L’uomo, la donna e la bestia – Spell (Dolce mattatoio) (1977)

“L’uomo, la donna e la bestia” is what one could call an avant-garde film – it has something of Pasolini and of the Buñuel of “Un chien andalou”.

The film begins in black and white. A man is watching a gravestone. On the gravestone there’s a photo – it’s his own photo. We see some images in black and white. An image of a woman. B&w turns into colors. The woman moves.

The man who was staring at the gravestone is a communist in crisis (but he’s not a wife-beater as another reviewer wrote). He doesn’t know anymore if his ideology has any use or reality at all. What is truth? But he still hangs on to his icons: photos of Lenin, the hammer & sickle etc.. His wife is a mentally disturbed woman that can be sometimes very aggressive.

We are in a small town in Italy. People are preparing themselves for the feast for the town’s patron saint. The film feels natural: Little boys running around selling drawings of saints. The priest organizing the procession. Boys meeting girls at the town’s main square etc… You don’t feel that you’re watching a film. I had almost the feeling of being there.

There are many other characters in the film:

There’s a butcher that gets his sexual kicks with the big chunks of meat hanging in the freezer.

There’s a rude countryman, good at dealing with cows and in killing chickens, but very unsubtle when it comes to dealing with his own wife, and she’s already fed up with being treated as a domestic slave and sexual object.

There’s the girl who had an affair with her own father and now… well, she’s carrying his baby.

There’s the town’s whore. She’s young and pretty and seems in fact much more a hippie than a hooker.

There’s the priest who organizes processions and stages rituals. He seems happy enough in his life.

And finally there’s a mysterious drifter. He is the harbinger of change.

“L’uomo, la donna e la bestia” resembles an acid trip. The butcher’s dreams, those of the countryman’s wife and others… and reality mix, and the feast, the fun park, the people dancing to a band, the multicolored lights blinking, pulsating, the strange soundtrack… make for an hallucinating audiovisual trip. There are many ways to interpret this film, not the least of them the political/religious view, but my piece of advice is that you just let yourself flow with the images and sounds.

If I were to classify this film in few words, I would say that “L’uomo, la donna e la bestia” is a sexual/political/existential film. It’s a typical product of the 70s. I doubt that a film like this could be made nowadays. AKA Man, Woman and Beast.