Doc continues his journey into the crazy world of Surrealist filmmaker Fernando Arrabal with the second film from the first of Cult Epic’s Arrabal box sets.
HCF REWIND NO.58. I WILL WALK LIKE A CRAZY HORSE AKA JI’RAI COMME UN CHEVAL FOU [France, 1973]
AVAILABLE ON DVD: From Cult Epics
RUNNING TIME: 90 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Aden Ray is a young man living in the Paris of 1971. When his mother dies, the police want to talk to Aden, but he has left for the desert. An epileptic, he is haunted by flashbacks of his relationship with his domineering mother, which from a very early age was cruel and even sexual in nature. In the desert, away from civilisation, Aden comes upon a hermit called Marvel who can communicate with animals. Aden and Marvel form a very close bond and Aden, for a while, enjoys a simple life away from all modern trappings with his strange friend. Then he decides to return to civilisation and decides to take Marvel, accompanied by Marvel’s goat Theresa, with him. However, the police are more and more determined to find him………
Though it seems to have been far less seen over the years and was unsurprisingly cut or banned in many countries, I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse for me improves on Fernando Arrabal’s first feature Viva La Muerte, which I reviewed last week. Viva La Muerte is undoubtedly a very fine achievement, a mixture of surrealism and political satire which appears to know exactly what it wants to say even if some of it is vague on a first viewing, but this second movie is more coherent,yet paradoxically even more imaginative and surreal. I just seemed to ‘get it’. Maybe this means it’s just simpler, I don’t know, but I found it easier to assimilate. Of course these are not the kind of films one can put on any time of the day; one has to be in a particular kind of mood, a particular mindset which makes you open to anything, to really enjoy them. I will also say that, despite what you may have heard, I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse is far more extreme in its imagery. Its dedication to pushing the boundaries of what can be shown on screen means that, even if you don’t care about the story, or what Arrabal is trying to say, or find the parade of weird happenings hard to take, it’s still possible to enjoy the picture as a full-throttle assault on the senses!
Largely dispensing with the political commentary and allegory of Viva La Muerte, this film is more of a comment on society as a whole; its corrosive, corruptive and dehumanising nature. Aden goes out into the desert to find enlightenment, and this isn’t the only similarity the film shares with Alexandro Jodorowksy’s El Topo, with which it shares many ideas and images. Considering the two men were close friends and collaborators, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if this was entirely intentional, that they both went off to make their own films based on a set of ideas, though the similarities lessen as the films progress. I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse, in terms of plot, is more conventional for much of its length, coming across as a variation on the idea of the ‘noble savage’ as much time is devoted to Marvel encountering the madness of modern civilisation and trying to understand it. Cinematographer Georges Barsky avoids the usual bits of Paris you see in films and somehow photographs it as the strange, alien mess it must seem to someone encountering it for the first time.
There is a fair bit of humour in these scenes, with Arrabal showing a pleasing light touch. There’s even some emotional engagement in what is in also a kind of gay love story, though not one entirely without some cruelty, as Aden never really does what is good for Marvel even if he thinks he is. Arrabal is clearly more sympathetic to Marvel than Aden, and perhaps the way he constantly tries to tell us that Marvel is better than the civilisation he encounters, and that the simpler life is better, gets a little ‘much’. Neither character seems to change much though; Marvel remains the dirty but spiritual simpleton and Aden the rather dislikeable misogynist. The film also seems to be both attacking organised religion and celebrating it at the same time. Maybe that’s the point?
Now of course this is a Surrealist film so you constantly get strange reveries of things like people in gas masks having sex and the two main characters being rolled around in a huge plastic ball, not to mention flashbacks which mix what are obviously past happenings with exagguration , and which, in their own strange way, end up answering some of the questions posed at the beginning. Be warned though, the imagery is truly shocking at times. The young Aden is with his parents in a recreation of a typical Nativity scene, except that the mother is sticking needles in his balls. She also later puts a candle to his penis. Aden gives birth to a skull. The mother gives a guy a blow-job and, though you don’t see the act, you see the cum go all over her face which I just could not believe anyone would show outside of a hard core porn film. Did I mind it? No, because I admire more and more filmmakers who don’t care what others think and show exactly what they want to show. The most upsetting scene to me was a naked child being bloodily shot down by a firing squad, because it had a horrible realism about it, as well as being very obvious in its meaning of the destruction of innocence, something also suggested by the children’s song played every now and again, and a theme which seems to be very close to Arrabal’s heart. Also look out for a precursor to that scene in The Crying Game.
Fortunately, the animal cruelty of Viva La Muerte is only briefly present in this one, but, as I expect you will have realised, that film’s disturbing incestuous element is even more explicit here. Did Arrabal have serious mother issues? Nothing, though, prepared me for the Performance/ The Living Dead Girl ending, which is as shocking as could be, and yet not only makes some kind of sense but is even a little touching [it’s also horribly convincing in some shots]. That’s the thing about Arrabal’s movies; they seem very random when described, yet have a dream logic to them, and even if not everything seems to makes sense or seems vague, there remains the feeling that every bizarre image or event has been thought through and put on screen with a purpose, even if that purpose may not be as lofty as it seems. In one scene, Marvel sticks a flower up a woman’s arse, then removes it and licks it, simply because Arrabal, it seems, loves anuses!
I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse has a very polished look to it, so much so that it could almost pass for a mainstream production….for a minute or so any way! American George Shannon is rather bland as Aden but Hachemi Marzouk is simply wonderful as Marvel, giving a really expressive performance throughout. He also has a wonderful innocent look that is infectious. What a shame this was his only movie role. I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse is a must-see for fans of offbeat cinema, totally off its trolley but in its own way very thoughtful and certainly thought-provoking. Even if you don’t like or understand everything you see, you won’t forget it, and anyway I don’t think films like these were neccessarily made to be liked or understood. They were made to be experienced.
The DVD release of I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse from Cult Epics includes:
*New digital transfer
*Interview with Fernando Arrabal
*6-page linear notes
Check out Cult Epics’s site at
Review of the final film in the set The Guernica Tree coming soon…..