Poetry, insight amid eye-popping vulgarity

Posted: April 10, 2007

If you thought the hotel-room wrestling scene in Borat was extreme (and extremely funny), check out Taxidermia. This wild, multigenerational saga from Hungary's Gyorgy Palfi makes Sacha Baron Cohen's potty-humored faux-doc look like a kid's trip to the candy store.

Visually dazzling and outlandishly obscene, Taxidermia begins in old Red Army days, with a lowly orderly prowling around the farmhouse of his lieutenant, spying on the officer's daughters as they undress and bathe. After a not-to-be-believed scene that brings new meaning to the phrase "hot sex," the orderly Vendel beds (in a manner of speaking) his lieutenant's wife.

Cut to postwar, Communist Hungary, and the Olympic sport of speed eating. That's right, corpulent "athletes" competing in a gross pig-out against the clock: gruel, lard, offal, the most disgusting condiments, consumed by the shovel-load for the pride and glory of the nation. Young Kalman (a direct descendent of the orderly Vendel) is the reigning champ.

He meets and marries an equally enormous competitor, and the happy couple bear a child. The film's strange and poignant final chapter centers on the relationship between the now-grown son and the retired, virtually immobile speed-eating legend.

Palfi, whose first feature, 2002's Hukkle, was a cause-and-effect murder mystery full of beautifully surreal moments, is a talent to be reckoned with. For all its eye-popping vulgarity, there's poetry and whimsy in Taxidermia, and inspired insight into the legacies, and lunacies, of fathers, sons and Stalinism.

Also screening today:

2:30 p.m. The Lost World of Tibet (Britain, documentary) The Bridge

4:30 p.m. Sweet Mud (Israel, coming-of-age drama) Ritz Five

6:45 p.m. The Philadelphia Story (U.S., revival) Ritz Five

7:15 p.m. Who Loves the Sun (Canada, drama) Ritz East

9:30 p.m. Hell's Ground (Pakistan, zombie horror) The Bridge

Taxidermia **** (Out of four stars)

Written by Zsofia Ruttkay and Gyorgy Palfi, directed by Palfi. With Csaba Czene, March Bischoff and Adel Stanczel. In Hungarian with subtitles.

Running time: 1 hour, 31 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (sex, nudity, gluttony, violence, profanity, adult themes)

Playing at: Prince Music Theater at 5 p.m. today and at the Ritz East Friday at 10 p.m.

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