March 6, 2010
Land of Madness, 2009
In its idiosyncratic, tongue-in-cheek mixture of documentary, self-confessional, and deconstruction, Land of Madness is a droll and refreshing throwback to Luc Moullet's early essay films like Anatomy of a Relationship and Origins of a Meal. Returning to his bucolic, ancestral hometown in the Southern Alps, Moullet embarks on a whimsical, homegrown investigation of the region's disproportionally high rate of mental illness. Proposing that this geographical hotbed forms a pentagonal "land of madness" - one that, for some unknown reason, has an inactive center that, like the eye of a hurricane, defies the phenomenon - Moullet suggests some suspect pathologies, perhaps mutations caused by a Chernobyl-styled irradiation, or behavioral adaptation to a medical affliction, such as a prevalence of goiter that would have invariably led to a culture of "slowness". Moullet then expounds on his theory by presenting a string of bizarre crimes that have occurred over the past century at the vertex towns - some motivated by passion, theft, or revenge, others remaining unsolved mysteries. As in his earlier essays, Moullet concludes with an intersection of personal experience and social observation that recontextualizes the basis of the argument and leads to further debate (with his wife, Antonietta Pizzorno) - in this case, a harbored family grief over a relative who had committed a senseless murder.