DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THE TERRITORY (O TERRITORIO) (director/writer: Raul Ruiz; screenwriter: Gilbert Adair; cinematographer: Henri Alekan; editor: Valeria Armiento; music:  Jorge Arriagada; cast: Isabelle Weingarten (Francoise), Rebecca Pauly (Barbara), Jeoffrey Carey (Peter), Jeffrey Kime (Jim), Paul Getty Jr. (Gilbert), Camila Mora (Annie, little girl of Barbara's), Ethan Stone (Ron, little son of Francoise), shila Charlesworth (Linda), Rita Nascimento (Sally, Linda's little daughter) Josť Nascimento (Joe), Artur Semedo (Wanderer one), Duarte de Almeida (Wanderer two); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Roger Corman/Pierre Cottrell; International Film Circuit/Clap Films; 1981-France-in English)

 
"Deliciously subversive."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It's based on a real-life case involving a group of Americans on an outing who lost their way in a wilderness park in southern France while looking for a medieval city and eventually resorted to cannibalism and religious ritual before becoming madmen. Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz ("Klimt"/"Time Regained"/"That Day"), living in France since 1973, directs in his familiar black humor style the creepy metaphysical horror pic, a visually stunning to look at B film given an art film theme about the beast lying underneath one's civilized veneer surfacing in a primal setting. It was shot in Portugal as a stand-in for southern France. It's co-scripted by the English novelist and film critic Gilbert Adair. The film was rushed to a conclusion because its finances were exhausted and furthermore because Wim Wenders showed up at the same location to shoot The State of Things and supposedly recruited the cast for his pic. These are factors that weakened a possibly great film.

Two close-knit affluent and well-educated American families are on a winter vacation in southern France, with their young children. They have rented a house in Uska from single parent Linda (shila Charlesworth). The tourists are an unlikable lot, who are smug, snooty and cold. There's an immediate disconnect between their creepy hired French guide Gilbert (Paul Getty Jr.) and the arrogant tourists over attitudes about treating the forest with ecological respect and it was thought he was leading them around in circles. The unhappy guide splits, and the urbanite tourists are left wandering around in circles--not realizing they are within a short distance of civilization. They soon discover Gilbert's corpse lying by a lagoon, attacked by wild dogs, and instead of burying him they pack him in snow and carry him along in a plastic wrapping. Later, while starving and realizing they are seriously lost, they barbecue him and the skittish Peter (Jeoffrey Carey) performs a perverse holy communion. Only Jim's (Jeffrey Kime) French wife Francoise (Isabelle Weingarten) refuses to indulge in eating human flesh and dies from malnutrition. The youngsters Annie and Ron (Camila Mora & Ethan Stone) adapt the easiest, while Peter's wife Barbara (Rebecca Pauly) schemes for her survival no matter what she has to do to achieve that end. It concludes with a potent novel twist, that makes this film-making excursion deliciously subversive.

The title is derived from the human body, The Territory, where life is lived out in sex and violence.

REVIEWED ON 3/8/2013       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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