Movie Review: Black Moon

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French director Louis Malle brings us an anomalous, head scratching mythological fairy tale about a young girl named Lily who takes refuge in a peculiar farm house on the murky country side of  France where she becomes interlaced  in bizarre occurrences while coming to terms with her own sexuality in a post-apocalyptic world with talking animals and singing flowers. Despite the film winning two Cesars in 1976, it was Louis Malle’s most unsuccessful film in the box office. Dropping into obscurity, it became one of Malle’s most difficult films to see.

Much like Alice in Wonderland, it’s a tale of a young woman’s sexual awakening. Black Moon is mostly confined to intellectual designs. The naive audience will be unsuccessful at catching every nod or allegory. For instance, Lily is seen sitting in lethargic positions in front of a fire which is clearly a nod to Balthus’s 1930s erotic paintings of young women. Malle has explained in interviews that the film’s take on the ultimate civil war is actually based on the war between men and women. Several images in this film include men having power over women and vice versa. Then there’s the skepticism of the girls underpants constantly falling off and a snake slithering into her dress.

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My first encounter with Black Moon left me feeling rather distraught. After all, I was only 12. Try as I may I could not put together the pieces or metaphors to answer so many questions floating around in my immature dome. Most importantly being, “What the fuck…. Did I… Just see?” I had no idea what the title was. Years went by and it drove me crazy that I couldn’t figure out the name of this warped, mind fuck of a movie. All I could remember was a talking unicorn, little kids running around naked, and an old hag that talks to a rat and gets to suck on two hot chicks nipples. That’s a lot for a 12-year-old girl to take in.

The location and setting of the film are an important part of Malle’s world. The atmosphere was very cold and harsh. The country kitchen and paintings helped to fill a calmness in between the violent imagery. Sven Nykvist is an innovative cinematographer that managed to get a bundle of gorgeous shots. What stood out to me the most was the ending shot with all the sheep and turkey lined up in front of the house and dividing. I’m guessing that one represents women while the other represents man.

As for the script, there hardly is any. Malle was a fan of characters without dialogue who mostly improvised. Most of the dialogue seemed like gibberish to me. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that. I did hear the word ‘Cognac’ in there from time to time and the old woman is given Cognac to drink. A part of me wants to accuse Malle of giving the audience a plethora of mindless self-indulgence. When viewing an art house film, it’s crucial to view it with an open mind. Black Moon was stretching it a little.

Actress Cathyrn Harrison magically brings an innocence to her character, Lily. To my amazement, the girl was only 15-years-old. I would like to know how they talked this girl into making this film, “You see Cathyrn….. This old lady is going to suck on your nipple.” A part of me wonders if Malle is a pedophile with all the nude minors in the film. Andy Warhol star, Joe Dallesandro is one of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen on film. His character also goes by the name Lily and has zero lines in the film. Then there’s Therese Giehse, the old hag,  who can move objects with her mind like slamming doors and constantly dropping Lily’s panties. I cannot say I am familiar with her acting career.

It’s easy to see how Black Moon fell off the face of the Earth and it’s still unheard of amongst even some of the biggest movie fans. Several critics shunned the project while others praised the mythology. If you’re one of those who likes logical plot and answers handed to you on a silver platter then Black Moon is simply not for you. Maybe Big Momma’s House is right up your alley.

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  • Tenntitanfan

    This movie was recently shown on TCM (12/20/15 at 3:15 a.m.). I like to think that I have an open mind since I have been around the block a few more times than I would like to admit. This movie blew my mind to hell and back. My first thought was this movie is a pedophile’s dream – a movie with naked children that is not illegal to watch or record. Since this movie was made in 1975 and pedophilia was not really talked about then, no one really would think of it as they do now. The second thought was this is just the most bizarre take of an “Alice in Wonderland” theme I have ever seen. When I realized it was written and directed by Louis Malle, it all made crazy sense. Turner Classic Movies have obviously shown it before because there was no indication that it was a premiere. If they show it again, I will be surprised, but I won’t be watching it again. I like crazy, but this was too crazy.