Who's Crazy? [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (16th August 2017).
The Film

Working in conjunction with the company of The Living Theater, who had gotten into some trouble with the New York authorities and were currently looking for work in Paris while garrisoned at a farmhouse in Belgium, Paris-based American artists Thomas White and Allan Zion – the former having worked as an assistant to director Roger Vadim (And God Created Woman) – undertook a wildly experimental farce that asks the titular question Who's Crazy? as a group of asylum inmates escape a broken-down bus into the snowy countryside. Taking shelter in an abandoned farmhouse (with a curiously well-stocked larder), the inmates improvise complex rituals around the basics of making fire, cooking, and finding water (even going so far as to convene a court to determine the punishment for their lone mute member when he cannot or will not tell them the location of the source) to the free jazz of Ornette Coleman in a trio with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett along with the oddball vocals of Marianne Faithfull, Ramón Ybarra, and Nino Ferrer. Once the basics of survival are achieved, the group descends into experimentation, decadence, and jealousy (with the audience only catching snippets of tense conversation that seem like acting improvisation exercises more so than scripted story arcs) in their own private little world unaware of authority encroaching outside. Part madcap comedy, part sixties happening, Who's Crazy? is not a depiction of mental illness so much as an opportunity to watch an avant-garde theatre company let loose on a real location with largely available props and materials with the barest narrative framing and accompanied by the scoring of musicians whose own work was considered equally alien. It is neither masterpiece nor failed experiment but can almost be seen as a look into the work of some of the more unconventional artists of the period unfettered by commercial concerns of mainstream cinema or theatre.

Video

Transferred from the director's own surviving print which had burnt-in French subtitles and some French text, Who's Crazy? was scanned in 2K and restored by The Anthology Film Archives. The image is far from pristine but that does not detract from the action, and the rarity of the source material makes what flaws there are more forgivable as both a rescue and recovery.

Audio

The sole audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track that is clean and subject to the dialogue and music recording of the period. Besides the burnt-in French subtitles, the disc also provides English SDH subtitles.

Extras

Extras include "Tempo International: France - 'David, Moffett & Ornette'" (28:17), a 1966 television production documenting the two day Paris scoring session, with Coleman revealing that the trio rehearsed for a few weeks before coming to France. We see the difficulty they actually have as they play along to the film in studio with direction from White that does not always rub the players the right way. "Who's Crazy?: Q&A with Director Thomas White (27:49) is a Q&A at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from March of this year in which White reveals that the film had been sitting on his basement shelf until it was restored late last year. In discussing the project's origins, he reveals that The Living Theatre company had run into problems with the police in New York and had come to France in search of work. The film was actually shot in a farmhouse in Belgium generously provided to the company by a benefactor, and the required snow scenes were nearly not shot since there was no snowfall until the last few days of the shoot. The trailer (0:58) is also provided along with an eight-page booklet by music critic Adam Shatz on Coleman and the film.

Overall

Neither masterpiece nor failed experiment, the previously-lost Who's Crazy? can almost be seen as a privileged look into the work of some of the more unconventional artists of the period unfettered by commercial concerns of mainstream cinema or theatre.

 


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