"Surreal" is one of those terms whose meaning has become obscured from overuse, dulling its edge and losing its original connection to a specific form of artistic practice. Described by the French writer Andre Breton as "pure psychic automatism," Surrealism was interested in using dream logic as well such primal concepts as religion and sex to get at some sense of meaning that was beyond literal understanding, an implied feeling that bypassed all description and could never be exactly pinned down.
Veteran Czech filmmaker and animator Jan Svankmajer is a Surrealist in this true-school way. His films are full of imagery that is shocking and inexplicable, deeply troubling and yet somehow compelling.
"Lunacy" opens with a direct address from the filmmaker, explaining that what follows is "a horror film -- with all the degeneracy peculiar to that genre." It is at once a heads-up and something of a William Castle-style exploitation gag. From there the film continues to chart multiple streams, as in one story line in which a young man (Pavel Liska) is lured by someone known as the Marquis (Jan Triska) into a world of asylums, orgies and generally freaky unpleasantness. On a parallel track, a squadron of animated meat makes a cradle-to-the-grave journey.