Sunday, September 11, 2016
Tusk (1980 film)
Based on the novel Poo Lorn L’Elephant by Reginald Campbell, Tusk is the story of a young English girl who meets an elephant where they both embark on a common destiny. Directed and edited by Alejandro Jodorowsky and screenplay by Nicholas Niciphor from a screen story by Jodorowsky, Niciphor, and Jeffrey O’Kelly, the film is a fantasy film that plays into the spiritual connection between this girl and an elephant. Starring Cyrielle Clair, Anton Diffring, Serge Merlin, Christopher Mitchum, and Michel Peyrelon. Tusk is a messy and uninspiring film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.
The film is the simple story about a young English girl and an Indian elephant who are born on the same day where they share a spiritual connection as they both share a common destiny for happiness. That is pretty much the film’s plot as it explores a young woman’s connection with this elephant she considers more than just a pet as she is raised by her father in India who also raises elephants for his own usage much to her dismay. While it is a story that is quite simple, it’s execution in terms of plotting and development isn’t very good as it is very by-the-numbers with some very predictable outcomes. Especially as this young woman wants her elephant to be free from captivity but there are those such as her father, a hunter, and a greedy merchant. The script isn’t just conventional but it’s also filled with very little surprises as it never does anything to break out of its conventional plotline.
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s direction is definitely messy where it is clear that the filmmaker who is known for making films about outsiders and freaks while carrying lots of symbolism is here is making something that isn’t about any of those things. Shot on location in India, much of the film is spoken in French as it is one of the few things in the film where Jodorowsky has some air of absurdity yet his attempts to find humor and spiritual meaning often feels forced and nonsensical. While some of the compositions are interesting with some nice low-angle shots to capture the grandness of the elephant that is called Tusk. Jodorowsky never really gets to do anything that is quite visually sprawling as he would match images just like the book as transitions where some of his editing comes across as uninspiring and at times, very jarring. Since the film is very hard to find, the transfer quality of it is terrible as it makes the film a much bigger struggle to watch where the pacing lags a lot and the picture is just poor. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a very bland and messy film about an Englishwoman’s connection with an elephant in India.
Cinematographer Jean-Jacques Flori does nice work with the film‘s colorful cinematography but the transfer of the print does nothing to really showcase his work. Art director Philip King does excellent work with the look of the home of Elise and her father John as well as some of the ceremonies. Makeup supervisor Florence Fouquier D’Herouel does OK work with the makeup from the look of the swami that Elise often meets as well as some of the makeup in the ceremonies. The sound work of Raymond Adam is alright at times though the film‘s poor transfer does hinder it as it include some very bad dubbing of one character in the film. The film’s music by Jean-Claude Petit, Guy Skornik, and Martin St. Pierre is a mixed bag where it has this mixture of rock, orchestral music, and traditional Indian where it tries to do a lot but it’s all over the place in the worst ways.
The film’s cast feature small performances from Sukumar Anhana as the Maharajah, Oriole Henry as the young Elise, Andy Jenny as a preacher, B.N.K. Nagaraj as Tusk’s handler, and a man called Swami as this guru that Elise often goes to for guidance as they’re just roles that are just there. Michel Peyrelon’s performance as the villainous merchant Shakley is just comical for the wrong reasons as it’s really a very typical villainous role while Serge Merlin’s performance as Shakley’s assistant is just a bad comic relief that is there to be an idiot. Christopher Mitchum’s role as the hunter Richard Cairn has its moments where it has substance but the performance is constrained by the script’s conventional tone where he’s just this love interest for Elise.
Anton Diffring is alright as Elise’s father John Morrison as this landowner who uses elephants to do things as he wants what is best as he’s the one character that actually has some development as he’s the best performance in the film. Cyrielle Clair’s performance as Elise is a mixed bag where it has these interesting moments but it’s hampered by some campy dramatic acting as it’s not really memorable.
Tusk is a very terrible film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Not only is it a very conventional film from a very unconventional filmmaker but it’s a film that tries to be a lot of things only to be ordinary in the worst kind. Especially as the best possible version available (through YouTube and torrents) don’t present the film in a transfer that is close to decent at best. In the end, Tusk is just a bad film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.
Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: La Cravate - Teatro sin fin - Fando y Lis - El Topo - The Holy Mountain - Santa Sangre - The Rainbow Thief - The Dance of Reality - (Endless Poetry)
Related: Jodorowsky's Dune - The Auteurs #59: Alejandro Jodorowsky
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