Love unto death

Saying goodbye to big screen conversations.

Geezer: 4 stars
Weezer: 4 stars

A review of Shaolin Soccer was supposed to be our Geezer & Weezer swan song, but that film got bumped to an unspecified release date. And with no cool new movies on the horizon, we decided to rent a cult favorite, one not too many readers would know about, to go out with a blast of visual pleasure. Geezer first saw Cemetery Man (1994), by Italian horror director Michele Soavi, when it made its Motor City debut in 1996, but Weezer only knew its reputation. Soavi, a true cinematic poet, worked as second-unit director on Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), which should give some idea of Cemetery Man’s look, but only a little.

Weezer: We rented this flick at metro Detroit’s cult mecca of independent film, Thomas Video, at 122 S. Main, just south of 14 Mile Road in Clawson (call 248-280-2833).

Geezer: It’s mostly in English, with a little Italian, and stars Rupert Everett as Francesco Dellamorte, whose last name means “of death.” His mother’s maiden name was Dellamore, which means “of love.” So his full name would be Francesco Dellamore Dellamorte, Francesco of love of death.

Weezer: More like St. Francis of love of death.

Geezer: It’s a film that defies genre. Although it pretends to be a horror movie, it ends up being a profound meditation on life, death, friendship and love.

Weezer: There’s a point about 50 minutes in where Francesco, a small-town cemetery caretaker, is talking on the phone to his friend, the town clerk, while shooting zombies as they come walking in his door. For a minute, I thought it could’ve ended there, because that was the end of one story, with the zombies flooding the cemetery. I almost thought the credits were going to start rolling, but I realized we had another 50 minutes to go. From that point, it isn’t about zombies anymore — it becomes this incredible philosophical trip, fueled by all sorts of existence questions.

Geezer: There’s a mid-20th century French philosopher-novelist, Georges Bataille, who talks about the relationship between passion, love and death. Basically his thinking comes right out of Nietzsche — the whole idea of human sovereignty, how each person makes his or her own rules ...

Weezer: ... creates his own destiny ...

Geezer: And that’s what happens in Cemetery Man. Dellamorte takes life and death into his own hands, completely violates the rules of society and lives according to his passion. At first he’s looking for love and later he realizes that he’s looking for a way out of it all.

Weezer: Even if this film were to betray its script and just be a campy zombie flick without any of the philosophical questions, it would still be one of the most beautifully shot horror films ever. It’s a tour de force of camerawork that would give George Romero a run for his money. There are so many beautiful, subtle scenes in the graveyard and bolder shots like the one of stone angel wings lying on the ground behind Dellamorte.

Geezer: His meetings with the angel of death ... and that incredible shot of a motorcycle coming out of the ground.

Weezer: In another beautiful one, Dellamorte is reading a newspaper in an open grave while his assistant is digging the hole.

Geezer: And there are scenes of the dead reviving that are just screamingly funny. It so happens that a whole Boy Scout troop gets killed in a bus accident along with some nuns, and after the funeral they all start walking around. Soon Dellamorte is shooting nuns and Boy Scouts in the head. It’s a little freaky in the traditional zombie sense, but it’s also a riot.

Weezer: He’s not really scared of any of the zombies ...

Geezer: Though at certain points he realizes he better work fast or he’s a dead dog.

Weezer: For the most part he’s a pretty cool cucumber, walking around the graveyard in his pressed white shirts, jeans and cowboy boots, and with his pistol of never-ending bullets.

Geezer: There’s a love scene at the beginning between him and this gorgeous young widow in an ossuary, a crypt containing bones of the dead ...

Weezer: Yeah, it’s completely absurd and awesome. If Soavi wanted to, he could’ve played up the terror, but that’s not his purpose. He wants to show the dichotomy here and your brain fuses the elements together. You have this weird romantic scene with the two characters’ heads covered by veils, making them into blind lovers.

Geezer: In a painting by Belgian surrealist René Magritte, called The Lovers, each of the figures’ heads is covered with a cloth. That scene is like a re-enactment of the painting.

Weezer: It’s such a great turning point because you start getting the idea that this isn’t going to be just some Evil Dead spin-off. It’s the first clue that, holy shit, there’s some other stuff going on here that you’re not really ready for. And then you see that Dellamorte’s job is, effectively, like anyone else’s — horribly boring. He watches over the dead and it’s like watching paint dry. So many people can feel themselves trapped like this. Like, “I’m sitting in this cubicle with a bunch of mindless zombie slaves around me. That’s my job.” So many writers talk about the liberation of death, how that’s an exit. I get a lot of that out of this film. But it isn’t saying to go kill yourself. It just wants you to think.

Geezer: It asks some pretty deep questions, like, “What does all our activity mean?”

Weezer: And, “Are you just going through the motions?”

Geezer: Well, here we are at summer’s end and at the end of our association in print.

Weezer: It was a total blast doing all these reviews, though I’m sure we’ll continue talking about movies, whether in print or not.

Geezer: And we hope everyone keeps doing that too. Movies aren’t just entertainment. They’re part of an ongoing public discussion.

Weezer: Just remember to be kind: Rewind.

George Tysh (Geezer) is the Metro Times arts editor. Bruno Tysh (Weezer) is a recent high school graduate. E-mail them at [email protected].

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