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The Seed of Man (Marco Ferreri: The Collection) - arthouse and international DVD / foreign language DVD / drama DVD / science fiction DVD review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Marco Margine, Anne Wiazemsky, Annie Girardot, Rada Rassimov, Milvia Deanna Frosini
Director: Marco Ferreri   Distributor: Koch Lorber Films
DVD release: 19 August 2008   Runtime: 113 minutes
(1 disc of 8)
Format: Box set, Black & White, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio Tracks (English, Italian, French, Spanish), Subtitles, "Marco Ferreri: The Director Who Came From the Future," Marco Ferreri interview, 16-page booklet w/ critical essay by Italian film scholar Jacqueline Reich

This early work in Ferreri's career is part of the intriguing eight-disc collection of the still relatively unknown director's work. While it has its interesting moments, it is not as engaging or intriguing as the other films from this collection I have reviewed, namely Tales of Ordinary Madness and La Grande Bouffe. The film starts off strongly but unfortunately loses steam, going downhill toward a pretentious and rather silly ending.

Again, the film starts out strong. The first images of the film are black-and-white shots of people of various races and nationalities. All have a look of fear and/or concern on their faces. This simple but effective technique conveys that that something bad is happening, and that it is affecting everyone. Cut to a young couple in a roadside diner, trying to eat while staring uneasily at a newscast in the diner (which shows images of a city being burned mixed with a government safety advisory: "Yellow means the air is unsafe"). After they leave the diner, they drive along the highway, while an almost too-upbeat pop tune plays on the radio. They then drive through a long dark tunnel - and it seems the apocalypse happens. The song on the radio gives way to static. Whereas the highway was somewhat crowded, they emerge from the tunnel alone. They come across a bus blocking the road: all the children inside are dead. They are stopped by an army checkpoint, where their car is taken and they are inoculated. As they leave the checkpoint, they see a mound of corpses being burned.

These opening moments are eerie and effective. However, the film does not build on the momentum created by its strong start. After leaving the compound, the couple soon find a farmhouse near the ocean (the owner lies dead in a chair on the front porch). As they settle into the house, it soon emerges that the man (Marco Margine) wants to have a child (he feels it is their duty to repopulate the world) while the woman (Anne Wiazemsky) does not (she does not want to bring a child into such a world). This central conflict dominates the rest of the film and is not really interesting enough to carry it, not when so many other issues and subjects could be explored in a film about the apocalypse.

The central conflict is escalated by the arrival of a few outsiders. A local band of new authorities arrive who inform the woman it is her obligation to give birth. Even more tension is created by the arrival of an attractive stranger (Annie Girardot) who seduces the man and seems quite willing to bear him a child. This tension leads to a fight to the death between the two women when the stranger decides she wants Margine for her own. The gruesome but rather economical way the winner disposes of the other I will leave for the viewer to discover.

As seen in his other films, Ferreri excels in using a long shot to create beautiful and haunting images. Among them: a white whale beaches itself and begins to decompose on the beach. A balloon (which they first think is a rescue blimp) floats toward the house. As it gets closer, they realize it is a Pepsi bottle balloon, like one might see in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade (the man says "I wonder if New York still exists.") Perhaps most disturbing: in a nearby farmhouse, the man discovers a room full of mannequins. He lays the mannequins on the beach on their backs, which creates an eerie mannequin "garden" of sorts.

However, the conflict over having a child is resolved in a conclusion that is rather silly and dissatisfying. It seems the purpose was to resolve things neatly (perhaps too neatly), yet it left me scratching my head wondering what just happened - as well as wondering if the ending just undermined everything that had occurred before.

Overall, The Seed of Man is not at the same level of quality as the other films I have reviewed so far in the collection (and is hurt by its ending). Still, it might be worth a look for fans of the director, as well as those into end-of-the-world stories.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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