Cannes 2009: "Embodiment of Evil" (Marins)

“You’ll kill his body, I’ll condemn his soul,” says a priest to a cop about Jose Mojica Marins’ diabolic character “Coffin Joe,” but this may well be a statement by Marins about the cinema itself.  Too schlocky, extravagant, cheap, corny, violent, goofy, wonderful and grandstanding for Cannes, tucked away in the film market at the festival is Marins’ Embodiment of Evil.  Birthed from a series of films made in the’60s in which Marins both directed and played Coffin Joe, Marins returns with the character being released from a 40 year life sentence to a contempable world.  Grossly uneven, terribly gross, and never less than engrossing, I was left impressed by Marins’ declaiming—in extent, worthy of de Oliveira—against civilized Brazil’s total corruption and the need to torture and murder to end the “empty lives and beliefs” of the people. Political cinema this may be, but political terrorist Coffin Joe is not.  Just describing the character tells a great deal of the movie: he’s an undertaker who both kills to stay employed and tortures and rapes women in a frantic search for an heir to a continuation of his immortal, vengeful blood.   Marins’ creation condemns a people “unable to provide a solution for those who destroy the world”, and his movie might be posed as a solution to a weak-willed cinema unable to commit to this kind of extremity—in horror, in humor, and generally in its extravagant tone of tacky flourish.  Both goofy and sly, some of the worst of recent Argento is mixed with the best of Polanski’s The Ninth Gate (especially the humor), and with enough time-warping, proto-Resnaisian gestures of poetry that incorporates footage of past Coffin Joe films, this spirit of confrontational humor, gore, and ideology is an absolute embodiment of a statement on cinema.

Your opinion

Please login to add a new comment.