Working late hours sometimes can provide a movie buff with unexpected rewards: for example, getting off at 11:00 PM means getting home in time to fix a cup of hot chocolate in hopes of an early visit to Dreamland. Or it can mean being comfortably wide-awake, and stumbling across a rarely-seen film gem by Louis Malle. Or getting to view a rarely-seen cinematic conundrum also created by Louis Malle.
That would be "Black Moon," made in 1975 and featuring Joe Dallesandro and Cathryn Harrison, grand-daughter of Rex Harrison, and a gaggle of naked children running wild with a large white pig. And a talking unicorn. And a manor house where something is always cooking.
Without a doubt, Malle's "Black Moon" is one strange and beautiful movie concoction. Labelling it as futuristic is entirely inappropriate, as it is set in modern ( but pre-Internet ) times. Released in September of 1975, the film takes place in the French countryside, and begins with a young woman racing along a deserted highway while trying to find something on the car radio. Within minutes, she encounters a military roadblock where she sees soldiers ( some wearing gas masks ), executing their prisoners, who are all female. Although she's dressed like a man, it only takes a flip of her hat to reveal her long blonde hair and so she bolts the scene in her little red car. She races through a field with bullets flying past her. Eventually this young woman, Lilly, comes to a dead end on a dirt road, very near to a manor house. It is there she first sees the unicorn and then a flock of sheep.
What little dialog there is in this movie, is in English, with a few lines spoken in German or Italian by Therese Giehse, the veteran character actress from Germany. She plays an elderly invalid who talks to animals, or to people unseen, on her two-way radio. It is up to a very young Cathryn -- then only fifteen during production -- to carry this hallucinatory tale. Along with Giehse, who stars as the crazy old lady of the manor house ( surrounded by sheep, goats, pigs and the naked feral children ), Dallesandro and Alexandra Stewart as Brother and Sister Lilly round out the credited cast.
The photography for "Black Moon" is sumptuous. The plot, if there is one, is so close to being a cinematic hallucination as to make the viewer positively giddy. Harrison is so very luminous and beautiful that it brings up the guiltiest feelings, upon discovering she was only sixteen, when it was released in September of '75.
Near the end of this puzzle on film, there's a long section of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde", which is sung in the middle of the night, by two children, as Lilly plays the piano. When it ends, the new day is breaking and shortly after that, the "reality" of the war comes crashing down with shell bursts and the rat-a-tat of submachine guns in the fields around the house. At this point, the cranky old lady has disappeared, the unicorn has reappeared for about the fourth time, and Lilly closes the window and retreats into the on-going hallucination of this manor house.
And then, the film freeze-frames on an image of her beautiful face and penetrating eyes, and then simply fades away. The viewer never gets to know what happens with Brother and Sister, nor what becomes of the rampaging feral children and their huge white pig.
In that regard, "Black Moon" ends and ends up being almost wholly unsatisfactory !!
However, the rest of the 100 minutes of this film are so well-crafted, and Cathryn Harrison is so appealing, that the final state of confusion seems to be less like a cop-out than an appropriate way to end a film which, after all, has no plot at all. And it must be said that despite the hallucinatory quality of "Black Moon," it is not a movie about taking drugs, or tripping, or going cold turkey from drugs, and there isn't so much as one cigarette in the whole film.
And, also, no, there's no clue as to what "Black Moon" really means, and the context of the film never discloses the purpose of the allegories contained within it. It's not a parable. There's no real story and therefore it has no "moral to the story."
It is only certain that there's absolutely no connection whatsoever to the Fay Wray horror-flick of the same name, from 1934.