[March 24 2020] : film
Marco Ferreri belonged to a prestigious lineage of Italian directors who came of age during the 1950s. They realized provocative visions and were able to execute their ideas with unbridled creative freedom. He is an underestimated director who remains obscure, especially when compared to the international recognition of Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Federico Fellini (despite having 8 films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival). His reputation of being an anarchist, nihilist, and atheist didn’t help his career. He was one of the biggest provocateurs of his time. His non-linear films, mostly improvised, were allegorical masterpieces that showed the human condition in states of crisis.
He worked all his life as a true independent artist, alongside his wife who produced many of his films, with very little budget but great actors like Catherine Deneuve, Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Gerard Depardieu, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Toganazzi. He died in Paris in May 1997.
We decided to present one of his first films, The Seed of Man (translated into English) shot in 1969 – a dystopic allegory about a pandemic. A plague wipes out most of Earth’s population and we are left with a pure and virginal but hippy-looking Adam-and-Eve-like couple named Dora and Cinco. The movie opens with a black and white photographic title sequence that echoes and celebrates Chris Marker’s influential 1962 post-apocalyptic short film La Jetėe. This is a symbolic fairytale about the global crisis in which we are sadly living now.
Dora is played by Anne Wiazemsky (you may recognize her as the young manically depressed ginger in Pasolini’s 1968 film Teorema and many other Nouvelle Vague films) and Cinco is played by a lesser known actor Marzio Margine. The young couple is examined by the authorities, and given anti-biotics that will protect them. Their assigned mission is to save humanity by having a child. They find a deserted house to live in near the sea. Not wanting to bring life to such a terrible world, Dora betrays her mission and refuses to give birth. A dead whale on the beach is celebrated simply for altering the landscape of the desolation and also foreshadows future ecological disaster.
Marco Ferreri questions the entire rationalist model of understanding reality. If life is in itself crazy, what else could it be in a post-apocalyptic world? So, although they are struggling to make their livelihood, the beautiful couple, Dora and Cinco, out of inconvenience, do not eat the last giant wheel of Parmesan cheese they find. They turn it into a cultural piece, and make room for it in the museum that they build in the house of a taxidermist who died of the plague, who is played by none other than Ferreri himself (who still can be seen moving slightly trying to give direction to Cinco’s character). Fun fact: the space flight images in Cinco’s museum are all set photos from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick.
Suddenly, Cinco and Dora’s domestic tranquility (if you can call it that) is interrupted by a beautiful backpacking nymphomaniac who appears out of nowhere named Anna (played by French actress Annie Girardot.) She is more than willing to fill in for Dora and conceive Cinco’s progeny.
From there, life and death, masculinity and femininity, love and possessiveness, fidelity and betrayal, love and flesh, anarchy and authoritarianism, including cannibalism, are pictured in a succession of allegorical situations that only Ferreri can conceive.
The new woman, who successfully seduces Cinco and wants to ensure her status, tries to kill Dora. She ends up being killed. Alone with Dora again, the young man continues his fruitless pleas to have a baby with his recalcitrant woman until frustration forces him to take desperate measures. You will appreciate the beautiful and violent ritual that ends the film.
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