Black Moon: Criterion Collection
July 18, 2011
Filmmaker Louis Malle once described his film Black Moon (1975) as a “mythological fairy tale taking place in the near future.” Following on the heels of his German-occupation drama Lacombe, Lucien (1974), it was not a commercial success and relegated to obscurity. Malle sees Black Moon as his most intimate film, which has been cited as a pivotal one in his career as he would go on to make films in the United States to much acclaim.
A young girl named Lily (Harrison) is driving along a deserted country road when she comes across a war of some sort, pitting women against men. We see female soldiers being ruthlessly executed and Lily manages to escape the military checkpoint by driving into the countryside. She stumbles across a herd of sheep with a dead man hanging from a tree. Lily finally comes across a country house where she finds a pig in a child’s highchair and upstairs a cat on a piano. She encounters a bed-ridden old lady (Giehse) having a nonsensical conversation with a mouse and then herself. The other inhabitants include an androgynous and incestuous brother and sister couple (Dallesandro and Stewart).
Malle lingers on shots of various insects and animals in nature only to reveal a unicorn grazing in a field. Animals play an important role in Black Moon as they give the film a surreal, fairy tale atmosphere. The film doesn’t follow any semblance of a traditional linear narrative and is largely devoid of dialogue. Instead, Malle opts for a series of surreal set pieces. The French director has crafted a self-consciously bizarre film that, at times, evokes surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel and follows dream logic with Lilly’s sexual awakening modeled after Alice in Wonderland. One’s enjoyment of this film will be based on your interest and tolerance in abstract imagery and non-linear narratives.
There is a 1975 interview with Louis Malle on French television. He provides some insight into Black Moon. He was interested in depicting an irrational world. This is quite a good primer to understanding what he’s trying to say with the film and what some of its images mean.
Also included is a Stills Gallery of behind the scenes photographs of the cast and crew at work.
Finally, there is an original theatrical trailer.