Movies »Death Laid an Egg

death laid an eggThe infamous Giallo, Death Laid an Egg, begins with total abstract disorientation: quick cuts, John Cage-y music and images of developing chicken embryos are followed by an arty murder. I'm pretty sure that the filmmakers put the murder up front to conceal the truth: that this movie is mostly (I swear) about the business of poultry farming and it takes almost an hour before you even get some awkward groping – and it's even longer before any more blood is spilled on lingerie. There's nearly an hour of confusing scenes and conversations about chicken farming equipment, insomnia, party planning, more chicken farming, and experiments in chicken farming (there's a laboratory that factors into the “plot” later) before the traditional Giallo components come into play.

The gorgeous Gina Lollobrigida is Anna, the owner of a chicken farm that she runs with much pride and joy (at one point she giggles through a friendly family photo shoot while holding up dead and mangled chickens) with her husband Marco (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant), who is having an affair with their assistant, the blonde and spacey Gabrielle (played by Ewa Aulin of Candy), who so pretty that her stumbling through abrupt non sequiturs like, “Hmm… I would like some delicious ice cream” is totally adorable.

Does it already seem like I'm describing a dream rather than a real film? If so, then I'm at least conveying some of the strangeness of this movie –?but just let me tell you about “the Association”. It's mentioned early in the film with some urgency, so it makes sense for one to expect some sort of Mafia type organization – but one would be wrong. It is, of course, The Poultry Association and their office houses a huge egg sculpture as well as a bunch of men running around as if they were on Wall Street shouting, “I'm buying! I'm buying! I'm buying everything!!!”

But despite the man on the phone's enthusiasm, the Association is facing big problems, for one (as the head of the Association declares in front of a huge painting of a rooster), “No one knows about poultry!” Just ignore the absurdity of that statement and sit back as the plot leads Marco into an uneasy working relationship with a young advertising hotshot named Mondaini (played by abstract painter and father of Leelee, Jean Sobieski) with whom he must work with on a PR campaign designed to alert the public to the fact that chickens and their eggs are available for purchase and consumption.

Fortunately, Mondaini has a new idea for some posters that “will take them by surprise,” which, quite frankly, took me by surprise too; this scene is so outrageous that we were barely able to breathe as tears of laughter streamed down our cheeks. I'll try to explain: Mondaini's ad campaign features “chickens as an integral part of society,” as a doctor, an engineer, even a soldier – the ludicrous images on the posters perfectly match his totally gonzo concept which, as he enthusiastically points out, is “Newer than tomorrow, preposterously new!” I agree… I think.

The other issue plaguing the Association is that chickens are continually born with heads and feet. This problem is resolved in the crazy chicken farm laboratory (I told you it comes back into play) where Anna is thrilled that her salaried geneticist has succeeded in spawning headless, feetless chickens. “Finally,” she tells her husband, “something we can share!” But Marco does not share her enthusiasm and in a fit of rage he brands the weird writhing sacks of veins and feathers “monsters”, then he proceeds to beat them to death with an over-sized metal bar. In an effort to heighten the weirdness, worms crawl out of the grotesque feathered lumps as he splits them open.

There's also hotel prostitution/sexual perversion subplot, a flaming car wreck, and a Seven Minutes in Heaven-like party game. For lack of a better descriptor, it's a supremely weird movie – and a fairly unforgettable one. Opinions vary drastically: some call it a masterpiece of the genre citing its truly unique editing and gorgeous cinematography (both DP, Dario Di Palma and star Jean-Louis Trintignant went on to work on highly influential films), while others declare it to be downright awful and ridiculous.

Either way, its status of being nearly impossible to find has gained it notoriority in certain nerdy film circles, and when offered a rare chance to view it, few who've heard the synopsis can resist (many thanks – and birthday wishes – to Matthew for tipping us off to this one). I got my copy (an excellent transfer) from J4HI, the same place I got the wonderful and equally difficult to find Roller Derby documentary Derby.

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Posted on December 28, 2008

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