• Mondo Candido



    Released by: Camera Obscura

    Released on: 7/25/2011

    Director: Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi

    Cast: Christopher Brown, Michelle Miller, Jacques Herlin, Gianfranco D’Angelo

    Year: 1975


    The Movie:


    The final collaboration between mondo movie godfathers Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi saw the filmmaking team take the approach started with the faux-mondo movie Goodbye Uncle Tom and bring that style to the next level with a truly bizarre big screen adaptation of Voltaire’s Candide. Unlike Goodbye Uncle Tom, however, this final salvo from their collaborative canon fits in far more closely with European surrealist cinema and comes off more like something Jodorowsky would make than anything they’d created before.


    The premise of the film is this – in medieval times a young man named Candido (Christopher Brown) lives a charmed life inside the protective walls of a beautiful castle owned by The Baron (Gianfranco D’Angelo). Somewhere along the way he falls obsessively in love with a woman named Cunegonda (Michele Miller) who is, for lack of a better way to describe it, unusually accepting of whatever turmoil may be thrown her way in life – she also happens to be the Baron’s daughter. When Candido is lectured by the wise Dr. Panglos (Jacques Herlin) about how all things in life lead to a better world and that he is living the best of lives, he takes his optimistic viewpoint and runs with it. Candido figures he’ll seduce Cunegonda, an idea that promptly gets him escorted out of the castle for his efforts when the Baron is unsurprisingly nonplussed about catching him with his face buried between her legs.


    From here, Candido learns that the world outside the castle is a very different one than the world he was raised in. As the outside world plays by a very different set of rules, if it plays by any rules at all, time, space and logic cease to matter. He is pushed into an army that winds up going against troops with machine guns, he saves a black man from the Ku Klux Klan by pretending to own him as a slave, he travels through the torture chambers of the inquisition and then later winds up on the streets of 1975 era New York City along with Al Capone, Marilyn Monroe and Abraham Lincoln. During all of this he still lovingly pines away all the while for his sweet Cunegonda who is, unbeknownst to him, whoring it up with as many men as she’s able – which eventually leads blissfully ignorant Candido see the world for the cesspool that it really is.


    As brilliant and absurdist as anything to come out of the Panic Movement or the surrealist works of filmmakers like Bunuel, Mondo Candido makes no qualms about its ‘the world is shit’ message but presents it with such eye popping absurdity that you can’t help but love it. Part time travel travelogue and part political sniping spree, the movie where its politics on its sleeve and is all the better for it. A barrage of one astonishing set piece after the next, the film is an amazing blend of sound and vision, using Riz Ortlani’s remarkable score to pull us deeper into Candido’s bizarre story.


    All of this is shot with an artisan’s eye for composition courtesy of cinematographer Giuseppe Ruzzolini and features some impressive production values. The costumes, the set design, the props and the backgrounds used to create the various periods in which the film takes place make for an overdose of eye candy while the humor behind the message ensures that the film is as entertaining as it is visually remarkable. It’s a lot to take in to be sure, but so completely worth it and quite an accomplishment, really.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Before Camera Obscura got their hands on this title, the only way to see the movie on DVD was by way of a low quality VHS sourced (and noticeably cropped) bootleg that was put out by Luminous Film And Video Wurks. Thankfully, this 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a MASSIVE improvement over that release, presenting the movie in its original aspect ratio for the first time on home video in a gorgeous transfer restored from some very nice elements. Colors are beautiful here, reproduced very nicely indeed, and detail is hugely improved over previous grey market releases, as it should be. Skin tones look good, black levels are strong, and there are only occasional specks here and there as far as print damage goes. There are no problems with any major compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues and the movie looks amazing here – it stands to reason that the quality of this presentation will win the picture a lot of new fans.


    Audio chores are handled by way of Dolby Digital Mono tracks in your choice of Italian or German, with optional English and German subtitles supplied. The film appears to have been dubbed in post, so you’ll probably want to opt for the German track as evidently it was in much better shape – it sounds considerably cleaner and crisper than the Italian version which suffers from some background noise in a few scenes. Overall though, both tracks are decent, with the German language option coming out a good bit ahead.


    Amazingly enough, this two disc set is absolutely jammed with some amazing extra features. Aside from some classy menus, available in English and German, the first disc also contains a full length commentary track courtesy of German film experts Christian Kessler and Marcus Stiglegger. Complete with optional English subtitles, this track is a pretty fun listen as the participants periodically verve off topic into some pretty hilarious diversions, but also manage to offer up a good bit of information about the strange history of this picture and the even stranger history of the men who made it. They give a good overview of the mondo movie genre as a whole and find a good place for this picture alongside it and also offer some amusing and equally interesting insight into the film and its themes.


    The second disc starts off with a featurette entitled Around the World in 15 Years which is a discussion with Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti about their work together which, as the title implies and as mondo fans know, brought them to the far reaches of the Earth to find and film some of the most bizarre rituals ever. There are some great stories here about their work, their techniques, the controversy surrounding some of their films and more.


    Up next is A Farewell to Mondo which is a rather revealing interview with Franco Prosperi in which he talks about the origins of Mondo Candido and how Gualtiero Jacopetti really spearheaded it after decided he wanted to adapt a Voltaire story. We learn here that the title was forced on them by the producers to cash in on the success of Mondo Cane and Prosperi is quite open about his work on the film, noting that he wasn’t as passionate about this picture as his partner was. He also talks about shooting in New York City and how the crew had a run in with police officers which lead to a quick exit from American shores before they could make a court date. He also discusses using Ortolani for the film’s score once again and how they originally wanted to set the film to the music and not the other way around.


    From there, check out Making Up Voltaire, which is an interesting interview with the film’s make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci who speaks at length about his work on the picture and how he set about creating a specific look for the movie. Just `Une Connerie“ is an interview with documentary filmmaker Federico Caddeo relating to the feature and the filmmakers behind it.


    Rounding out the extras on the second disc is a lengthy Italian language trailer for the film, a massive still gallery of promotional photographs and press materials gathered from around the world, and another set of classy animated menus. Inside the slipcase packaging which houses the two discs inside a sturdy plastic tray is a color insert booklet containing some liner notes (in English and German) written by Federico Caddeo who writes about his experiences with Jacopetti and Prosperi – a very nice touch rounding out a superb array of supplements clocking in at well over three hours worth of extra material!


    The Final Word:


    Camera Obscura leaves no stone unturned with their release of
    Jacopetti and Prosperi’s collaborative swansong. The transfer is top notch and the supplements not only plentiful but more importantly quite fascinating while the movie itself is a true stunner, a work of fierce originality and bold style that should hopefully find the wider audience it deserves thanks to this excellent two-disc set.





































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Nice detailed review, Ian. This DVD is high on my 'to buy' list.