Review: Car Cemetery (1982) DVD Release from Cult Epics (2010)


Imagine for a minute that there was a post-apocalyptic sci-fi meets punk rock version of the story of the Passion of Christ made in the 80’s as told by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s soul brother in the vein of Santa Sangre? Imagine no more, such as wonderous surreal and punk as fuck movie does indeed exist. It is called Car Cemetery (Le Cimetière des Voitures), a 1983 directorial effort by surrealist artist and anarchist playwright Fernando Arrabal, the writer of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1968 directorial debut, Fando y Lis.


Arrabal and Jodorowsky were early collaborators in film and art; both were founders of a surrealist art collective called the Panic Movement that sought to create violent theatrical events in order to achieve peace and beauty through chaotic and surreal performance art. Car Cemetery definitely fits in that modus operandi. Set in a post apocalyptic junkyard inside of a nuclear crater in Paris, the film follows Emanou, (played by Alain Bashung) a New Romantic/Punk messiah who represents a post-modern Jesus (Emanou being a stand-in for Christ’s prophesied name Emmanuel, meaning God with us). Emanou is the cultural leader of a community of anarchist misfits living in the junkyard. He provides them with mental nourishment from his concerts (standing in for Christ’s sermons) and the establishment wants nothing more than to be rid of Emanou and the anarchists, to the point of bribing one of his followers to betray him to the police for execution.

Car Cemetery is a not at all subtle retelling of the story of Christ. But rather than the proselytizing reason most films tell the story of Christ, Arrabal takes the method that Scorsese would a few years later with The Last Temptation of Christ and utilizes the story as a way to show how a Christ figure is most effective as a symbol and a martyr for those he leaves behind. The real reason to watch the film is the amazing visuals in the production design and the curious ways they reinterpret the story of Christ. There’s a scene where they have a retelling of the nativity with the three wise men of the Orient reinterpreted as swimsuit models in a beauty pageant with names like Miss Myrrh and Miss Frankinscense. Instead of feeding the 5,000 with fish and loaves like Jesus, Emanou pulls hamburgers out of a magician’s hat. There’s really great costume design as well that harkens back to Fando y Lis and Santa Sangre. The sermons in the Bible are re-imagined as concerts; and Judas’ 30 pieces of silver as a bounced check. There’s solid performances throughout and the minimalist synth soundtrack serves the film well. The film is an adaptation of a theatrical play so the film does have the feel of watching a play at times; especially the rote feeling going through all Christ’s miracles seem to have after an hour or so. You can tell that David Bowie was likely a fan of Arrabal, as some of the costume choices here match up perfectly with his final Lazarus video.


The DVD release by Cult Epics is pretty basic, but has an excellent transfer with crisp edges and good film grain. The extras are just trailers of Arrabal’s other films like Viva La Muerte. If you’re a fan of surrealist imagery and performances that make you think, or even a fan of Jodorowsky, check out the film, you’ll enjoy it as a companion piece to the oeuvre of Jodorowsky’s films.

Purchase Links

Car Cemetery DVD on

The Fernando Arrabal Collection 2 on