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The Stuff Extremes Are Made Of

MOVIE REVIEW
Taxidermia (2006)

TAXIDERMIA Image 58
Here Media/Regent Releasing

Based on short stories by Hungarian poet Lajos Parti Nagy, György Pálfi’s “Taxidermia” is a sweeping absurdist fantasy that spans three generations and half a century. Arriving in American theaters some three years after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the film itself has traversed a similarly long and winding road. After wowing Tribeca festgoers in 2007, its domestic release was suddenly in limbo when its original distributor filed for bankruptcy.

The saga kicks off during WWII, when lowly army orderly Morosgoványi Vendel (Csaba Czene) is stationed at the remote home of his lieutenant, Öreg Balatony Kálmán (Gábor Máté). The hair-lipped, libidinous Morosgoványi eventually impregnates the lieutenant’s wife, which leads to his execution. The lieutenant raises the bastard child as his own, and little Balatony Kálmán (Gergely Trócsányi) grows up to become a competitive eater in communist Hungary. Neither competitive eating nor communism stands the test of time, and he later becomes a bitter, immobile old man who resembles Jabba the Hutt. Caring for him and the corpulent cats he keeps in a cage is a daunting task for his own son, Balatony Lajoska (Marc Bischoff), a seemingly malnourished taxidermist who obsessively sculpts his own physique.

“Taxidermia” is nauseatingly grotesque and sickly humorous. Mr. Pálfi’s grandiose vision and technical bravado are nothing short of mesmerizing, yet there are also plenty of tender moments amid the go-for-broke follies. Most importantly, the film is a historical allegory that depicts a people torn by different political regimes. They’ve grown so accustomed to being locked up in the gulag of communism that they have no idea what to do with themselves once unleashed except to let their animalistic instincts take over. Come to think of it, the film’s message is as disturbing as the blood and guts overflowing on screen.

TAXIDERMIA

Opens on Aug. 14 in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Gyorgy Palfi; written by Zsofia Ruttkay and Mr. Palfi, based on stories by Lajos Parti Nagy; director of photography, Gergely Poharnok; edited by Reka Lemhenyi; production designer, Adrien Asztalos; produced by Peter Miskolczi, Gabor Varadi, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu, Alexandre Mallet-Guy and Emilie Georges; released by Here Media/Regent Releasing. In Hungarian and Russian, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Csaba Czene (Vendel Morosgovanyi), Gergo Trocsanyi (Kalman Balatony), Marc Bischoff (Lajos Balatony), Adel Stanczel (Gizi Aczel), Istvan Gyuricza (Hadnagy), Gabor Mate (Old Kalman) and Piroska Molnar (Hadnagyne).

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