The Saragossa Manuscript

1965 dream epic

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A collection of frames, stories within stories within stories that are within other stories. A soldier retreats into an abandoned house to keep from being blown to pieces. He finds a large book with some unusual pictures. An enemy soldier translates the book for him and discovers that it was written by his grandfather. The grandfather's story is all about him trying to discover the quickest route through the mountains to Madrid, a haunted voyage that involves sleeping with his own cousins, stalking crows, repetitious gallows, demon-possessed men, erect gypsies, and the Spanish Inquisition.

A free-floating dream of demons, hanged men, kissing cousins, and skull chalices, The Saragossa Manuscript is a too-long masterpiece of visual brilliance, surreal mystery, and weaving narratives. It's so beautifully photographed in black 'n' white with terrific imagery, landscapes littered with bones, gnarled trees, ornate palaces, war-stricken towns with dilapidated buildings. This is the sort of movie that you can love to watch for its three hour length. Not necessarily completely understand, mind you, but feel with your eye buds and absorb. It's really got a similar, very organically weird, feel that those Parajenov movies I love have, movies that float. I also loved the musique concrete soundtrack that complimented the imagery. Those weaving narratives? It's too much to swallow in a single viewing as the viewer is forced to follow a story told by somebody telling a story within somebody else's story that is already a part of the original story, almost Inception-esquely. But they interconnect in pretty brilliant ways, constantly surprising while bewildering. The results are mysterious, romantic, and at times very very funny, my favorite bit of humor being the grunting of a possessed man. Possession slapstick! It's all an enormously entertaining and completely unique experience.

Apparently, this was the favorite film of Jerry Garcia, a maker of ties. Luis Bunuel, the "Spanish Allen Funt," also dug it.

1 comment:

l@rstonovich said...

Need to see this again for sure. Glad Jerry's name on it got it more exposure.