For fans of Jodorowsky’s transgressive surrealism and taboo-defying imagery, experimental Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal’s work will be an exciting discovery. The two of them, along with artist Roland Topor (who created Fantastic Planet, as well as the credit sequence to this film) founded the Panique art movement — because they thought the Surrealist movement had become too mainstream. Viva la Muerte (“Long Live Death!”), Arrabal’s debut film, is a highly personal tale set during the Spanish Civil War, fueled by bizarre images of violence, sexuality, and biting political commentary.
It is more high-minded and challenging than one expects from typical midnight movie fare — it was probably only programmed by distributors chasing the success of El Topo — and a disturbing, striking tour-de-force considered by many critics to be the pinnacle of Spanish avant-garde filmmaking.
Dir. Fernando Arrabal, 1971, 35mm, 90 min.