Cockadoodledo Mister Chicken (1974)

8 07 2008

One of, if not the only, fictional feature from Jean Rouch is also one of the craziest films ever imaginable. Even though he’s influenced everyone from Werner Herzog to Jacques Rivette, his cinematic vision is still one of the most unique and relentless. Perhaps this is the only fault of Mister Chicken. For as crazy and spontaneous as it is, it might not have enough “there” to actually sustain itself for 90 minutes. There’s a great moment with every minute, but its possible that Rouch can’t get enough out of something so freewheeling. Still, he impressed me a great deal with this film and I’m certainly looking forward to future Rouch experiences.

Lam, a farmer, and his apprentice, Mallou take off in their makeshift automobile to start their chicken business. Along the way they pick up Damore, a priest, who is oblivious to likely long-term commitment of the trip. In their tiny automobile, which has been nicknamed “patience” in relation to its inconsistent functionality, tensions quickly begin to boil. The gang is stopped by a female hunter who is in search of her elephant. They, for whatever reason, suspect she is the devil. Mallou goes to retrieve a tire and when he returns, he finds Damore in a hysterical state.

The film continues to build upon occurrences such as the one described above. Damore becomes hysterical again, but this time is healed by an instrument, which is actually just a long pink plastic tube that Mallou vigorously rotates. Like Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small, which actually predates this by a good four years, there is nothing to comprehend, to “get” in a sense. Like Herzog, Rouch interests (seemingly) lie in capturing undeniable images with a hyper-kinetic type of spontaneity. This pretty much accounts for my appreciation of Mister Chicken, which, after awhile, simply wears out its welcome. Essentially, the film runs out of gas and then drags itself to the finish line, but does so successfully.

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