Sep 25, 2016

Der Strass


While I have always had a special innate and visceral obsession with various forms of Teutonic cinema that ranges from German Expressionism to New German Cinema to obscure avant-gardists like Klaus Wyborny and Lutz Mommartz to the low-budget aberrant arthouse splatter of Jörg Buttgereit and Marian Dora, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the cinema produced by the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) and its state-owned studio Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) is, aesthetically speaking, entirely worthless and largely indicative of the overall repressive and dreadfully banal essence of that failed dystopian Soviet satellite state. Surely, it is very telling of East German cinema and its dubious history that one its most famous ‘auteur’ filmmakers, Konrad Wolf (Sterne aka Stars, Solo Sunny), was a Jew who fought in the Soviet Red Army during WWII whose brother was a famous Stasi spymaster. Likewise, it is probably no coincidence that the GDR was also responsible for the holocaust classic Jakob der Lügner (1975) aka Jacob the Liar, which was so impressive to the supposedly capitalistic Zionist fat cats of Hollywood that they produced a remake in 1999 starring tragic goofy goy Robin Williams as the eponymous Judaic deceiver. Like in most Eastern Bloc countries, the so-called ‘Red Western’ (aka ‘Borscht Western’)—a virtual cultural inversion of Hollywood westerns where the Indians are depicted as the good guys and the whites are mostly evil genocidal capitalists—was very popular as demonstrated by hit East German films like the anti-Fordian Die Söhne der großen Bärin (1966) aka The Sons of Great Bear directed by actor turned director Josef Mach.

Undoubtedly, most of the East Germans films that I have had the misfortune of encountering are even more contrived and emotionally phony than the typical Hollywood hack work of the same era despite their glaring anti-American sentiments.  Not surprisingly, virtually any East German filmmaker that attempted to be artistically distinct, experimental, and/or culturally subversive found their work banned, hence the lack of artistic innovation in GDR cinema. For example, painter and documentarian Jürgen Böttcher's sole narrative feature Jahrgang '45 (1965) aka Born in '45—a sort of GDR answer to the French New Wave—was immediately banned upon completion and did not even receive its premiere until 1990 after the reunification.  Of course, it should be no surprise that some of the most controversial and experimental films of the Teutonic Eastern Bloc country were made during the GDR’s final years when it became obvious that Soviet style communism was on its deathbed. In fact, DEFA’s first and last gay film, Coming Out (1989) directed by Heiner Carow (who was also responsible for the slightly subversive DEFA classic Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973) aka The Legend of Paul and Paula), had its premiere the very same night the Berlin Wall came down as is briefly referenced in Rosa von Praunheim’s Ich bin meine eigene Frau (1992) aka I Am My Own Woman starring East Germany’s most legendary tranny Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. Naturally, it should be no surprise that the DEFA’s most controversial and experimental film was released not long after when the GDR was already in ruins. 

 Indeed, as much as I loathe East German cinema, Der Strass (1990) aka Rhinestones directed by Andreas Höntsch is unequivocally a lost classic of east kraut cinema that is more intriguing and unconventional than the majority of West German cinema of that same era. Like Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt (1927) aka Berlin: Symphony of a Great City meets Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977) meets Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999) meets Martin Scorsese's After Hours (1985), Höntsch’s first and last feature might be best described as a sort of ‘experimental romantic-dramedy,’ but that would be selling it short as both a piece of cinematic art and social criticism as it is the sort of film that could have only been made during a particular time and place by a seemingly artistically repressed auteur that was finally able express himself in a candid and artistically free fashion. Apparently inspired by a 1985 article in Sonntag magazine about an exotic dancer named Miss Albena, the film tells the largely pathetic yet nonetheless humorous tale of a 30-year-old photo journalist that becomes obsessed with a rather flexible exotic dancer that he does not even know and ultimately exploits his position as a newspaper photographer as a means to incessantly stalk her, even though she seems to have next to nil genuine interest in him as an individual. Featuring incessant occurrences of what might be best described as ‘slapstick magical realism,’ the film features the striking novelty of surreal tragicomedic scenarios that represent the protagonist’s oftentimes absurdly pessimistic, neurotic, and delusional perspective of the world, especially in regard to the enigma of the opposite sex. The film also features a rather effective novelty in the spirit of Luis Buñuel’s masterful swansong That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) in that the lead (anti)heroine is portrayed by two different actresses. In its surreally darkly humorous approach to depicting sexual humiliation and the banality of bureaucratic office work, the film can only be really compared to obscure cinematic works like Austrian auteur Philip Brophy’s piece of pleasantly pernicious cinematic iconoclasm Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat (1988). In short, Der Strass is a fittingly anarchistic swansong to the end of the GDR as directed by an ambivalently nostalgic man that cannot bring himself to completely hate the authoritarian Soviet puppet state that he grew up in. 

 If Rolf Thiele’s Moral 63 (1963)—a somewhat underrated pulpy artsploitation piece that shares some aesthetics similarities with Höntsch's debut feature—demonstrated that West Germany was already a decidedly decadent hellhole by the early 1960s, Der Strass reveals that East Germany is slowly but surely catching up, or at least so one would assume when seen through the eyes of the film's fairly young and horny dark-haired photo journalist protagonist Georg Bastian (Thomas Pötzsch). After a sort of seemingly intentionally lame opening post-Soviet Socialist realism montage depicting the bloody misbegotten birth and history of the GDR, including footage of the ultra lame DDR rock band the Puhdys, the viewer is introduced to gregarious Georg during his big 30th birthday party where he is congratulated by friends who do not really seem like real friends at all, including his true believer commie boss and two dudes drinking bong water in a bathroom. After the festivities end and everyone goes home, Georg’s supposed two best friends leave him stranded inside a highway tunnel, but his luck soon changes when a beautiful white stallion leads him to a beautiful swarthy woman that looks like she could be Anne Frank's surprisingly stunning sister. Indeed, while looking at creepy mannequins in a storefront window that somehow end up moving on their own, Georg catches a glimpse of the woman and follows her all the way to a bar where she does an erotic striptease to Arab-like music (which is actually music by Israeli Ofra Haza, whose Yemenite Jewish influenced music is apparently beloved by both Jews and Arabs alike) while an audience of old people in mostly pagan-like The Wicker Man-esque animal masks watches on in eerie casual delight. Unfortunately, Georg is soon rudely thrown out of the venue by a bouncer dressed like Santa Claus, but luckily he discovers the name of the mystery lady via a poster on the outside of the building. Indeed, the enigmatic beauty’s name is ‘Miss Albena GDR’ (Sylvia Frank) and Georg instantly develops a deep and all-consuming obsession with her that eventually puts both his job and entire life in jeopardy. Of course, Georg is the sad and pathetic kind of fellow that tends to put pussy on a pedestal. As hinted by the fact that Miss Albena is sometimes portrayed by a somewhat more homely actress (Claudia Maria Meyer) that hardly seems sexually mystifying, Georg has an insanely idealized view of her where he sees her as the most beauteous of literal goddesses, but unfortunately for him she never really reciprocates his warped romantic feelings.  After all, Georg is a goofy neurotic mess of a man and most women do not even seem to like him, including those that dare to sleep with him.

 As the film eventually reveals via striking chiaroscuro style flashbacks, Georg was abandoned when he was just a wee little boy by his careerist Wagernian opera singer mother, hence his obsession with strong and powerful unattainable women that would not typically give him the time of the day were he not a noted photographer that might help their careers. In fact, at the beginning of the film, Georg makes a total ass out of himself by attempting to get a woman named Steffi (Claudia Wenzel) to spend the night at his flat after they have what the viewer assumes is lame awkward sex by playing one of his mother’s records, but of course his lady friend is naturally revolted by his serious mommy issues and immediately leaves his apartment while he is completely naked and his flaccid cock is awkwardly hanging out. While Steffi immediately stops seeing Georg, she uses her connections as a showgirl to do him the dubious favor of finding out Miss Albena’s personal address, thus giving the protagonist the information he needs to begin his obsessive Oedipal odyssey that eventually leads him to learning important insights in regard to the opposite sex, though very little sex is actually involved.  In short, Georg will come to learn the difference between a woman and a vagina and how a vagina has more than one use, namely that it produces life.

Under the pretense of acting as her own personal glamour photographer, Georg basks in the highly intimate glory of having one-on-one photo shoots with Miss Albena that involve her posing in a variety of less than subtly alluring fashions where she demonstrates that she can flex her body so freely that her she could practically kiss her own pussy lips. While Miss Albena poses for his camera, which seems to be more important to him than his cock as a sort of substitute phallus (indeed, the film is full of tons of overt Freudian symbolism), Georg imagines all sorts of fantastic things, including oceanic waves projected off her rather tan tits and derriere. Of course, the protagonist is always both literally and figuratively chasing his highly flexible crush, even if she fairly blatantly demonstrates that she has no interest in him outside of a purely professional capacity.  Indeed, when Georg offers to buy her some fancy wine, she swiftly blows him off like he is an annoying yet ultimately irrelevant little gnat.  Somewhat inexplicably, Georg even manages to get his boss (Eberhard Mellies)—a proud ‘Socialist Unity Party of Germany’ member that enjoys swimming with the protagonist and taking showers with him in a curious unisex collectivist bathhouse—to let him do an entire article on Miss Albena for their newspaper under the innately dubious subject of, “exoticism in socialism.” While Georg’s boss—a seemingly gynophobic man who strangely regularly swims and showers with his favorite young employee—complains he feels “sick in my stomach” upon seeing a portrait of the exotic dancer, he likes his employee too much to deny him the opportunity, henceforth eventually leading to conflict when the protagonist spends more time following around Miss Albena than actually working. 

 Naturally, when Georg's boss denies him the opportunity to follow Miss Albena around Europa and he is instead assigned to travel to Nicaragua to cover kraut commie propaganda parades, he does not take it too well. Indeed, Georg even prepares an elaborate phony pro-Marxist speech where he does his greatest Trotsky impression and declares with not the slightest bit of irony, “Can an artistic dancer, raised from the soil of our Socialist society hold her ground in the landscapes of Capitalism? Where woman’s beauty, even woman herself, is only a commodity. How will she present herself? Well, our country, our morals, our point of view, regarding the relations of the sexes, a universal subject, a touch-stone where we could assert our superiority, our tireless striving for equality, the unity of economy and social politics for the benefit of the workers, to protect peace and the socialist accomplishments,” but he is ultimately turned down and forced to travel to the Mestizo majority Central American hellhole where he gets so fed up with his work and the blatant propaganda that it entails that he destroys all of his rolls of film before they are even developed. Meanwhile, Georg begins a seemingly less than serious sexual relationship with a blond co-worker with a goofy face and even goofier haircut named Fräulein Schneider (Catharina Krautz), but that naturally goes nowhere.  As similarly socially awkward quasi-autistic individuals that work at the same newspaper, Georg and Fräulein Schneider seem like a perfect couple, but the protagonist is too pigheaded, delusional, and lovesick to recognize that she might as well be his soulmate.  When Georg finally manages to catch up with Miss Albena in a sort of exceedingly ethereal pastoral fairytale setting where wild stallions are running around, she confesses to him in regard to her mysterious lack of boyfriend and overall lack of social life, “A husband and family. I can’t afford all that with my profession. I’m on the road far too often. And friends? They can almost never reach me at home. And when I turn up somewhere, sometime, they would have to be very patient. And if I get pregnant everything’s over anyway.” Of course, unbeknownst to Georg, Miss Albena will soon get pregnant, just not by him.  To Georg's credit, it seems to be at least partially his influence that makes Miss Albena realize that there is more to life than sleazy bars and pink titty tassels.

 Despite being nothing more than an annoying little cuck that she barely knows or even acknowledges yet creepily follows her around like a scared little puppy dog, Georg soon becomes extremely overprotective with Miss Albena and tries to rough up some sleazy old fart that attempts to molest her after a striptease routine where one of her titty tassels accidentally falls off. While the would-be molester dares to complain, “First she turns you on, wiggling her arse, and then it’s all fake,” Georg will eventually realize what he says is all too true, but not before masturbating while thinking about doing exactly what the would-be molester attempted to do with Miss Albena. When Georg decides to pay Miss Albena a surprise visit with the cute thoughtful gift of two baby chicks due to suffering from lovelorn insomnia, he gets quite the surprise when he catches her virtually fucking a handsome trapeze artist outside in the rain. When Georg makes the mistake of confronting and punching the much taller and more masculine trapeze artist, he gets punched back even harder, though Miss Albena ultimately leaves both men cold and wet in the rain. With no real friends, Georg makes the mistake of complaining about his romance life to his less than understanding boss, stating in a delusional manner in regard to Miss Albena, “I’m losing her. She’s accepted an engagement in a circus. She’s so naïve, she’ll refrain from nothing. A circus! She’ll be on the road all the time, abroad, wherever. I could ever follow her tracks.” In response, Georg’s boss informs him that he has been assigned to do a story on a “feeding program” and that he should forget about Miss Albena by getting a “shave” and a “girl in a bikini,” so the protagonist tells his employer to “[go] fuck yourself.”  It seems that Georg's boss has great love for his best boy, as he blames himself for the protagonist's flagrant indiscretions.  When Georg goes to see Miss Albena after bitching out his boss, she tells him “We won’t see each other again” but somewhat surprisingly thanks him and then reveals that the trapeze artist got her pregnant by exposing her baby bump, thus confirming her career as an extra exotic glorified stripper is all but completely over. Meanwhile, two of Georg’s friends attempt to coerce him into not quitting his job, but he soon learns that his (ex)boss put him them up to it, thus reflecting the sort of hive-minded Stasi-esque spy society that the protagonist lives in where no one can be trusted.  As a result of his romantic misadventures with Miss Albena, Georg just cannot seem to tolerate playing the conspicuously socially contrived collectivist commie game anymore as he has realized that there is much more to life than being a productive member of an ostensibly classless society, especially when deep emotions and pathos are involved.

 While Miss Albena explicitly explained to the protagonist that they would never see each other again, things do not go quite as planned for the exotic dancer as Georg notices her being wheeled inside an ambulance while walking by her apartment and decides to follow to her a hospital where he poses as the father of her unborn child while she gives birth. Indeed, while Georg was unable to realize his dream of being her lover, he at least gets to temporarily act as Miss Albena’s sort of cuckold pseudo-baby-daddy while she is giving birth, thus giving him the opportunity to finally gaze at her gash in all of its glory, albeit under less than glamorous circumstances. Among other things, Georg watches as a nurse shaves off all of Miss Albena’s pubic hair in a symbolic scene where she also sheds her former identity as an exotic dancer. When some of Miss Albena’s pubic hair falls to the ground and Georg goes to pick it up, he notably finds the sort of pink feather that was part of her dancer outfit instead of dark Jewess-like pubes. Ultimately, the experience of watching Miss Albena give birth proves to be too much for Georg, as he realizes that she is more than a magical piece of shiny carnal flesh and reacts accordingly by running home and hysterically destroying every single photograph that he has ever taken of her. With the great Miss Albena completely demystified, Georg now sees her first and foremost as a mother and acts accordingly by hanging up a large photo of her pregnant figure where a sexy dance photo once hanged. In the end, Miss Albena’s birth seems to be a major revelation for Georg as he now seems to realize that, unlike his own negligent famous opera singer mother, women are oftentimes more than just untouchable enigmatic sex objects and thus he begins a new and seemingly liberating career as a maternity photographer. In the end, the Berlin Wall finally comes down and Georg is depicted at the entrance where East meets West giving away all of his old photos in a scene juxtaposed with “Dido's Lament” in a highly allegorical scenario where Purcell’s words “Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate” surely echo auteur Andreas Höntsch’s feelings regarding the end of the GDR. Indubitably, when it comes to East Germany, “Death is now a welcome guest,” though there is certainly a sort of foreboding melancholy in air, as if the filmmaker senses that the German reunification will have less than utopian results, which the last two decades have proven.

 Undoubtedly, one of the most intriguing aspects of Der Strass is its reluctantly nostalgic depiction of East Berlin, as I expected it to take a more hate than love approach to the GDR, especially considering the thoroughly negative depiction of the western side of Germany as depicted by West German filmmakers ranging from Fassbinder to Buttgereit. In fact, I do not think it is that big of an exaggeration to say that the East Berlin of Höntsch’s film seems like a heavenly utopia in comparison to the sort of perennially dark and grim dystopian post-industrial hell that is West Berlin in Sohrab Shahid Saless' Utopia (1983) and Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin (1987) aka Wings Of Desire, the hellish pre-apocalyptic Hamburg of Klaus Lemke's Paul (1974) and Roland Klick's Supermarkt (1974), and the eerily evil post-holocaust Frankfurt of Daniel Schmid's classic Fassbinder adaptation Schatten der Engel (1976) aka Shadow of Angels, among countless other examples. Although the protagonist of the film is somewhat neurotic on a personal and especially sexual level, neither he or director Höntsch seem to suffer from the sort of malignant melancholy or ethno-masochism that is typical of much post-WWII German cinema.

As I discovered from talking to an Austrian-German friend, despite living in a commie nation that was set up by Jews, Slavs, and German communist traitors, East Germans were never brainwashed with the sort of anti-German guilt that was and is still quite typical in so-called free Germany, hence why PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) is a largely East German movement. In fact, West Germany’s most unrepentantly nationalistic and right-wing filmmaker, Prussian auteur Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Hitler: A Film from Germany, Parsifal), was born in the GDR and spent nearly the first two decades of his life there. Of course, the great American neo-Spengerlian political theorist and revolutionary Francis Parker Yockey long ago predicated that American culture-distorting would ultimately have a more deleterious effect on the peoples of Western European than communist tyranny would have on Eastern Europe.  As Cora Stephan wrote in an article that was later translated by Sarah Farmer for an article entitled Symbols that Face Two Ways: Commemorating the Victims of Nazism and Stalinism at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen in regard to the lack of self-loathing among East Germans, “The state ideology of the antifascist resistance [...] exonerated East Germans from guilt [for] Nazi crimes since, according to the [antifascist] myth, their country was free of malefactors, the high-level Nazis having fled west at the end of the war.  Since the roots of fascism had been eradicated in the GDR, where antifascists had won out and established a state committed to peace, there was nothing to apologize for.  This sense of distance from the Nazi perpetrators and of moral superiority [over] the Federal Republic permitted some in the post-war generation of East Germans to develop a sense of national pride rare among their West German counterparts.”  Certainly, quite unlike much of West German cinema, one does not get the sense while watching Der Strass that the director is plagued with guilt and/or has a deep-seated death wish.  In fact, the film even features excerpts from the Siegfried's funeral march segment of Richard Wagner's “Götterdämmerung,” which would be somewhat taboo in West Germany due to the great Romantic composer's associations with the Third Reich as was made obnoxiously apparent in sexually degenerate Judaic Bryan Singer's big budget agitprop piece Valkyrie (2008).

 Despite its experimental structure and sometimes crude and risqué humor, Der Strass ultimately features a shockingly wholesome message that you will be hard-pressed to find in most West German arthouse cinema. Indeed, as a cinematic work that celebrates motherhood in all of its majesty, it is surely not the sort of film you would find in today's spiritually moribund exceedingly ethnosuicidal Germany, which has one of the lowest birthrates in the world and which actively welcomes its own demise via the absorbing of highly hostile brown hordes with extremely low IQs and high birthrates. As a sexually neurotic and largely clueless beta-boy that comes (but does not cum) to discover that women are slightly more than just warm wet holes for his prick and that said warm wet holes are actually the spring of life, the protagonist of the film is, by the conclusion, indubitably wiser and more mature than the average porn-addicted modern-day American or Western European male. In fact, Der Strass is almost like a surreal adult sex education film made for emotionally immature young adult males as directed by the cheerfully disillusioned East German lovechild of Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen.

While you will probably learn more about the facts of the innately corrupt commie police state that was the GDR by watching Frankfurt-born Hebrew Marcel Ophüls' doc Novembertage (1991) aka November Days or even Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's popular kraut blockbuster Das Leben der Anderen (2006) aka The Lives of Others, Höntsch’s ambitious debut is indubitably the best film to see if you are a young mensch that wants to experience how much it sucked for a young horny mensch to live in East Berlin during the final year or so of the GDR. Unfortunately, not unlike the seemingly semi-autobiographical protagonist of his film, Höntsch’s filmmaking career seemed to more or less end soon after the dissolution of the GDR as he would never get the opportunity to direct another film aside from the WDR TV movie Die Vergebung (1994) aka Forgiveness starring Lena Stolze and Sylvester Groth. Notably, DEFA apparently produced about 950 features between its founding in 1946 and demise in 1992, so it is only a great irony of kraut commie film history that the studio's first film created after the collapse of the GDR, Der Strass, is probably the freshest and most idiosyncratic, challenging, titillating, and aesthetically intriguing cinematic work that they ever produced.  An oneiric one-man journey set in a decaying urban dystopia that truly gives off the powerfull illusion that grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (or, in this case, the other side of the wall), Höntsch’s film is ultimately an unforgettable obituary for a wholly inorganic nation that should have never existed yet nonetheless still managed to produce at least one good film during its all too long existence.

-Ty E

Sep 13, 2016


Even years before the premiere of The X-Files when I was a little kid that just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, I was obsessed with extraterrestrials, UFOs, and especially Grey Aliens. Indeed, when the love of my life told me when we first met that she stopped eating red meat as a child because of alien cattle mutilations, I knew I had found my soulmate.  In fact, I unwittingly developed a nearly decade long obsession simply because I randomly happened upon the iconic grey alien graphics used by the skateboard company Alien Workshop (AWS). Even with my later adult obsession with the most arcane and impenetrable of experimental and arthouse cinema, I can still say without hesitation that my favorite TV series of all time is still The X-Files, though I must admit that the last couple of seasons were rather pathetic. In fact, after recently watching the somewhat disappointing 2016 tenth season entitled ‘The Event Series,’ I could not help but subsequently re-watch every single episode of the entire series, which I followed up with every single episode of the somewhat underrated but nonetheless inferior NBC UFO conspiracy theory–based sci-fi television series Dark Skies (1996-1997) starring Eric Close and Megan Ward. Featuring a movie-like pilot that was directed by Tobe Hooper, Dark Skies is unfortunately plagued with unintentionally kitschy special effects that pale in comparison to those of The X-Files, yet they are still largely superior to those of the flagrantly flawed, sometimes nonsensical, and oftentimes unintentionally humorous cult item Communion (1989) directed by French-born Jewish-Australian documentarian turned horror/exploitation trash auteur Philippe Mora (Mad Dog Morgan, Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills).  Probably best known nowadays for the uniquely horrendous Howling (anti)sequels Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985) and Howling III: The Marsupials (1987), Mora might be described as a sort of Mel Brooks of Aussie horror trash, hence why Communion—a film based on the 1987 ‘nonfiction’ novel of the same name by Whitley Strieber—is such a rather ridiculous flick as a unbelievably convoluted cinematic work with next to nil plot that attempts to take an ostensibly serious approach to the depiction of an extra neurotic and eccentric Christopher Walken receiving alien anal probes and dancing with so-called ‘Little Blue Doctor’ aliens, among other things.

 Feeling like the marvelously misbegotten result of an atheistic nonbeliever of the UFO religion trying in vain to make a relatively realistic alien abduction drama that is supposedly based on a true story but instead siring a pseudo-psychoanalytic psychodrama featuring tons of reference to degenerate art about a wholly fictional eccentric Jewish NYC comedian type that seems nothing like the real-life Strieber who is on the brink of a total mental breakdown and attempts to blame it on rectum-reaming little green men, Communion is an unequivocal cinematic disaster that is somehow compelling due to the film's leading man Christopher Walken’s singularly whacky performance, primitive pre-CGI in-camera special effects, and the overall awkward and emotionally schizophrenic tone. Notably, long before the film or the novel it was based on were ever conceived, director Mora and writer Strieber began what would become a longtime friendship after meeting each other in a sort of London beatnik scene during the late-1960s (notably, Mora also befriended the film's composer Eric Clapton around this same time).  While the two apparently lost contact at same point during the next two decades, Strieber reunited with Mora in the 1980s after the latter just completed his fairly weak war drama Death of a Soldier (1986) starring James Coburn and confided in him that he believed that he had been abducted by aliens, so the filmmaker recommended that he both write about his experiences and see a psychiatrist (or as Mora stated himself, “He didn’t know whether he should get a psychiatrist or publisher . . . And I encouraged him to get both.”). After taking various lie detector tests and receiving extensive testing for temporal lobe epilepsy and other brain abnormalities, Strieber—a horror writer who, somewhat suspiciously, already became famous for novels like The Wolfen (1978) and The Hunger (1981), which were both eventually adapted into movies, before he was ever abducted by aliens—became thoroughly convinced that he indeed made contacts with visitors though, as Mora’s movie makes quite clear, he has always been conflicted with the exact nature of his experiences (for instance, Strieber is not even sure if they were actually aliens and has hinted that he might have been a lifelong victim of government intelligence and/or military agencies). 

 While Mora found Strieber’s claims to be somewhat dubious (as the director has noted in various places, while he does not doubt that his friend is telling the truth, he doubts the circumstances surrounding his claims), Mr. Walken—a mensch that seems far too cynical and smug to believe anything that he cannot see, buy, touch, eat, fuck, and/or kill—is a total unbeliever and in the film it totally shows. Undoubtedly, Communion seems like it was made more as platform for Walken to go wild and express his deepest and darkest emotions than to take a serious look at the reality of the alien question. In fact, Strieber, who comes off as a fairly normal and sedate WASP, saw nothing of himself in Walken’s performance and was dissatisfied with the film before it was even released, not least of all because it features scenes of improvisation that sometimes resembles bad avant-garde performance art (rather revealingly, when Strieber confronted Walken with his concern that he was making him seem a little too bit crazy, the actor apparently arrogantly replied, “If the shoe fits”).  Undoubtedly, it is not a bad sign when a director creates a film based on a true story about a longtime friend and that friend is completely disappointed with it.  Additionally, it is not a good sign when a mainstream movie based on a longtime #1 New York Times bestseller is both a commercial and critical failure.

Ultimately, Communion feels like a sort of preposterously pretentious psychological horror-comedy disguised as a sci-fi-cum-drama that features the novelty of a quite pompous and Jew-y NYC intellectual type with marriage problems that collects shitty overpriced modern art being abducted by aliens, but then again one could argue that the movie is really about a megalomaniacal human dildo that mentally deteriorates on the weight of his own insanely inflated ego. While Strieber apparently collects the sort of tasteless modern art that is featured in the film, he seems nothing like the sometimes insufferable and egocentrically unhinged neo-dandy dickhead that Walken portrays in the film. Of course, as a film that features the famously quirky Hollywood actor being anally probed and in a S&M-like scene where he is strapped naked to a sort of makeshift alien experiment table, Communion is indubitably both the foremost film for Christopher Walken fetishists and a potent piece of evidence that Mr. Mora might be a latent homo (after all, in his debut feature Mad Dog Morgan (1976), the filmmaker would include a scene where Dennis Hopper is brutally raped in prison). 

 Interestingly, in a 1951 letter to an American friend, alpha-psychoanalyst C.G. Jung—a somewhat unexpected innovator in the field aliens and UFOs studies who began collecting data on the subject as early as 1946—wrote, “I’m puzzled to death about these phenomena, because I haven’t been able yet to make out with sufficient certainty whether the whole thing is a rumor with concomitant singular and mass hallucination, or a downright fact. Either case would be highly interesting. If it’s a rumor, then the apparition of discs must be a symbol produced by the unconscious. We know what such a thing would mean seen from the psychological standpoint. If on the other hand it is a hard and concrete fact, we are surely confronted with something thoroughly out of the way. At a time when the world is divided by an iron curtain—a fact unheard-of in human history—we might expect all sorts of funny things, since when such a thing happens in an individual it means a complete dissociation, which is instantly compensated by symbols of wholeness and unity. The phenomenon of the saucers might even be both, rumor as well as fact. In this case it would be what I call a synchronicity. It’s just too bad that we don’t know enough about it.” In Mora’s Communion, there is not the faintest piece of evidence that aliens and spaceships are the product of the protagonist’s unconscious, as it is only when he has made ‘contact’ and been ‘abducted’ that his mind begins to deteriorate.  Additionally, the protagonist is more petrified at the thought of being mentally ill than being experimented on by aliens, hence why he comes to almost like the extraterrestrials once he realizes that he has indeed been abducted.  After all, the film is set in Reaganite America when hedonism, materialism, escapism, and Hollywood fantasy were at an all-time high and the Cold War began to cool as a result of ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ appeared in the Soviet Union, thus it should be no surprise that it fails to take a Jungian approach and explain the psychological and cultural implications of alien abduction.

As a film made in the age of friendly extraterrestrial likes the eponymous alien of Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), the film could not have been made at a worst time, hence its abject commercial and critical failure. Despite being supposedly based on real events, Communion features completely abstract moments of darkly humorous quasi-Fellini-esque surrealism that come completely out of left field in what seems to be auteur Mora’s semi-cryptic attempt to critique the entire subject of the film. While the aliens in the film have dubious intentions that involve anal play, they are quite cartoonish (for example, the grey aliens seem like they were designed for the clay animation franchise Gumby) and are hardly grotesquely sinister in physical appearance like the disgustingly erotic extraterrestrials of Xtro (1982) and Alien (1979). Featuring a protagonist that has a bizarrely intricate form of writer’s block where he begins to question both his own sanity and entire life, Communion feels like what might happen if a man with the mind of Larry David and the body of Walken was abducted by perverted extraterrestrials that read too much Freud and not enough Jung, hence the film's Judaic auteur. 

 The year is 1985 and despite being a successful NYC writer that is rich enough to own original pieces of degenerate modern art, Whitley Strieber (Christopher Walken) is beginning to have dubious psychological problems as revealed at the very beginning of the film after he wakes up in the middle of the night as a result of feeling some sort of presence in his bedroom that he cannot quite wrap his mind around. It all starts on October 4 while Strieber is writing on his computer and it “fucks him” by crashing, thus causing him to lose a day’s worth of work. Indeed, when his wife Anne (played by Lindsay Crouse, who was notably married to Zionist writer David Mamet at that time) and his young son Andrew (Joel Carlson) come home, Strieber complains with an exaggerated Yiddish accent, “oy vey what a day” and then goes on to describe how he believes “the computer turned off for a reason” because “the book I’m writing is no good.” While Strieber does not know it yet, he is indeed correct as he will have an inexplicable experience that night in his cabin that will eventually lead to him writing a very different sort of novel. After firefighters arrive at his apartment as a result of him burning dinner, Strieber drives his wife, son, friend Alex (Andreas Katsulas), and Alex’s lady friend to his remote cabin in the woods of upstate New York. That night while lying in bed and acting like a jackass, Strieber attempts to get his wife to say something “dirty” by asking her, “Can you say erection?,” but the fun and games soon come to an end after everyone falls asleep when a bright light randomly fill the inside of cabin and the protagonist soon sees an almond-eyed ‘grey’ (who is actually dark yellow) peeping at him from behind a cabinet in his room. While everyone is awakened by the aliens and a grey even ‘zaps’ Strieber on the head with some sort of instrument, no one in the house can recollect exactly what happened the next day, though everyone seems to suspect something strange happened.  As a result of he and his lady friend being completely spooked by something that they cannot quite describe, Alex, who is a sort goofy foreign Hebrew with a ridiculous fake accent, becomes inordinately belligerent and angrily demands, “Take us home, Whitley.” As Strieber will eventually discover while under experimental hypnosis, he was the victim of aliens with a bunghole fetish. 

 While everything initially seems normal after the unexplained cabin experience, it becomes quite obvious a couple weeks later that things are not quite right when Strieber freaks out and screams at a 13-year-old girl sporting a fly mask at a Halloween party after he mistakes her for a sinister insectoid alien. Indeed, as a result of making a supreme ass of himself in front of their mutual bourgeois friends, Strieber’s wife Anne berates him and declares in a fashion that reveals that she is not a fan of motherhood, “I’ve got one child. I don’t need another.” No longer acting like the Woody Allen-esque smart ass that she married, Anne also bitchily declares to Strieber, “You know, you used to be funny” after he gets extremely moody and yells at her simply because she attempts to be nice and do her wifely duties by cleaning his extremely cluttered work space. Naturally, Strieber’s son Andrew also begins to realize that something is wrong with his father and eventually asks him why he is always “sad,” but he lies and simply states, “I’m having a hard time, you know, with my writing.”

When the family goes back to their cottage right after Christmas, Strieber has another abduction experience where he begins to become convinced that he is being experimented on by extraterrestrial beings. Indeed, while in bed, Strieber is abducted by cloaked ‘little blue doctor’ aliens with grotesque negro-like faces while his hysterical wife looks like she is having a hellish orgasm while in a seemingly semi-paralyzed state. The next day, Strieber, who is beginning to realize what is happening to him, becomes sick and suffers a horrible migraine. Upon looking at her husband’s head, Anne finds a strange mark on Strieber’s head that looks like a spider bite that ultimately proves to be a scar from an alien implant. As a result of his moody and erratic behavior, Anne berates Strieber that night by mocking him for being “scared of shadows” and then demands to him, “you come back to me,” as if she believes that he has totally lost him mind.  Determined not to become a victim of enigmatic beings for a second night during his Christmas vacation, Strieber whips out a shotgun while his wife bitches at him, “I’m sick of this macho bullshit. You’re so self-indulgent.” Ultimately, Strieber almost blows a hole in his wife with his shotgun after seeing a little blue doctor hiding behind a vase in his cabin, thus leading to the family heading back to NYC so that the protagonist can get so much needed help. 

 When her son Andrew asks if god exists and Anne replies, “I hope so […] but nobody knows,” it becomes clear that the little boy was also visited by the aliens after he replies, “So were all alone, except for the little blue doctors. They come to the cabin. They have big black eyes. They’re really scary. They said, ‘We won’t hurt you,’ but I prayed for them to go away but they kept just shining their lights on me. God didn’t make them go away.” After talking to his wife, Strieber reluctantly agrees to see a psychiatrist that “specializes in rape cases” named Dr. Janet Duffy (Frances Sternhagen). Like the Strieber family, Dr. Duffy collects degenerate modern art, though she also seems to have a stereotypical white bourgeois liberal fetish for primitive tribal African art. Indeed, the various pieces of art in Dr. Duffy’s home make the place almost seem more extraterrestrial than the interior of the alien's spaceship. When Strieber visits Dr. Duffy and she recommends that he receive hypnotic regression therapy, he initially refuses and arrogantly declares to his wife, “I’d stick pins in my eyeballs before I’d let that whacko woman fool with me […] She should pay me.” After becoming annoyed with his irrational behavior, Anne decides enough is enough and makes the following ultimatum to her “selfish prick” husband: “I’m gonna tell you something. You’re gonna go back in that woman’s office, we’re going to find out what is wrong with you, or we’re not going to have any marriage left.” Needless to say, Strieber reluctantly agrees and soon discovers the true nature of his abduction experiences. 

 During his first session of hypnotic regression therapy, Strieber experiences both vivid literal flashbacks and sort of surreal nightmares that inspire him to nonsensically proclaim, “The world is blowing up. My boy is dead.” Totally unable to deal with the experience, Strieber quits the session before he really discovers anything truly insightful and proclaims to Dr. Duffy, “I don’t need this. Bad dreams.” Indeed, it is only when Strieber talks to his son about “little blue doctors” and “tall thin ones” and realizes that he is more afraid of the aliens than his little boy that he gets the testicular fortitude to once again go under hypnosis. While Andrew finds the aliens to be somewhat “scary,” he also describes them to his father as being, “soft and perfect.” While under hypnosis, Strieber recalls being anally probed by one of the little blue doctors with a high-tech vibrator that is pulled from a hole in the wall of a spaceship. Upon realizing his anal cavity is about to be assaulted by a scary shiny object of unknown origin, Strieber tries in vain to reason with the aliens by stating, “Can we talk this over? It looks like you’re gonna sing White Christmas,” but naturally the aliens have no interest in arguing with smart ass NYC intellectuals.  The aliens also strap Strieber’s nude body to an operating table where they proceed to conduct dubious experiments. As a result of Strieber’s ‘successful’ hypnotic regression therapy, Dr. Duffy becomes convinced that he is indeed a genuine victim of alien abduction and invites him to become part of a support group for fellow abductees, which include a paranoid policeman and a couple whiny Jewesses. During the group session, Strieber meets a woman that claims her unborn fetus was stolen from her by aliens and talks to another that mentions that both her daughter and granddaughter were also been abducted.  Eventually, Strieber begins to believe that he was first abducted when he was a little boy and that his son is also being abducted.

 While dressed like a sort of culturally confused Gothic Latino pimp and seeming inordinately jubilant like a Bipolar person that is suffering from a manic episode, Strieber declares to his wife that he is going out for “a pack of cigarettes” even though he does not smoke and then heads to the woods of upstate New York so that he can confront his alien tormentors. Rather magically and inexplicably, Strieber somehow manages to effortlessly find the aliens, who are inside what looks more like an extravagant outhouse than a spaceship. Instead of being afraid, Strieber is quite friendly with the aliens and greets them with high-fives and a present in the form of a camcorder, thus inspiring the extraterrestrials to dance like autistic toddlers. Before Strieber knows it, he finds himself confronted by his doppelganger, who is dressed like a magician and who is no less arrogant than the protagonist. When Strieber remarks, “I am the dreamer and you’re the dream,” he gets somewhat of a shock when his doppelganger replies, “The only thing that matters is what I’m about to show you” and then reveals to him a partially unmasked grey alien, which has grotesque flesh that looks like something in between that of an insect and a rotting human corpse. When the doppelganger then reveals that it is not actually the alien’s face, Strieber humorously replies, “You’re not gonna let us see you. That’s a good idea.” Apparently, the alien’s true head is something like a Russian nesting doll (aka matryoshka doll) though, like with everything else regarding his abductions experiences, Strieber is not sure what is actually true.   As far as Strieber is concerned, he is just glad that he is not insane.

 After his eventful experience with the alien doppelganger, Strieber goes home happy as if he has a experienced a massive life-changing revelation and proudly declares to his wife that he was “chosen” by the aliens. At this point, Anne seems to have finally accepted that her husband is not actually nuts and their deteriorating marriage begins to repair. Notably, the married couple go to an art museum where Strieber stands in front of a Jackson Pollock painting while his wife fittingly stands in front of a Lee Krasner painting. At this point, Strieber reveals his true feelings regarding his extraterrestrial experiences by softly stating, “It would be narcissistic of use to feel alone in the universe. People used to think the world was flat – it’s the center of things. It excludes the possibility of visitors. It’s really another kind of the same kind of thinking. The world is getting so small that it would be nice to meet someone new,” to which his wife supportively replies, “I don’t know what you saw. It doesn’t matter. It’s just god. You saw something extraordinary. There are many faces of god. Masks of god.” Anne then tells her husband he is “different” and that, in regard to the aliens, “I think they gave you a gift. You better use it.” Naturally, Strieber soon begins writing a new book, which would ultimately be what the film was adapted from. In the end, Strieber thinks that the aliens have come to visit him one night, so he more or less forces his wife and son to follow him to the top of their apartment building to greet the extraterrestrial begins, but he is ultimately disappointed when he does not find any aliens on his roof. Of course, everyone knows that aliens do not abduct people in overpopulated cities where they would be easily spotted. 

 For better or worse, Communion is probably the most thoughtful and abstract film that has ever been made on the subject on supposedly real-life aliens, even if it is an incoherent and singularly unintentionally humorous mess of a movie that was directed by a man that seems to have about as much as interest in real-life alien abductions as Tarantino does in cinematically portraying authentic human pathos and eros. Notably, auteur Philippe Mora has described the surreal scene near the end of the film where the protagonist actively confronts the aliens as an ‘ode’ to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  Although seemingly impossible to tell while watching the scene, it should also be noted that Mora opted to have the protagonist’s doppelganger dressed as a magician because he believes that any act of contact between aliens and humans would have to be a “magical” experience. Personally, I believe that this strangely zany magic act is just one of the many indications in the film that Mora does not believe that his friend Strieber was actually abducted by aliens, as if the director wanted to distance himself from the ostensible reality of his friend's experiences as much as possible lest he be labelled a UFO nutjob.  Surely, it is hard for me to imagine someone watching Communion and then coming to the conclusion that Strieber is a reliable victim of alien abduction and all it entails.  If I were to guess, I would assume that Strieber was more than victim of too many youthful acid trips than alien anal probes.  As if to make a feeble attempt to capitalize off of the marginal cult status that his feature would eventually acquire, Mora would later go on to direct a quasi-documentary with the rather revealing title According to Occam's Razor (1999) where he spends a good portion of the time debunking UFO nuts in what is ultimately a glorified home movie that reveals more about the director’s psyche than anything about the fact and fiction of extraterrestrials. 

 As someone that is fairly familiar with most of Mora’s cinematic oeuvre, I can only assume that the only thing that the filmmaker truly believes is that Uncle Adolf was the most evil man that ever lived as indicated by his documentaries and especially his arguable magnum opus Snide and Prejudice (1998), which more or less depicts an abridged history of the Third Reich as acted out by mental patients portraying Nazi leaders and fittingly presided over by a flagrantly Jewish psychoanalyst named Dr. Cohen that indubitably acts as a stand-in for the director.  Surely no novice to the subject of National Socialism, the film makes references to the more esoteric elements of Nazi history, including the somewhat enigmatic völkisch occult group the Thule Society, which acted as the genesis of what would eventually become the National Socialist German Workers' Party (aka Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei aka NSDAP). The son of a French Jewish Resistance fighter turned restaurateur and gallery owner whose first important film was the Nazi doc Swastika (1973), Mora may have spent most of his filmmaking career directing low-camp kitsch and hokey horror trash, but Snide and Prejudice reveals that he has a striking pathological obsession with Hitler and National Socialism that seems to rival that of the average UFO conspiracy theorist. Needless to say, Mora’s doc According to Occam's Razor, which has an entire segment dedicated to the Third Reich, attempts to make the dubious claim that the Nazis met aliens and that an Arno Breker statue might have been the very first depiction of a nude human body that aliens had ever seen.  In short, Mora's doc unequivocally demonstrates that he believes that UFO conspiracy theories are a sad and laugable joke and that he probably only went to the effort of directing Communion to capitalize off of the great success of his friend Strieber's hit novel.

 Interestingly, in his published letter On Flying Saucers, C.G. Jung wrote, “What astonishes me most of all is that the American Air Force, despite all the information it must possess, and despite its alleged fear of creating a panic similar to the once which broke out in New Jersey on the occasion of [Orson] Welles’s radio play [The War of the Worlds], is systematically working towards that very thing by refusing to release an authentic and reliable account of the facts. All we have to go on is the occasional information squeezed out by journalists. It is therefore impossible for the uninitiated to form an adequate picture of what is happening. Although for eight years I have been collecting everything that came within my reach, I must admit I am no further forward today than I was at the beginning. I still do not know what we are up against with these ‘flying saucers.’ The reports are so weird that, granted the reality of these phenomena, one feels tempted to compare them with parapsychological happenings. Because we lack any sure foundation, all speculation is worthless. We must wait and see what the future brings. So-called ‘scientific’ explanations, such as Menzel’s reflection theory, are possible only if all the reports that fail to fit the theory are conveniently overlooked.” To quote Fox Mulder’s famous poster in response to Jung's remarks, “I Want to Believe,” but rather unfortunately the evidence is strangely lacking. While ostensibly depicting the real-life abduction of a mainstream horror novelist, Communion also features a semi-cryptic believer-skeptic dialectic and that is arguably the greatest and most revealing attribute of the entire film, but then again one also cannot go wrong with Christopher Walken bitching to aliens about being anally probed.  In its glaring inclusion of awkward and seemingly nonsensical scenes, including Walken putting on a grey alien mask and telling his doppelganger, “I am the dreamer and you’re the dream” in a segment that can hardly be described as a literal depiction of an alien abduction, Mora's film also anticipates the sort of postmodern meta elements of the more satirical episodes of The X-Files, which is surely fitting considering that both Strieber's book and Mora's movie are parodied in the classic third season episode “Jose Chung's From Outer Space,” which is notable for featuring Mulder screaming with a faggoty falsetto voice upon discovering what he assumes is a dead grey alien corpse.

In his essay UFOs In Modern Painting, Jung noted in regard to what he perceived as the nihilistic apocalyptic degeneracy of modern art,  “Whilst I was collecting the material for this essay, I happened to come across the work of a painter who, profoundly disturbed by the way things are going in the world today, has given expression to the fundamental fear of our age—the catastrophic outbreak of destructive forces which everyone dreads. It is, indeed, a law of painting to give visible shape to the dominant trends of the age, and for some time now painters have taken as their subject the disintegration of forms and the ‘breaking of tables,’ creating pictures which, abstractly detached from meaning and feeling alike, are distinguished by their ‘meaninglessness’ as much as by their deliberate aloofness from the spectator. These painters have immersed themselves in the destructive element and have created a new conception of beauty, one that delights in the alienation of meaning and of feeling. Everything consists of debris, unorganized fragments, holes, distortions, overlappings, infantilisms, and crudities which outdo the clumsiest attempts of primitive art and belie the traditional idea of skill. Just as women’s fashions find every innovation, however absurd and repellent, ‘beautiful,’ so too does modern art of this kind. It is the ‘beauty’ of chaos. That is what this art heralds and eulogizes: the gorgeous rubbish heap of our civilization. It must be admitted that such an undertaking is productive of fear, especially when allied to the political possibilities of our catastrophic age. One can well imagine that in an epoch of the ‘great destroyers’ it is a particular satisfaction to be at least the broom that sweeps the rubbish into the corner.”  Of course, Jung's analysis, especially in regard to, “debris, unorganized fragments, holes, distortions, overlappings, infantilisms, and crudities which outdo the clumsiest attempts of primitive art and belie the traditional idea of skill,” is a great way to describe the oftentimes captivating cinematic disaster that is Communion, which was not directed by the son of a degenerate artist mother and galley owner father for no reason.  Additionally, it is no coincidence that the film references artistic works ranging from Giorgio de Chirico to Pollock to primitive African tribal art.  Indeed, only a sick and self-destructive society with an apocalyptic death wish could glorify the infantile tribal expressions of negro savages or the glorified finger-painting of a Jewess-loving shabbos goy pricks like Pollock, just as only a troubled and disturbed world could produce mass delusions about little grey men that anally assault dumb hicks from the sticks.  While I would love to believe, my cynicism tells me that Jung was probably right when he soundly speculated that the UFO phenomenon is largely the expression of post-religious Occidental man's disturbed collective unconscious. Either way, Communion is infinitely more entertaining than Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) where Monsieur Truffaut makes contact with the most banally benign aliens of cinema history.


-Ty E