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Studio: Cult Epics
Year: 1982-2007
Cast: Alain Bashung, Juliet Berto, Mickey Rooney, Spike Lee, Anick, Ky Huot Uk, Jonathan Starr
Director: Fernando Arrabal
Release Date: April 3, 2010, 7:43 am
Rating: Not Rated for (violence, adult themes, nudity)
Run Time: 05h:43m:09s

ìI hated the movies.î - Fernando Arrabal

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It'll be difficult to top the first DVD collection featuring Arrabal's best-known cult classics, but Cult Epics second box set promises to deliver the goods once again.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Grade: B+

A handful of films from filmmaker Fernando Arrabal were unleashed upon the unsuspecting, DVD- loving masses a few years ago, courtesy of Cult Epics. While not a household name by any stretch of the imagination, this first box set contained arguably Arrabalís best-known films, Viva La Muerte, I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse, and The Guernica Tree. Selecting those films was hardly a case of easing the uninitiated into Arrabalís works, though, as these are as bizarre as they come, but now, Cult Epics has outdone themselves with a second release, The Fernando Arrabal Collection 2. This time, we get another three DVDs, and they contain the feature-length films Car Cemetery and The Emperor of Peru, along with the shorter, documentary-ish films Farewell, Babylon!, Borges, Life of a Poet, and Arrabal, Panik Cineast.

While itís not imperative to your enjoyment of this second batch of Arrabal films, it would help if you were at least familiar with one of the first setís movies (preferably, Viva La Muerte). Once youíve got that under your belt, itís safe to dive into the first one here, Car Cemetery. This film began as a play written by Arrabal, and itís essentially a retelling of the story of Christ. However, Arrabalís variation of the story is set in the late 20th century and features a motley crew of prostitutes, thieves, and general hoods playing the parts weíve become familiar with through the Bible. Sure, one doesnít exactly associate Christ with the punk rock scene, but Arrabalís wacky idea is presented in a way that is both exhilarating, and true enough to the original story as to only offend the most sensitive Christians who decide to give it a look. This is the most interesting film in this set, and, even though it often feels like youíre watching the broadcast of an actual play, it is essential viewing for Arrabal fans.

Itís nearly a coup that Cult Epics got their hands on a copy of The Emperor of Peru, let alone included it in this set. The film was released in 1982 and is essentially a family film, a genre that no one ever dreamed Arrabal would tackle (years later, friend and collaborator Alejandro Jodorowsky made the similar family film, The Rainbow Thief). Despite being suitable for the entire family, The Emperor of Peru is still quite a strange movie, and featuring plenty of moments where itís unmistakably an Arrabal feature. The story here involves Toby (Jonathan Starr) and Liz (Anick), a brother and sister whose parents have taken in a young Cambodian child named Hoang (Ky Huot Uk). When wandering around one day, the trio comes across a railroad engineer (Mickey Rooney) who leads them on a fantasy-laden journey back to Cambodia for a reunion between Hoang and his family. Again, this doesnít exactly sound like riveting adult material on paper, but rest assured that thereís much more exciting Fernando Arrabal here than there is boring Walt Disney live-action 80s movie.

The third DVD in the set contains the other three films, beginning with the nearly-hour-long Farewell, Babylon! This is a mostly nonsensical, pseudo-travelogue chronicling Arrabalís trip to New York City in the early 1990s. The film is nothing special, but still worth looking at, as some of the interspersed film clips are interesting and thereís even a random appearance by Spike Lee. Next, is 1998ís Borges, Life of a Poet, an hour-plus piece that is basically a documentary on the titular poet who inspired Arrabal throughout his filmmaking career. The final film here is also the best on the third disc, the hour-long Arrabal, Panik Cineast. This is another documentary, this time with the focus squarely on Arrabal himself, and, more specifically his participation in the Panik Movement. This is a great way to finish off this excellent Arrabal-centric set, as his presence on camera is breathtaking to say the least; heís truly a joy to listen to as he discusses his own career.

Cult Epics has used the old-school box set format of putting a trio of standard DVD cases inside a nice, sturdy cardboard box, and thatís only scratching the surface of this releaseís pleasures. The video is the best that can be expected given the age of the source material, but the anamorphic widescreen transfers for Car Cemetery and The Emperor of Peru are very pleasing. The trio of films on the third disc doesnít benefit as much in the video department, but this is excusable given their documentary nature. We only get mono for Car Cemetery, but everything else has a solid, Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that suits things quite well. As far as extras go, the third disc is essentially full of them, and, as an added bonus, we get some Arrabal trailers on the Car Cemetery DVD.

Chuck Aliaga April 3, 2010, 7:43 am