Josh Bell

Lunacy (2 1/2 stars)
Director: Jan Svankmajer.
Stars: Pavel Liska, Jan Triska, Anna Geislerova.
Rated: NR. Opens Friday.

Jan Svankmajer's Lunacy opens with the filmmaker speaking directly to the camera about his philosophies of government, embodied in the two possible ways to run an insane asylum: with total freedom or with total control. He also mentions a third way that combines the worst qualities of both systems, and names that as the world we live in today.

The film then proceeds to illustrate these ideas in an often very obvious way, and for all its bizarre and shocking moments, is little more than an explication of the point that Svankmajer makes at the beginning. He follows naïve young Jean (Liska), who, on the way back from his mother's funeral, makes the acquaintance of a man called the Marquis (Triska). The Marquis dresses like an 18th-century nobleman and is pretty much a lunatic, and he eventually traps Jean at his secluded home and later in an asylum literally run by the inmates.

Svankmajer has an often inspired sense of the grotesque, and the narrative is interspersed with stop-motion animation of tongues, brains and various viscera slithering about maniacally. The depravity is sometimes entertaining, but the political allegory is simplistic and the plot, adapted very loosely from the works of Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade, drags on way too long.

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