Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Seed of Man

A late-1960s art-movie rendition of the post-apocalyptic descent into barbarism. Oh goody. This 1969 Italian film from director Marco Ferreri is perhaps best regarded as a fitfully engaging failure, or maybe just a bilious curiosity for connoisseurs of dystopian satire. As a plague ravages humanity, Dora and Cino hide out at a remote beach house where Cino—encouraged by local authorities who suggest that all women have a duty to repopulate the human race—pressures Dora to bear him a child. Dora refuses, presumably not wanting to bring a child into such a vile world, and Cino resorts to drugging her in order to “plant the seed of man.” With a premise like that, it’s clear the film wants to create a scabrous vision of the relationship between men and women, but the drama is inert and the central conflict over bearing children underdeveloped, leaving the satire strangely toothless despite the extremity of the subject matter (which includes cannibalism and rape, both filmed in pastoral and romantic tones to allow for easy irony and increased provocation). As it turns out, the seed of man is explosive (no shock there), and Dora and Cino meet a fate that might have been startling if they had ever been more than empty vessels masquerading as characters—the film senselessly, inexplicably blows them up.

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