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The True Story of Antonin Artaud (1994)
Gerard Mordillat called his compelling 1993
dramatization of the life of Antonin Artaud a "fiction" but he still
captured the artistic spirit and temperaments of the famed French
actor-director-poet-author. The companion documentary on Artaud also directed by
Mordillat (with Jerome Prieur) is less the nonfiction treatment of Artaud than a slapdash
appendix to the other film.
This two part assemblage of interviews and remembrances from Artaud lovers, contemporaries and hangers-on turns into a stupefying array of talking heads relating their encounters with Artaud. They attest to his character, artistic prowess, the myths and his legacy, but despite the dramatic music and intense testimonials, say little about the man.
The film offers no biographical supporting material, biographical narration or chronological framework. It like a Woody Allen parody of documentary subjects. There are momentary and fascinating snatches of archival audio from Artaud himself and glimpses of his paintings that might be of interest to film historians and actors. These are mostly rants about the hypocrisies of Frances mental health hospitals where he was incarcerated against his will.
If the slow pans of newspaper clipping or marquees dont completely numb you, Artauds disembodied voice talking about insane asylums and acting with a finger pushing around celluloid clips of the actors image under an avalanche of culture talk about France will make you feel like you are receiving some sort of art aversion therapy. Artaud speaks of his "therapy" as a slow death. The same could be said for this petrified film tribute. Stick with the fiction film.
- Lewis Whittington