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Conspirators of Pleasure

By MITCH LILLIE
[TWO NIGHTS ONLY, REVIVAL] How do you, personally, masturbate? I have to ask because Conspirators of Pleasure, Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer’s 1996 film, rambles through the autoerotic fantasies of six seemingly normal individuals. A man (Petr Meissel) picks out a porn magazine in a small shop and gets a knowing smile from the sales assistant (Jirí Lábus). While enjoying the magazine at home, a letter carrier (Barbora Hrzánová) arrives with a delivery. Soon, however, these characters’ fantasies prove far stranger than their everyday appearances would suggest. Each of the six—including the man, the letter carrier, and the sales assistant—seems turned on by various animals or inanimate objects, and they engage with them in elaborate private rituals. Constructing a papier-mâché chicken head and wings out of umbrellas, the man steals his neighbor’s clothing, makes a doll in her likeness and terrorizes it in the forest while dressed as the chicken. He eventually drops a large stone on the doll’s head. Fur- and nail-covered rolling pins, whips, live carp, balls of bread and five-handed lovers with televisions for heads figure in the other fantasies. Keeping audiences engaged without verbal dialogue is a feat in and of itself, though the 85-minute runtime and Conspirators’ position at the intersection of the absurd and the hilarious certainly help. But the laughter can’t compensate for the lack of direction and forward motion, and ultimately Švankmajer’s vision goes limp.
 

Special Note

NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. 5 pm Saturday and 7 pm Sunday, Jan. 26-27
 
  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
  • Critic's Score: C+
  • Watch the trailer
 

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  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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