Fando y Lis

2 out of 5

Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky

While sex (and notes of misogyny) are pretty much mainstays in any Jodorowsky project, from any period, his first film, Fando y Lis, seems particularly un-layered in its obsessions, such that I was musing how this would’ve likely been the exact kind of bullshit I would’ve made, had I been as motivated and creative as Jodorowsky – as an I’m-conflicted-by-my-sexuality 20something. And then I checked the dates and realized that Jodo was almost 40 when he made this thing. Co-scripter of the film, and author of the original source play, Fernando Arrabal, has a bit more of an excuse, since I believe the material was made in his late 20s, but nonetheless, here he was, a decade past that, writing this thing with Alejandro, and making me roll my eyes when scantily clad women are brandishing whips and mashing and throwing testicle representations at the variously confused and petulant and boastful Fando (Sergio Kleiner), who’s porting his paraplegic girlfriend, Lis (Diana Mariscal) around an endless landscape of crags and rocky valleys.

The “narrative” here is purposefully a loose and surreal one, framed by a poetic telling of the duo’s journey to “Tar,” a mystical, heavenly land in which Lis will be able to walk once more. This frame splits the story up into representational movements in which Fando acts differently toward Lis: lovingly, protectively, angrily, etc. I definitely respect the chutzpah of the filmmaking and the various actors Jodo got to roll around on ouchy stones and prance precipitously on cliff edges; this was certainly low budgeted but dedicated in its presentation. The male vs. female themes might be bullshitty once you’ve aged out of a certain horny age range, but I can’t discount the interesting ways it was all visualized, with hyper-cuts to flashbacks (or dreams, or perhaps just a variant on the imaginings we’re otherwise watching) that extend the movie’s reach to mama and papa, and, briefly, to the “dangers” of the real world – those hungry for money, or power. So while the 90 minutes of relative plotlessness might seem daunting – Fando pushes Lis around on a wheelbarrow; they run in to the various representational tableaus; Fando undergoes some type of emotional hiccup while Lis calls out his name; and repeat – it’s actually a pretty easy watch, with fascinating and funny over-dubbed sound effects of animal noises, its soundtrack of jaunty tunes and nonsense rhymes, and the ever-changing imagery harping on its one theme.

But then there’s that: that one theme, that’s present from the start and not all that complicated and the kinda thing that an adult might stifle a chagrin toward, leading the childish creator to shout “You don’t understand me!” until 20 or 30 years have passed and they realize, oh, yeah, they did understand me… a bit too well.

Energetic, watchable, but perhaps better viewed as a type of art installation than a film, as it doesn’t quite have enough actual content to support being called that.