Flesh tones

It’s either magical realism or the most disturbing movie you’ll likely ever see

Nov 4, 2009 at 12:00 am

Some films are tough to watch and others may make you queasy, and then there's Taxidermia, a bizarre, squirmy parade of grotesqueries that requires a titanium-lined stomach to simply endure. In fact, you don't so much watch Taxidermia as sit back and let it happen to you. Exactly how willingly you allow the film's artful flood of effluvium wash over you is a matter of taste, or a complete lack thereof. 

A tar-black satire, a horror show, a pretentious arthouse muddle-up, a thoughtful treatise on gluttony, a dare — there's no real clear way to define it, or reconcile the mental tingle inspired by a movie that so strenuously tests the gag reflex at every turn. 

Hungarian director György Pálfi makes Cronenberg look like a piker, not content until he's given us unsavory, fleshy close-ups of every single body part and vital fluid imaginable. 

An extremely loosely connected series of vignettes about three generations of one seriously disturbed family, Taxidermia is exciting and revolting, until it ultimately becomes pointless. 

We start by following a dim-witted grunt laboring in a shoddy farmhouse for his commanding officer. This poor sap is so pent-up and horny that he, quite literally, ejaculates fire, and to break up the drudgery he ogles the commander's nubile daughters while jerking off through a hole in the chicken coop. He also has his way with a pig carcass, as well as the commander's obese wife, which results in a bastard child that's born with a tiny pig tail. The baby grows up into the Kalman, a champion competitive eater who marries an equally ravenous food athlete named Gizi. 

Then things get weird. 

Their son grows up to be a creepy taxidermist who shares his work and living space with some giant cats and his disgusting, abusively bitter father, who has ballooned into an immobile Jabba the Hut. When not browbeating his son, Dad overstuffs himself with candy bars (including wrappers!) till he literally bursts at the seams. 

Junior should see this as an invite to escape his hellish, mortuary-like existence, but such logic would only apply to a movie made by a human. Instead, we get an ending as disturbing as anything in Japanese shock master Takashi Miike's catalog. It'd be vulgar if it weren't so stupefying. 

It's either sheer unadulterated brilliance or utter garbage, and while I'm inclined to think the latter, you almost have to admire the insane vision and sheer audacity to dream up something this beautifully gross. 

Showing at the Burton Theatre (3420 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-473-9238) at Cass Avenue and Peterboro Street, Detroit.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].