Monday, August 06, 2007

Forbidden Zone

When people, particularly the tragically hip, discuss surrealism, it's always in the vein of the fantastical, "way out" imagery of Avida Dollars (Salvador Dali). Thus, a movie like Eraserhead is always mentioned as the leader of the pack in terms of American films. While I admire Eraserhead and think it's a terrific movie, I'd put Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone shoulder to shoulder right by it.

One thing; surrealism is more, much, much more, than "weird" imagery and non-nonsensical rhyme. And I understand that that's EXACTLY the reason ignorant people sneer at it, because their eyes only see what they see. In reality (hey, I did resist saying, "in surreality," so cut me a friggin' break will ya?) surrealism exalted delirium and the high octane L'mour Fou that would become the title of one of Breton's most celebrated "novellas."

And Elfman's masterpiece is nothing if not delirious in the best Tex Avery sense (another iconic hero to the Surrealists). The entire movie is one long ode to the ridiculous and sometimes hysterically funny, kinda like the Marx Brothers on mescaline.

I recall first seeing it at the first true blue film fest in LA - Filmex. It's one of the most underrated films I can think of. And Susan Tyrell has got to be one of the best actresses who never broke through to deservedly bigger things. She's such a trooper, possessing a riveting stage presence that I was lucky enough to see in her one-woman show, My Rotten Life: A Bitter Operetta, motivated by the fact she so impressed me in Huston's, Fat City. (another really terrrifically under-rated flick) You know how some people seem to be born out of another era? She seems to come from another dimension.

Elfman, the elder to Danny who does a nice turn as the devil, was the founder of the LA new wave band, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (later just "Oingo Boingo"), and he and crew (his then wife, Marie Pascale did the art direction/sets) pulls out all the stops here. If you love creativity run amok, then Forbidden Zone is not to be missed. One thing: At the very beginning, there's a brief bout of racist imagery with a white actor in black face and some minstrelcy.