In the interview featurette, Arrabal confesses he houses a certain bafflement as to why his movies remain popular with audiences when he regards them as very personal films. To a certain extent, one senses the poet is once again challenging audiences to decipher his work - particularly since he discusses very little of their conception, production, and meaning.
Just as cryptic as fellow Panic Movement member and surrealist colleague Alejandro Jodorowsky, Arrabal is noticeably less verbose in the interview, and he frequently chooses to address questions and tackle subjects in short metaphors or poetical rationalizations.
The topic of the film's unique casting, however, becomes a rare production-related discussion: according to Arrabal, the male leads shared few qualities with their characters - Marvel, the desert hermit (played by sculptor Hachemi Marzouk), and the masochistic and sexually provocative Aden ("prude" American actor George Shannon, whose voice is effective dubbed in French). The writer/director confesses he exploited the tensions between himself and his cast, and perhaps his technique paid off in forcing both men to deliver naturalistic performances that are very much in tune with their disparate characters from alien worlds and morals who ultimately fuse into a higher spiritual being.
Rayo Casablanca's liner notes emphasize Arrabal's questioning of spiritual beliefs, but doesn't examine sufficiently specific moments, nor does he offer much production background, either. Even without a substantive analysis, viewers will find the story to be a tight and compact road movie, following Aden's coming to terms with a past that discolored his taste for women; and his own sexuality that was affected early on by his mother's dominance, and witnessing grungy intercourse.
(Best remembered for her moving performance as the tormented wife in Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour, in Arrabal's vicious story, Emmanuelle Riva's character is a polar opposite. In a curious, Hitchcockian parallel, for her final scene, Arrabal has Riva maintaining a hideous, frozen grimace - eerily recalling the facial contortions of the murder victims in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy, made a year earlier.)
The horrors of modern society versus Nature's purity are also contrasted by Marvel's fish-out-of-water moments, as he innocently discovers and stumbles through the rules and behavioral norms of city folk, and accommodates his missed relationship with Earth's elements and noble creatures by importing soil and his beloved goat into the city apartment he shared with an adoring Aden .
As with other entries in Cult Epic's Arrabal releases, the director's own exploitation of the phallus and bodily functions also play an important (if not cheeky) role in emphasizing the divisions between Nature Boy Marvel (who shares the Doolittlian skill of communing with the animals) and corrupt, soulless Aden.
A secondary narrative - a police dragnet catching up to matricidal Aden - becomes important near the end, as the encroaching proximity and police assault force Aden' to confront and embrace his true sexual preference before ultimately fusing into that new spiritual being.
Like the interview in Cult Epics' Muerte DVD, Arrabal stays metaphorical (and hugs his chair again), but he does offer a substantive anecdote on the initial banning of Crazy Horse in France, and closes the featurette with a charming explanation on why he chose to stop making films after 1998.
This title is available as part of Cult Epics’ limited Fernando Arrabal Collection, of which Vol. 1 includes Vive La Muerte (1971), I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse (1973), The Guernica Tree (1975), and Vol. 2 includes Car Cemetery (1983), The Emperor of Peru (1982), Farewell, Babylon! (1992), Borges, Life of a Poet (1998), and Arrabal, Panik Cineast (2007).
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan