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When two young men arrive at a family-run guesthouse in rural France, their anticipation of a few days peace and quiet is undermined by a variety of sinister occurrences. A small bird is found murdered, its neck in a tiny noose, a strangely sexualized stain appears on a wall, and a slug crawls across the breakfast tray.
Are these all signs comprising a portent of truly cosmic significance, or merely bizarre coincidences? And is it any wonder that one of the visitors, Witold (piercing-eyed Jonathan Genet) has such difficulty writing his novel, or that his companion Fuchs (Johan Libéreau) prefers to find solace in earthier pleasures?
The final film by the late Andrzej Zulawski, director of the legendary Possession (the only Cannes-winning arthouse film to be officially classified as a video nasty), Cosmos adapts Witold Gombrowicz s legendarily challenging novel into a beguilingly witty combination of (deceptively) lighthearted French farce and a complex, knowing reflection on the absurdities both of humanity itself and the way that we define our notion of the universe according to our individual hang-ups.
About the Director
Sabine Azéma, Jean-François Balmer, Jonathan Genet
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If you're familiar with zulawski's other films, I would place it firmly in the camp with 'That Most Important Thing, Love' or 'Fidelite' rather than the more Psychotronic efforts (Possession, Diabel, Szamanka). Which is not to say that it is any less weird. Based on a famously baffling novel by Witold Gombrowicz, and starring a mixture of French Veterans and young performers, Cosmos is actually very entertaining and weirdly light hearted. It's clearly made on a low budget, but as the informative Making-of documentary explains, Zulawski would be constantly altering the script, locations etc to adapt to challenges of weather etc. This playfulness means that the scenes never feel stale or over-done. You keep watching despite the complete lack of coherent plot or naturalistic dialogue. In some respects it resembles some of those Jess Franco films from the late 70s where he is clearly making it up as he goes along (but staying totally in control like a jazz musician), without the zooming into pubic bushes.
The Arrow Blu Ray is really great, and the extras are fascinating for the info starved Zulawski fan. Picture quality is ridiculously sharp and detailed. Love this.
The backgrounds of the two young men are juxtaposed brilliantly to the mayhem that is going on around them. Witold seems to be a frustrated dilettante and writer who is wont to fall in love and Fuchs is a force of nature who sparkles with a misplaced energy – if such a thing really exists. The increasing madness seems to deliberately challenge any form of acceptable narrative whilst telling stories that will, eventually, add up to the whole.
This will not be a film for everyone; it can be seen as ‘art house’ or even deliberately annoying, but when you peel back the layers there is so much here that it is actually a celluloid feast. The performances are at once over the top and sensational as well as being sensationalist. Jean-François Balmer as Leon the patriarch of the house is just sublime as is his screen wife - Sabine Azéma. But the real star is writer and director Andrzej Zulawski who sadly died in February. As far as a Swan song could go it would be hard to beat such a piece of original work as this – he will be truly missed. If you like cinema that challenges convention and has its heart firmly planted on its, over acting, sleeve then be prepared for a treat.
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