a war pitting men and women soldiers against one another is in full swing; the wild ride ends near a decrepit country mansion occupied by a pair of androgynous, silent siblings (Alexandra Stewart and Andy Warhol regular Joe Dallesandro, both also called Lily), their bedridden old mother (a vivid performance by Therese Giehse, by far the most accomplished actor of the bunch), and a menagerie of beasts, including a pig in a highchair, a cat on a piano keyboard, a talking unicorn (hey, it's surrealism), as well as gaggles of naked children gamboling about with the sheep. That's where the remainder of the action, such as it is, unfolds, as young Lily tries to find her place in what Malle calls "an irrational world." Her efforts are largely in vain, and so perhaps will many viewers' be--it's not for nothing that this was Malle's least commercially successful effort. And if there doesn't seem to be much of a point, well, perhaps that's the point.
The overall presentation is up to the Criterion Collection's usual high standards, including a new high-definition digital transfer (the better to appreciate the cinematography by Ingmar Bergman veteran Sven Nykvist), a booklet with an essay about the movie, and a brief interview with the director (in French; the film itself is in English, but this release also contains a version dubbed in French). --Sam Graham
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As someone who has seen almost every Malle film and is a professed fan, I was excited about seeing this one, but midstream, I realized I was in for a huge letdown, and by the film's end, I was flabbergasted seeing the final scene approaching, the outcome of which would leave me perplexed, pissed, and feeling cinematically cheated by a good friend. There's more to be said about this film and the director's effort, but I simply cannot bring myself to care enough to do so - it might only succeed in making you want to see this flick and, unless you're a completist or a cinema sadist, what's the point? It seems most directors hit a wall at some point during the 70's for a variety of reasons we don't have time to delve into here. What could have been Lewis Carroll by way of Luis Bunuel as seen through the eyes of Louis Malle ends up a non-narrative mess that's not even character driven with little plot, no development or back-story, no emotional content and no ending. Sure, as arthouse junkies we can ruminate on this or that to make believe that there's something deeper there when in fact there probably isn't, so let's call it a day and declare it for what it probably is - Malle's most disappointing work, but one that pushed him into another chapter in his dynamic career during the 80's and beyond. So maybe we have this morsel of manna to be grateful for, in spite of the overarching 'Black Moon' that hangs above us when we indulge in this convoluted overindulgence. All great artists falter from time to time... but that doesn't diminish their greatness if they can rekindle the fire that made them memorable in the first place.
However, a number of straight men have a preference for a genre of adult films that features teens with middle-aged women. The popularity of the genre may be due to the fact that the contrast in ages highlights the age of the younger women. The contrast appears to make the teens look even younger i.e., more attractive.
Black Moon (1975) is a fantasy film that was written and directed by Louis Malle. (The French born filmmaker directed the very controversial Pretty Baby (1978) as well.) In Black Moon, among other strange occurrences, 15-year-old cleavage revealing Lily Cathryn Harrison) chases a talking unicorn around the grounds of a 200-year-old manor house in France. (The house belongs to Malle.)
When Malle was asked to describe Black Moon he said, "I don't know how to describe Black Moon because it's a strange melange - if you want, it's a mythological fairy-tale [à la Alice in Wonderland] taking place in the near future."
What is clear in the film is that Malle knows how to take advantage of the allure of a nymphet. Malle teases the viewer with Lisa's cleavage for over an hour before he has the nymphet unbutton the few remaining buttons of her white cotton shirt, wipe her "chest" clean with a dampened cotton ball, and consolingly "breastfeeds" the Old Lady (Thérèse Giehse). Unsurprisingly, Black Moon was the winner of two French César Awards.
Note: The age of consent in France is 15 and since Cathryn Harrison's topless scene was shown in a non-sexual context, it was legal based on secular law. Although, what is considered to be non-sexual is subjective and sometimes the authorities disagree with artists.
Much of the film`s weirdness, however, emanates from the farm`s matriarch: a gruff, bed-ridden person who alternately harasses Lily verbally and seems to be attracted to her. News of the outside world`s war drifts in through an old-fashioned radio: the older lady also uses it to speak with a mysterious correspondent. Much as in a dream, the house`s lay-out seems confusing. Sometimes doors that appear locked are not, and vice versa. Taboos are non-existent, as both the matriarchal woman and her son desire Lily, who is not very surprised by this. She is startled by the apparent sentiency of some of the animals, though. The appealing, pony-like unicorn talks to her, while a large rat chats with the old lady.
I have no idea what any of this means...one theory could be that this is all a confused dream of Lily`s, one which has to do with issues she is working out, issues mainly to do with growing up and maturity. That could explain why the farm siblings bear her name. They are possibly different aspects of her true self, the stoic sister opposed to the warm and friendly brother. Then again, maybe director Louis Malle and the writers just wanted to explore a bunch of random surreal images, like Max Ernst did in his collages. Either way, the movie definitely keeps you entertained if you`re in the mood for something weird and unusual.