Strange World of Coffin Joe (José Mojica Marins / Brazil, 1968):
(O Estranho Mundo de Zé do Caixão)

The format is Dead of Night, the raucous discotheque at the opening could be the one that closes Simon of the Desert; Viridiana is alluded to throughout, but this is José Mojica Marins's strange world and Coffin Joe introduces it through a bilious haze. It's "the end of all, the beginning of nothing" (1968, natch), anything goes, ditched is the tacked-on, mock retribution which fooled censors into tolerating such seditious gunblasts as At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul or This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse. The horrors are gradually unveiled, with the first episode built around a mise-en-scène of garter-belted legs and plastic visages -- a rabbinically bearded dollmaker (Vany Miller) is robbed by a gang of hoodlums, the bandits' attention is quickly transferred to his stable of shapely daughters, who remain oddly aloof about their own rape until they notice the eyeballs to be collected. The impressionistic next anecdote is scored alternately to grinding organ, booming percussion and a razzing whiff of "Auld Lang Syne," with a lateral pan (linking a street funeral procession to a heavy-petting couple) that sums up all of Marins' aesthetic. A poor balloon vendor (George Serkeis) can't have the privileged beauty of his dreams (Íris Bruzzi) in life, so instead he has her in death, the camera tilts down from a shrine to the corpse in undies about to be ravished -- necrophilic impulses not only go unpunished, they perversely bridge the social chasm separating the characters. Marins recognizes the final segment for the cherry-bomb punchline it is, and steps before the camera to lord over it: the paraphernalia of live-action TV gives way to reveal the Professor (Marins) defending brutish instinct against cerebral reason, and inviting a pragmatic journalist (Oswaldo de Souza) to continue the debate at his wacky mansion ("bring your wife"). The cavalcade of perversions is unleashed gleefully on hysterical audiences, echoes of Romero's flesh-munchers are overheard as Marins, satanic libertine that he is, quotes the Bible to his own purpose -- the order of Brazil's dictatorship is imploded in favor of the ecstasy of chaos, the apocalypse is welcomed with Hallelujahs, no less. With Luís Sérgio Person, Nidi Reis, and Nivaldo Lima. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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