The other night, I re-watched John Carpener’s 2005 entry in the Masters of Horror series, Cigarette Burns. The episode, which is available for streaming on Netflix, involves a young movie theater owner (Norman Reedus) comissioned by a wealthy excentric (Udo Kier) to track down the one remaining copy of Le Fin Absolue Du Monde (The Absolute End of the World), an exremely rare art film whose shocking and violent imagery drives it’s viewers completely insane.
The episode itself is not without its flaws. As something of a skeptic (as revealed in a MoS interview for the episode), Carpenter does not take the idea too seriously, and much of the mystique is lost in the execution. The revelation of the willowy being right at the beginning makes a good deal of the mystery behind Le Fin self evident before it even gets going, not to mention the main character’s lack of appropriate reaction to it makes no sense. However I loved the concept, and it got me to thinking about possible real-life equivalents of Le Fin: violent, bizzare, intense, arty (underground, avant garde, experimental) films featuring unspeakable acts and nightmarish imagery, films that have been banned, films that are difficult, if not impossible to find, and that do not subscribe to the typical mode of Hollywood storytelling. Below is a list of films that more or less fit the bill, some of which I have seen, and some of which I have yet to find:
Vase de Noces (aka The Pig Fucking Movie, 1975) – An obscure Belgian art house film, the dialogue-less Vase de Noces (translated into English as “Wedding Trough”) deals with the ever-romantic love story between a young man and his pig. Though the bestiality is implied (save for a little light fondling), the later killings of the supposedly half-human piglets are real. The movie is impossible to find for those without Region 2 DVD players or those unwilling to download the terrible quality torrent version. The fair quality version I saw, via a Youtube upload that appears to have since been removed, was …okay, but nothing really shocking or even interesting. Aside from the piglet massacre, the film is little more than the raw, unedited footage of a nature documentary, which is just as long and tedious as that implies.
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) – Switching the setting of the Marquis de Sade’s torture porn novel from 18th Century France to Nazi -occupied Italy, Salo follows four wealthy and powerful men who, along with four prostitutes, kidnap 18 youths and imprison them in an old palace, subjecting them to increasing torture and humiliation, including rape, coprophilia, scalping, etc. Beyond nihilistic, the film’s bleak tone is as disturbing on an intellectual level as its imagery is on a physical one. Extremely controversial upon its release, the film has a checkered history of distribution, banned throughout various countries to this day, though is now available in the US through the Criterion Collection. This was Pier Pasolini’s final film; the year of its release, the director was murdered by being run over several times with his own car.
Cannibal Holocaust (1979) – A film I have yet to see, this shocker, whose faux documentary/found footage conceit predates that of The Blair Witch Project by nearly twenty years, concerns a missing film crew who had traveled to the Amazon to document warring tribes of natives. The controversies that surrounded Holocaust, including the oft-cited charges of it being an actual snuff film, with actors having to come forward to prove they were still alive (though, like Vase de Noces, animals really were killed, many on-screen), have been the stuff of legend. To this day, the film remains banned in as many as 50 countries and still manages to make top ten lists of the most disturbing films ever made.
Begotten (1990) – Though not quite as infamous as the previous films (it’s only banned in Singapore), I included Begotten here because it most resembles what a real version of Le Fin Absolue Du Monde would have been. The story is a meditation on the familiar Dying God mythos; God (in what appears to be the form of Leatherface wearing an 18th century ballgown) disembowels himself. Mother Earth appears, and, finding God’s remains, impregnates herself with his semen, giving birth to a fully grown son. It goes on from there with increasingly bizarre and horrific imagery, free of dialogue and shown in high-contrast black and white. Director/writer/producer E. Elias Merhige based the film on a near-death experience he had at age 19, after a car accident.
A Serbian Film (2010) – A call back to the Yugoslavian “Black Wave” cinema of the 1960’s and 70’s (including works such as Sweet Movie and WR: Mysteries of the Orgasm, both of which could easily fit here themselves), A Serbian Film is the most recent film on the list, and while it appears on the surface as a Hollywood-esque flick with subtitles, this could not be further from the truth (it includes, among other delights, hardcore incest, necrophilia, and newborn rape). I have yet to see it (however, being the sick and disturbed individual I am, I have every intention of doing so), but thanks to the internet its reputation precedes it by a country mile.