Davide Manuli’s The Legend of Kaspar Hauser (featuring Vincent Gallo as both a tweaker sheriff and bell-bottomed pusher) moves some efflorescent new-century product: some sticky-icky. The film is like a 90-minute hit of black and white nitrous; like a pre-Raphaelite vision shimmering above a Nevada shanty-town; like Bergman and Antonioni and all the great cinema masters reborn as an electro-trash raver kitten.
“We live in 2012,” the dapper Manuli declared in an interview, “and it’s about time that hardcore techno music enters into hardcore art-house movies. Times have changed. Times must change.”
With an original, heart-thumping soundtrack by the renowned producer Vitalic, Legend moves in step with new times. In a brilliant move of conceptual recyclage, Manuli tweaked the tale of the Bavarian wild-child (famously adapted by Werner Herzog in the 1970s) so that Kaspar is no longer a somber mystery but a delirious raver. Out with the lederhosen, in with the Adidas track suit! Added to the mix are two Vincent Gallos—one looking like he’s in the Allman Brothers, the other like he’s Jimi Hendrix—who compete for the desert island on whose shores the androgynous, delinquent Kaspar washes up. One of these doppleganging Gallos adopts the boy, locks him in a cage, and instructs him in the secret ways of the turntable (“Respect the mixer! Respect the mixer!”). Mules, models, disfigured midgets, and junkie priests similarly populate the island.
With stunning one-shot takes, Legend raids both the Euro art-house backlot and the allegorical terrain of ’60s psychedelia. The result is a surprise so ludicrous, so profound, so …surprising, you’d have to go back to Jodorowsky’s cult film El Topo (and before that, Fellini, Dalí, even Duchamp) to find a similar force of impish, risible imagery.
Even the austere Austrian (and patron-philosopher of the last century) Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that “wisdom and humor overlap.” Laughter –– just like art-house movies and Italo-disco –– can be cathartic. Open yourself to this film; find it on the festival circuit before cult-status and ironic wall-projection claim its fate. Let the legend relinquish you from your rational, habit-numbed slumber, and rejoice.