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Theatrical Release Poster
|Directed by||Louis Malle|
|Produced by||Claude Nejar|
|Written by||Louis Malle|
|Music by||Diego Masson|
|Edited by||Suzanne Baron|
|Distributed by||Cinema International Corporation (France)|
Filmverlag der Autoren (West Germany)
Black Moon is a 1975 French-West German-British avant-garde film directed by Louis Malle and starring Cathryn Harrison, Joe Dallesandro, Therese Giehse, and Alexandra Stewart. Shown at the 1975 New York Film Festival, it was distributed in the United States by 20th Century Fox. Despite the film's location in France the film's dialogue is in English.
The surreal mise en scene centers on Lily, a confused teenager (Cathryn Harrison) who witnesses a war between the sexes and finds herself involved in numerous dream-like situations at a country estate. An underlying subtext offers a commentary on the Women's Movement of the 1970s. The film is dedicated to Therese Giehse, who plays the character of The Old Lady, who died shortly after the end of the film.
Malle himself has said about this film: "Opaque, sometimes clumsy, it is the most intimate of my films. I see it as a strange voyage to the limits of the medium, or maybe my own limits."
The world is embroiled in a war between men and women, and, to escape it, Lily (Cathryn Harrison) flees to a country estate on which a number of surreal and unusual events take place. Naked children round up pigs and sheep. On the estate are three adults: a man, Brother Lily (Joe Dallesandro), his sister, Sister Lily (Alexandra Stewart), and The Old Lady (Therese Giehse). Brother Lily tends to the upkeep of the grounds and does not speak but somehow communicates through touch. Sister Lily (Alexandra Stewart) helps on the estate with the rounding up of sheep and feeding the children. The Old Lady is a demanding bedridden woman who communicates with a large rat, and operates a ham radio next to her bed. When she is hungry, she seeks milk and is breastfed by Sister Lily, and later by Lily.
Brother Lily kills a golden eagle with a sword after it flies into the house. This angers Sister Lily, and they fight.
Lily pursues a unicorn around the estate. It later turns up in the Old Lady's room, and Lily prepares to breastfeed it.
- Cathryn Harrison as Lily
- Therese Giehse as The Old Lady
- Alexandra Stewart as Sister Lily
- Joe Dallesandro as Brother Lily
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Black Moon was shot in Malle's own 200-year-old manor house and its surrounding 225-acre (0.91 km2) estate in the lush, wild Dordogne valley in Quercy, near Cahors, called "Le Coual," or "The Crow's Call." The house and grounds were actually the beginning inspiration for the film, according to Malle in an interview in Cinefantastique (Volume 5, Number 1): "It began with the fact that I wanted to shoot the film in my own house. Black Moon certainly comes very much from the place where I live, the kind of countryside around the house. There's something very ancient, maybe archaic, about it, also something...hostile." Malle also said that the film was influenced by his admiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
Malle hired Sven Nykvist, Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer, to shoot the film, and wanted there to be no scenes in which there was direct sunlight. They shot indoor scenes on sunny days until the light was right for the exterior shots.
Knowing that the film would be difficult for audiences as a full-length feature film, Malle considered releasing it in a much shorter version, and actually prepared a one-hour cut, removing scenes that he felt did not work.
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At the time of its release, Black Moon received mixed reviews and vanished into obscurity. It has since been screened at theatrical revivals and aired on the television channel Turner Classic Movies.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times praised the film's cinematography, performances, and imagery, calling the film "baffling and beautiful and occasionally very funny". Time Out wrote, "Malle offers no explanation for his heroine's visionary odyssey through a world in which all history runs parallel with all realities. Yet a logic is there, even if its reference point is jabberwocky." Dennis Schwartz from Ozus’ World Movie Reviews awarded the film a rating A-, praising the film's cinematography, and themes, calling it "an hysterical but absorbing Alice-in-Wonderland surrealist fantasy film". TV Guide gave the film a positive review, with the reviewer calling it "A haunting, disturbing picture that is half-fantasy, half-reality, but we are never certain which is which." Joseph Jon Lanthier of Slant Magazine rated the film three out of five stars, concluding, "Suckling as it does from the budding teat of preadolescent sexuality, it’s not surprising that Black Moon is a tad Malle-nourished."
Awards and nominations
- Stafford, Jeff. "Black Moon (1975)" on TCM.com
- Vincendeau, Ginette (28 June 2011). "Black Moon: Louis in Wonderland". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
- "Black Moon". The Criterion Collection.
- Canby, VIncent (30 September 1975). "Film Festival: Malle's 'Black Moon' - The New York Times". NYTimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
- "Black Moon 1974, directed by Louis Malle". TimeOut.com. Time Out London. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
- Schwartz, Dennis (24 October 2007). "BLACK MOON – Dennis Schwartz Reviews". DennisSchwartzReviews.com. Dennis Schwartz Reviews. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
- "Black Moon - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TVGuide.com. TV Guide. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
- Lanthier, Joseph (28 June 2011). "Blu-ray Review: Black Moon - Slant Magazine". SlantMagazine.com. Slant Magazine. Retrieved 17 December 2019.