Jun 5, 2019

Lancelot of the Lake

A number of years ago, I started binge-watching various TV series and eventually encountered a new show I never heard of called Game of Thrones. As a fan of HBO original series like The Sopranos, Oz, and Carnivàle and classic epic fantasy flicks like John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981), I had no reason to suspect that I would dislike the show and—at least for a couple seasons—I was proven right as I found the mostly-all-European cast and sometimes brutal fight scenes to be rather refreshing compared to most of the xenophiliac crypto-commie crap that passes for popular entertainment.  Of course, as someone that was told as a very young impressionable kid by a much older faux-sword-wielding cousin that he was a medieval knight in a former life, the show naturally also had personal appeal for me in the true fantasy sense.  Rather unfortunately, over the years, the show has became more and more insanely popular despite its glaring overall declining quality and has become a sort of sports-ball equivalent for craft-beer-fetishizing urban chic hipsters at dive bars as demonstrated by the countless radically retarded reaction videos on YouTube, yet I kept watching the show in the naïve hope that the Night King and his army of undead Aryan Übermensch White Walkers would destroy the entire world in a glorious end-of-the-world showdown where death—and only death—prevails in a truly apolcapyitic fashion that concludes with a Säuberung of all of humanity. Of course, being a show penned by two Hebraic hacks that did not have the benefit of relying on source material for the last couple seasons because source writer George R. R. Martin (who, incidentally, recently magically discovered that he was about 1/4 chosenite after a genetic test for the PBS show Finding Your Roots) seems to suffer from perennial writer’s block (or, probably more accurately, he seems to have written himself into a corner), the final season is innately idiotic shit and involves a number of patently preposterous and carelessly contrived deus ex machine scenarios, including a virtual little girl inexplicably killing the most powerful supernatural creature in the entire world in what is arguably the most painful cinematic ‘ruined orgasm’ scenario in all of moving picture history.

While coethnic show creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss—two proud beneficiaries of nepotism that are so severely hated by die hard GoT fans that they are affectionately known as ‘dumb and dumber’—try to justify their shitty writing under the guise of ‘subverting expectations,’ it is clearly motivated to some degree by atavistic racial hatred and contempt, hence its gleeful kabalistic approach to warping and distorting perennial European myths and archetypes (surely, it is nothing short of painfully symbolic that former CIA Deputy Director David S. Cohen, who is the brother-in-law of Benioff, had a cameo on the show). Needless to say, after foolishly enduring such asinine aesthetic terrorism, I felt the need for complete cinematic purification in the form of immersing myself in real European medieval fantasy that is everything that GoT is not and naturally decided on re-watching Lancelot of the Lake (1974) aka Lancelot du Lac directed by French master auteur Robert Bresson (Pickpocket, Au Hasard Balthazar). Unlike GoT, which tries to pass off cheap gratuitous sex and violence and an alien hatred for ancient European archetypes as being brilliantly ‘subversive’ (undoubtedly, ressentiment-driven ‘culture distortion’ is a more apt description), Bresson’s film is the real delightfully Delphic deal as a seriously subversive piece of arcane yet assiduous Arthurian cinema that thankfully does not depict an insultingly idiotic fantasy world where dipsomaniacal dwarfs, all-noble eunuchs, foreign savages, and potty-mouthed little girls are the greatest and most heroic moral crusaders and a tiny tom-boy magically defeats literal death in icy anthropomorphic form.  Magnificently metaphysically morose and melancholic in its great tragedy, like Christ's still-warm corpse trampled on by a wandering band of money-changers on a humid mosquito-ridden night, the film utilizes the great Occidental myths of the past to depict foredoomed spirit of the present in a manner that can almost be described as Cioranian sans the gleeful cynicism and spiritual sterility.

 Whereas Game of Thrones concludes in a manner that is more underwhelming, insipid, and morally retarded than one might expect from the weed-whacked fan fiction of a considerably mentally feeble Moroccan teenage sociopath and was clearly written by sickeningly self-satisfied speds with a clear kosher contempt for their audience where marvelously Michael Bay-esque spectacle is supreme and narrative consistency is, at best, a sad secondary concern, Lancelot of the Lake is a spiritually stark yet deathly devout Arthurian tone poem that basks in the inevitably tragic and depicts knightly battle as appropriately entertaining as a blood-splattered abattoir and as romantic as the cold blue bloated corpse of an unfaithful soul mate. Austerely apocalyptic, the film depicts a somewhat anachronistic realm of deluded desires and dead dreams where people oftentimes pray to god yet he never responds and where the disappearance of the Grail is symbolic of man’s moral and spiritual descent. While not romantic in the ‘traditional’ sense, the film is certainly equipped with a sort of uniquely understated lovelorn pathos as personified by the tragic ill-fated love affair of the eponymous protagonist Lancelot and his beloved mistress Queen Guinevere as they sneak around the shadows like forsaken somnambulists that haven’t quite considered that they might already be in hell. Of course, the forlorn dark romance does not stop there as Lancelot’s moody and broody men also perish under lamentable circumstances, including his young protégé and best friend Gawain, who tragically dies at the hand of the man he loves yet still manages to express with a certain degree of unforgettable ghostly resonance the last dying words, “my heart is with him.”  And, despite their glaring flaws and all the more glaringly dejecting demeanors, your heart cannot help but also be with Lancelot and his knights, thereupon making the sting of their brutal demise all the more indelible just as any great Bresson character, no matter how ‘model-like.’

 Right from the get-go, Bresson establishes an eerily yet exquisitely morbid tone with premonitions of things to come in the form of brutal battle scenes, including the senseless destruction of religious icons, knights being decapitated and taking blades to the genitals, and skeletons (still sporting plate amour) hanging from trees while being pecked at by crows. From there, the film opens with a prologue spelled out in blood-red-letters unfolding on an image of a chalice (aka the Holy Grail) that reads: “After marvelous adventures in which Lancelot of the Lake played a heroic part, the Knights of the Round Table set off in search of the Grail. The Grail was a vessel in which Joseph of Arimathea had gathered the blood of Christ. It was to bestow supernatural power. It was believed hidden in Brittany. Merlin, before his death, pledged the knights to the quest. Merlin had indicated that the quest should be led by Perceval (Parsifal), not by Lancelot. After leaving the castle, the knights were dispersed. Perceval was not seen again. Two years have passed. Decimated, the knights return to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. They have not found the Grail.” After the prologue, the viewer encounters another unsettling premonition where an old woman declares to her assumed granddaughter, “He whose footfalls precede him will die within a year.” When the granddaughter points out that she said the same exact thing the previous day, the old woman ominously replies, “It is the same omen for them all.” In what ultimately proves to be a less than auspicious scene, Lancelot (Luc Simon), who (quite symbolically) got lost after a disastrous battle that claimed the lives of many of his men, then appears to the old woman and asks for directions so that he can get back to his camp. Of course, things only go downhill from there as the film progresses and Bresson leaves it up to the viewer to speculate as to why the knights could not find the Grail and why Camelot and the Round Table eventually completely fall apart. While Lancelot’s treacherous love affair with his beloved king’s wife certainly contributes to this, there are other (seemingly much darker) forces involved that hint at a certain collective forsaken state of man, as if all hope and goodness has been extinguished from the world, hence the staying power of Bresson's film in the increasingly spiritually and culturally necrotizing Occident. 

 I hate to sound like a simple knuckle-dragging mamzer, but arguably the most potent theme of Lancelot of the Lake is the particularly precarious nature of putting pussy on a pedestal, especially in an all-male context, and how a single woman can lead to the destruction of an entire male order, though Bresson apparently had a more romantic view of the situation as indicated by his words, “Lancelot and Guinevere are like Tristan and Isolde without the love potion. A predestined love, a passionate love facing impossible obstacles. This love and its fluctuations provide the movement of the film.” Indeed, to quote the GoT character Maester Aemon played by the late great Peter Vaughan (Straw Dogs, The Remains of the Day), “Love is the death of duty,” or so the titular antihero and his comrades discover the hard way. For being a patently poorly written show that attempted to pass off the bastardization of classic fantasy conventions as brilliant displays of literary subversion, especially during the last couple seasons, Game of Thrones did have its memorable moments of perennial truth and Maester Aemon’s words ultimately inspire the show’s hero Jon Snow to more or less save the world by selflessly sacrificing his love and killing his demented dragon bitch lover-cum-aunt who, among other things, used foreign brown hordes to carryout out a full-blown genocide of Dresden-esque proportions because her ‘feelings were hurt.’ In Lancelot of the Lake, the titular hero also decides to sacrifice his love, but it ultimately proves to be too-little-too-late. Notably, as Bresson wrote in an essay entitled ‘Torn Between Fidelity and Felony’ in regard to the film, “I am a Christian filmmaker. But I have no intention of drawing a parallel between our secularized culture and a previous time when people lived lives of exalted faith. I didn’t make LANCELOT to elaborate on a parable. Our hero is aware of his responsibility for the failure to find the Grail; I’m interested in how he is torn between fidelity and felony, love and purity. He’s a man crushed by the machine of a destiny shaped by luck and predestination. . . .There is neither conversion nor redemption in my film—unlike some other stories about the Knights of the Round Table. Nonetheless, Lancelot’s remorse could be seen as the beginning of atonement. . . .I am absolutely not the Jansenist people sometimes call me. . .except maybe when it has to do with form.”   As Bresson's words indicate, he completely subverts expectations and, quite unlike the Hebraic GoT hacks, brings aesthetic honor to his cultural heritage in a largely aesthetically bankrupt age without honor.  In that sense, Bresson follows in the footsteps of his Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945) collaborator Jean Cocteau in terms of taking a respectably subversive modernist approach to classic European myths.

 Notably once describing the absence of the ever elusive Grail as its “secret engine,” Bresson somewhat curiously made the film after deciding to dedicate his career to ‘contemporary’ cinema as opposed to period pieces, so it is only natural that it is inordinately contemporary in the metaphysical sense. Indeed, as Bresson stated himself, “I think the temptation of modern life was constantly with me; it was brought up by the events in LANCELOT. Even religious faith: How could I forget the current crisis in the Church? I wanted to title the film THE GRAIL, precisely because of the intensity of the Grail’s absence throughout the film.” Surely, after watching a film as decidedly dispiriting and hypnotically hopeless yet as strikingly transcendental as Lancelot of the Lake, it is no surprise that Bresson followed it up with Le Diable probablement (1977) aka The Devil, Probably where suicide seems to be the only true reprieve from the superlatively spiritually/culturally/politically bankrupt world of (post)modernity.  Indeed, in many ways, Bresson's almost intolerably hopeless (anti)Arthurian tragedy foreshadows the suffocating Weltschmerz and despondency that afflicts the characters of the auteur's singularly bleak last couple of films.  In other words, although a masterpiece in its own right, Lancelot of the Lake—a fantasy flick that is carefully stripped-down to the bare essentials and mostly glaringly devoid of the escapist elements that typically define fantasy flicks—feels like a sort of imperative cinematic initiation for The Devil, Probably and the auteur's swansong L'Argent (1983).

 While probably not Bresson’s intent, it is surely strikingly symbolic that Queen Guinevere is portrayed by Laura Duke Condominas, who is the daughter of decidedly degenerate French-American feminist sculptor and sometimes filmmaker Niki de Saint-Phalle. Aside from the fact that Condominas was married to a man that was associated with the Zanzibar Group—a counterculture experimental cinema (micro)movement that was led by alienated (and mostly long-haired) youth not unlike the characters of The Devil, Probably—her mother de Saint-Phalle demonstrated with her incest-driven experimental feature Daddy (1973) a fiercely forsaken spirit that could not be further from the Grail in terms of spirit. Still, despite her madre’s debauched essence and association with a bunch of frog hippie weirdos, Condominas could not be more immaculate in her forsakenly lovelorn gloom in Lancelot of the Lake as she manages to keep both Lancelot and the viewer hopelessly leashed to her penetratingly pensive pulchritudinous despite her complete and utter lack of sexually suggestive behavior. Indeed, Condominas’ Queen Guinevere ostensibly bleeds purity despite cuckolding her honorable royal husband and, in turn, completely compromising the very existence of the Knights of the Round Table. Of course, to go back to Maester Aemon: “What is honor compared to a woman's love?” While the singularly honorable Lancelot virtually unwittingly unleashes a knightly Ragnarök due to his betrayal, the film makes it almost seem worth it, at least for a second, hence the true timeless tragedy of it all. In that sense, quite unlike most cinema, Bresson's film is as timeless as the ancient parable that inspired it despite its sometimes glaring aesthetic anachronisms. 

 While Queen Guinevere’s infidelity and Lancelot’s treachery surely act as the catalyst to the virtually apocalyptic downfall of Camelot, certain feminine tendencies among certain very resentful effete males also contribute to the destruction of the Knights of the Round Table. While Lancelot’s betrayal is at least somewhat understandable, his longtime enemy Mordred (Patrick Bernhard)—a cowardly little toad that acts as a central source of chaos inside Camelot—is an innately repugnant creature without even the remotest redeemable qualities and he arguably plays the most crucial role in collapsing the kingdom. When all the Knights went to battle in a tragic event that lead to the deaths of many of the members of the Round Table and disappearance of the Grail, Mordred—a sniveling “virgin sword” that cons others into doing his fighting for him—stayed behind with the women. Ostensibly a knight yet seemingly completely unwilling to fight, Mordred undoubtedly makes Queen Guinevere seem look like a naively innocent virgin as far as negative feminine qualities are concerned as he is a prissy yet quite pernicious passive-aggressive narcissist and compulsive coward that, instead of offering Lancelot’s friendship, conspires like GoT queen bitch Cersei Lannister to use the most craven of means to destroy the protagonist and takeover Camelot. As even Gawain remarks to Lancelot in regard to Mordred’s refusal of peace, “For much lesser affronts, you’ve drawn your sword and struck at the heart.” Needless to say, Mordred believes he has all the ammo he needs to destroy Lancelot when he learns of his affair with Queen Guinevere and he even conspires to have the protagonist assassinated, declaring his followers, “His blood on the floor here will unmask the adulterous traitor.” While the assassination plot is an abject failure and Lancelot manages to avert a battle with King Arthur by voluntarily relinquishing his ladylove, Mordred destroys everything by unexpectedly capturing the castle in an apocalyptic battle that concludes with seemingly every single character dying, including the horses. Indeed, in a deceptively ominous forest, men die from blood loss via their genitals while renegade archers pick them off from the comfort of trees. As for Lancelot, he cries out “Guinevere” and then collapses next to a pile of his dead comrades, including his king. 

 Notably, in the imperative (yet somewhat dated) film resource Cinema: A Critical Dictionary (1980), Richard Roud argues in regard to Bresson’s great accomplishment with the film, “Psychologically, the film is his richest—for it is not a simple triangle story. There is also Gawain (Gauvain), who is presented as Lancelot’s best friend and also in love with Guinevere—and yet loyal to both Arthur and Lancelot. Between these four characters there is a tension which is all the stronger because it is never clearly defined. Although the films ends in total destruction, there is a kind of transcendent radiance in the relations between the main characters because of the way in which Bresson portrays this birth of desire and a more exalted form of passion. And it is from this struggle that LANCELOT derives its strength and luminosity and that sense of physical and spiritual exaltation that had been absent in Bresson’s oeuvre since PICKPOCKET.” Indeed, the film leaves the indelible sting that comes with the death of beauty; the beauty of young porcelain-like epicene bodies and a sort of emotional war between true love, true friendship, and honor, hence the true tragedy of it all. In its brazenly brutal climatic depiction of archers killing the knights from trees with the comfort of knowing they do not even have to face their victims, the film also hints at the death of honor and heroism following the Middle Ages and evolution of technology and, in turn, rise of emotionally detached/dishonorable forms of warfare (notably, such a scenario is poetically depicted in Japanese auteur Masaki Kobayashi's masterpiece Harakiri (1962) when three Ashigaru contemptibly use matchlock guns to kill the film's protagonist as he commits seppuku). As Roud noted in this regard, “Ostensibly the subject of the film is the self-thwarting love of Lancelot and Guinevere, but it is also—or even more—a film about the end of the Middle Ages. The impossible quest for the Grail has ended in failure, and the impossible dream of an ideal society has also proved unworkable. It is not accident that Bresson ends the film with the slaughter of the knights by foot-soldiers with cross-bows. This may not be historically accurate, but this is not a realistic film. Nevertheless, it presents us with a view of feudal society that is marred by none of the complacency or sentimentality of films like LES VISITEURS DU SOIR.” Of course, the death of true belief and spirituality would also follow, hence the disappearance of the Grail. 

 Since it is probably impossible to gauge the true aesthetic influence of a film as understatedly masterful as Lancelot of the Lake, it almost seems like an act of heretical cinephilia to argue that Bresson was probably somewhat influenced by younger filmmakers, namely Philippe Garrel and his early experimental parables like Le Lit de la Vierge (1969) aka The Virgin's Bed and La cicatrice intérieure (1972) aka The Inner Scar. Of course, Garrel was obviously heavily influenced by Bresson himself and never quite achieved the maturity and influence of the old master who, quite unlike any other filmmaker, demonstrated a unrivaled understanding of younger generations well into his golden years as is especially obvious in The Devil, Probably.  One cannot also forget that Garrel was associated with the Zanzibar Group, which Lancelot of the Lake female lead Laura Duke Condominas was also associated with.  Undoubtedly, in its beauteously brutal and audaciously anachronistic approach to ancient European myth, Yvan Lagrange’s underrated Tristan et Iseult (1972) is insanely idiosyncratically Bressonian in the best sort of way. While utilizing slightly more supernatural elements, Dutch auteur Jos Stelling’s debut feature Mariken van Nieumeghen (1974) can almost be described as brutally Bressonian due to its uncompromisingly unflattering depiction of humanity and no bullshit approach to death and destruction.  Speaking of Dutch filmmakers, Paul Verhoeven's Flesh+Blood (1985)—a sort of proto-Game of Thrones that subverts classic fantasy archetypes and is full of blood, boobs, and barbarism—is like Bresson meets Hollywood. It is also certainly fitting that Perceval is MIA in Lancelot of the Lake as Éric Rohmer’s Perceval (1978) could not be more different than Bresson’s film in terms of its absurd artifice, flowery fantasy, and preposterous pageantry. 

 Notably, in his virtual cinematic manifesto Notes on the Cinematograph (1975)—a tiny book that is certainly worth its weight in gold where the auteur reveals his cinematic ideas and philosophy in aphoristic form—Bresson declares, “Cinematography, a military art. Prepare a film like a battle.” Of course, Bresson’s words are dually true in regard to Lancelot of the Lake, which also can be described as embodying both the original French military meaning and contemporary artistic meaning of the word ‘avant-garde.’ Undoubtedly, it is strangely fitting that the Arthurian avant-garde led by the titular lead of the film is exterminated in the end by a more technically advanced group of archers that are fighting in the name of a cowardly traitor as it not only foreshadows the future of Arthurian cinema and (European) cinema as a whole, but the Occident in general; just as it is strangely fitting that gay mischling SS-Obersturmführer Otto Rahn ultimately committed suicide under rather dubious circumstances after his noble yet hopelessly naive failed real-life attempt to find the Holy Grail. While Game of Thrones and the books based on it played at attempting to be ‘subversive’ in the realm of epic fantasy (it is probably no coincidence that George R. R. Martin was heavily influenced by kosher frog Maurice Druon), they ultimately represent failed exercises of nihilism as less than nobly sired by aesthetically hostile racial aliens that have only contempt (and ultimately nil innate understanding) of the ancient Occidental archetypes they frivolously play with. Indeed, whereas GoT is nothing more than normie entertainment that ultimately proved to excel in little more than execrable escapism in its final season, Lancelot of the Lake represents the apocalyptic state of an ancient myth and ultimately an organic representation the sick soul of Europa.

 Indeed, in its depiction of a morosely moribund männerbund that accepts total death before dishonor, the film also celebrates the European spirit in its twilight. Of course, the all-too-pretty long-haired hippie knights with anachronistic fruity lime-green tights more than hint at Occidental decline, but it is better that they accept death in battle than a slow degenerative decline, just as it would be ideal if Europe went out in a Götterdämmerung over the slow and painful humiliation that is the insanely insidious and innately anti-European globohomo game plan of the present where even Nietzsche's Last Man has been totally transcended in terms of pathetic passivity and aberrosexuals, hostile alien invaders, and the melanin-privileged have been absurdly morally elevated to the level that knights, war heroes, and great statesmen once were before the latently apocalyptic Americanization of the world.  After all, even if a young enterprising Europid wants to attempt to demonstrate their heroism in battle nowadays, they don't really have any real options aside from fighting for a perennial enemy in a cold and detached war against his own racial/cultural interests in a decidedly dystopian technocratic zionist military comprised of women, illegal aliens, perverts, and other less than knightly elements.  Rather unfortunately, to quote Death In June, “IT IS THE FATE OF OUR AGE THAT WE FIGHT IN ISOLATION.”

-Ty E

May 7, 2019

Blue Movie (1971)

I have to confess that ‘Blue Movie’ is certainly a film title that, although fairly generic and even a bit antiquated, has obsessed me for a number of years, namely because it is the title of three very different, albeit all technically erotic, films that I have had an interest in at one point or another. Indeed, aside from the Andy Warhol flick also known as Fuck (1969) starring Viva and Louis Waldon and the truly eerie and esoteric rape-ridden 1978 artsploitation of the same name directed by underrated aberrant-garde Italian auteur Alberto Cavallone, the Dutch sexploitation flick Blue Movie (1972) directed by Wim Verstappen has been on my radar for a number of years but it was not until the other day that I actually got the opportunity to watch it via the new Cult Epics blu-ray. As an inordinately obsessive fan of Dutch cinema, I naturally had been intending to watch the film for sometime as it is considered a key cinematic work in the Netherlands due to more or less single-handedly demolishing the censoring power of the Dutch film Ratings Board (which was officially dismantled in 1977) and thus influencing the more explicit films of greater filmmakers like Paul Verhoeven and ultimately becoming an unexpected huge hit as one of the most (monetarily) successful Dutch films of all-time, yet I also had certain reservations due to it being a (s)exploitation flick made in collaboration between Wim Verstappen and Pim de la Parra (aka ‘Pim & Wim’) via their production company Scorpio Films. While there is no doubt that the aptly titled Blue Movie features enough flaccid cocks, bushy beavers, and large pendulous big sippers to be at least considered a genuine softcore fuck flick, it luckily features enough food-for-thought to chew onto to imbue one with a respectable degree of toxic intellectual diarrhea. Indeed, for a film that ostensibly celebrated the so-called ‘sexual liberation’ movement that initially blitzkrieged the Occident in the late-1960s and ultimately caused more long-term social damage to Europe than the Soviets ever could, it unequivocally depicts the (im)moral phenomenon in an exceedingly negative fashion, which is especially curious when one considers that the film’s Surinamese-Sephardic-Jewish producer de la Parra more or less spent his entire career peddling celluloid smut. Maybe it is because I am from a generation where porn has always been pretty easy to come by, but the only kind of people that Blue Movie might arouse is virginal middle school math teachers or young Mormon kids that has never seen a nice pair of shapely tits before. Luckily, the film was made in a (post)Calvinist nation where even ostensibly vogue erotica is impregnated with a certain discernible degree of pathological pessimism and cynicism.  In short, if you are one of the oh-so-few unfortunate beings that manages to get aroused enough to bust a load while watching the film, you will probably feel exceedingly guilty afterwards as you stare at your cheaply misspent baby batter.

Indeed, despite obviously mainly being a huge financial success due to its then-shocking (anti)erotic genital-driven content and the predictable scandal it caused, would-be-auteur Verstappen made a fairly intellectual plea as to why the film was more than mere disposable celluloid dung, or as Dutch film scholar Peter Verstraten explained in his book Humour and Irony in Dutch Post-War Fiction Film (2016): “Director Verstappen was dissatisfied with this decision and in a quite lengthy counter-plea he pointed out the scientific and religious purport of the film. BLUE MOVIE, he bluffed, should be seen as a loose adaptation of DE TOEKOMST DER RELIGIE [THE FUTURE OF RELIGION] (1947), a volume consisting of nine essays by the respectable writer Simon Vestdijk. Verstappen also attached an official American scientific research document, called THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON OBSCENITY AND PORNOGRAPHY, to his apology, for he claimed that this was crucial source material. By explaining in his apology that such extra-textual aspects had been influential, which of course was hard to deny, Verstappen provoked the Film Commission. Moreover, a psychologist was consulted who thought the film made sense from the perspective of his profession.” On top of being, relatively speaking, almost shockingly ‘intellectual,’ the films is—by modern degenerate liberal standards—fairly ‘red-pilled’ in terms of its rather frank depiction of male and female sexuality and the social influences behind said sexuality. In fact, the strongest and sanest voice of reason in the film is an old school ‘fascist’ zoologist-cum-professor that has come to the conclusion after studying monkeys that, as far as human sexuality is concerned, women look for ‘status’ (as provided by an alpha-male type) when it comes to men and men care more about the prestige a beautiful woman (translation: ‘trophy wife’) gives him than the actual beautiful woman herself. On top of that, a hedonistic lifestyle involving orgies, fucking married women, and creating pornography ultimately leads the male protagonist to becoming impotent, at least when it comes to a woman that he actually he loves in what ultimately proves to be a venomously ironical twist that is clearly meant to mock the raincoat crowd. In short, this erotic film demonstrates, so-called ‘free love’ is not free and, like so-called erotic films, can surely lead to the erasure of eros and a sort of excremental approach to human sexuality where sexual release becomes something akin to a bowel moment in terms of personal value. 

Like a sort of anti-Rear Window (1954) where the young and virile (as opposed to old and crippled) ‘hero’ spends his entire time fucking tons of (sub)debutantes in tons of different apartment building rooms instead of voyeuristically spying on them from the comfort of his apartment like Jimmy Stewart's rather sedentary character, Blue Movie might have by directed by a guy that has described himself as having been influenced by Hitchcock yet it can hardly be described as Hitchcockian, especially as a cinematic work that utilizes explicit sexual imagery over suggestive symbolism and hyper horny (yet oftentimes homely) whores and housewives as opposed to cool and mysterious platinum blonde bimbos. While Verstappen (with Martin Scorsese of all people!) co-penned his pal Pim’s almost obnoxiously Hitchcockian Dutch-German co-production Obsessions (1969) aka Bezeten - Het gat in de muur starring German actor turned producer Dieter Geissler (who also co-produced Blue Movie), his oftentimes dually flaccid fuck flick is brutally bare bones aesthetically speaking and has about as much visceral thriller-mystery tension as a New England fast food line, yet that it is ultimately to its benefit in terms of demystifying the innately idiotic Marcusian counterculture myth of ‘free love.’ Indeed, not coincidentally concluding on a shot of the obscenely oppressive and clinic apartment complex, which fittingly resembles a dystopian prison, that the protagonist and his feckless fuck buddies and friends have turned into a virtual human sex zoo where sexual shame and self-control have been just as thoughtlessly disposed of as civilization itself, the film demonstrates in a sometimes devastating (yet oftentimes humorously depicted) fashion that free love has resulted in a sort of cleverly cryptic metaphysical enslavement of the West that controls people more than any religion, government, or dictator ever could. It is also probably no coincidence that the very same base instincts that led to the protagonist serving a jail sentence also lead him to relative financial and social success despite also causing him to being unlovable and impotent in the end.  Indeed, as the film demonstrates in a relatively subtly sardonic fashion, the morally inverted world that the protagonist unexpectedly finds himself in after getting out of prison at the beginning of the film leads to his complete and utter retrogression as a human being; or, in short, the rather ironic consequences of so-called ‘progressive’ (sexual)politics. While the quite literally puritanical values of Calvinism that led to the once-powerful Dutch Empire are nowhere to be seen in the ostensibly hip and happening post-colonial Holland depicted in the film, flagrant philandering, treacherous cuckoldry, single mothers/bastard kids, porn addiction, sexual-shame-inspired suicide, and early age impotence, among other things, are so rampant that they can be found under the roof of one apartment building.  In short, Blue Movie makes for a rather mirthfully morbid masturbation aid and if you are dumb and/or sexually retarded enough to beat your meat to such a devilishly dejecting movie, just remember that the filmmaker(s) would be laughing at you (and rightly so!).

Blue Movie hero Michael (Hugo Metsers)—a rather dumb and unwitting yet reasonably affable dude that thinks with his dick instead of his brain—was sentenced to five years in prison for having sex with a slightly underage teenage girl, so naturally he is in for quite the surprise when he is finally released from the slammer and discovers that ‘free love’ is now the norm and that no one would dare give a shit about such a carnal ‘crime’ in the new sexually liberated climate in the Netherlands lest they be deemed uptight reactionaries and/or dorks. As a somewhat handsome 25-year-old buck that has spent about half a decade of his most sexually virile years completely pussy-starved (in fact, the protagonist had to spend an extra year in prison after beating up a queer that tried to rape him), Michael naturally sees his fairly conservative parole officer Eddie (Helmert Woudenberg, who is the son of a Dutch-Waffen-SS Untersturmführer)—a well-meaning yet unintentionally comical and seemingly half-autistic nerd that makes a piss poor attempt at warning the protagonist about the moral degeneration that has hit the tiny Lowland country—as somewhat of an obstacle in terms of trying to find a nice warm hole to stick his extra eager bald-headed bandit into. Luckily, Michael’s new apartment building, which resembles something you might expect to find in some obscure Soviet shithole, is packed with shameless whores that are completely down to fuck, including a number of married women.  In short, Michael had no way to predict that he would be unleashed in a recklessly wanton world that is beyond his most lurid dreams, but unfortunately he is also in no way prepared to deal with the unexpected consequences of such widespread hedonism.  Driven by a libido that is only transcended by a lack of IQ, Michael sometimes seems more like a giant pulsating penis than a man with a mind and personality.

 Despite respecting her zoologist husband Dr. Bernard Cohn (Kees Brusse)—a stoic scholar that acts as a sort of father figure for the protagonist—Michael finds himself reluctantly engaging in an affair with a mindless kraut cunt named Marianne (Ursula Blauth), who has no qualms about confessing to the hopelessly horny hero that she finds him especially attractive because hear bears a striking resemblance to a brother that she had an incestuous childhood relationship with. While a genius when it comes to studying monkeys and their strikingly eerie similarities with humans, Dr. Cohn—a rather conservative chap with a Kohenic kosher surname that couldn’t be less kosher in terms of attitude and demeanor—was clearly blinded by fine young female flesh when he dared to marry someone as young and dumb as Marianne, who is at least young enough to be his daughter. While clearly a failure when it comes to choosing the appropriate wife, Dr. Cohn ultimately eclipses parole officer Eddie in terms of acting as a sort of wise and sensible fatherly figure (in fact, he even acknowledges his foolishness in terms of choosing a young hot twat spouse). Clearly overwhelmed by the steady flow of warm-and-wet spunk-pots that are quite literally dropped off at his doorstep, Michael finds it to be impossible to turn down all the carnal-traps and thus ultimately find himself turning into a virtual fuck-toy for his entire apartment building. In fact, the protagonist finds himself so deeply buried in gash that it eventually leads him to gaining an admirable reputation and, in turn, a ton of cash after he learns to monetize his carnal prestige by becoming a full-blown pornographer, though it comes at a somewhat hefty price: his soul. 

 For many, if not most, young men, sex is naturally the most important thing in the entire world and the one activity where one expends the most time and energy attempting to procure but, as Dr. Cohn attempts to explain to Michael, there are much more important things in life than pussy. Indeed, when Michael asks him if sex is important, Dr. Cohn, who clearly did not become a successful professional as a result of spending all his time getting drunk and banging bar whores, bluntly replies, “Power, aggression is more fundamental” and even hilariously tells his wife—a hot twat harlot that seriously acts as if her gash is god’s great gift to the world—during the same heated conversation that, “Heaven doesn’t lie between your legs.” Needless to say, being part of a decidedly degenerate generation that has been strategically force-fed the bitter blue-pill of Marcusian mumbo jumbo, Marianne—the sort of impressionable yet not less self-absorbed I-got-my-head-up-my-add idiot that would believe Wilhelm Reich was a legit scientist—accuses her hubby scientist of being a big mean “fascist” for expressing traditional ideas that contradict her debauched tendencies towards extramarital excursions and consuming endless brotherly cock. As Dr. Cohn explains towards the end of the film upon confessing to Michael that he is fully aware that he has cuckolded him, “When you spend your life watching monkeys you learn about people […] I find it terrible.” While Dr. Cohn attempts to give Michael some fatherly advice about life, he also warns him, “Maybe you’re a born bachelor. And then such value is nonsense.” It seems that Michael may indeed be an accursed perennial bachelor of sorts as he actually attempts to transcend his degenerate Dutch Don Juan status and hooks up with a single mother named Julia (Ine Veen)—a girl that he was initially extremely attracted to yet ultimately rejected due to the rather unfortunate problem of her bastard brood—but the love affair proves to be doomed from the get-go, at least as far as biology as concerned, as the hunky hero fails to even get a hard-on after a hot and heavy foreplay session that occurs at the end of the film. Indeed, it seems that too much pornography and poontang has left the once perennially potent protagonist impotent, at least when it comes to women that he actually loves. In short, sex has become nothing more than an impulsive bodily function like defecation for Michael and everything has turned to shit.  In short, free love is far from free, or so the hapless protagonist learns after more or less losing his soul in a sea of semen-sucking skanks.  As to the character's rather quick rise and fall, Camille Paglia might have been onto something when she argued in Sexual Personae (1990), “Ironically, sexual success always ends in sagging fortunes anyhow. Every male projection is transient and must be anxiously, endlessly renewed. Men enter in triumph but withdraw in decrepitude. The sex act cruelly mics history's decline and fall.”

 One of the things I find most intriguing about cinema, especially old and/or foreign cinema, is its ability to act as a sort of virtual time-machine and express the fears, obsessions, trends, and zeitgeist of a particular era. Of course, not like an ancient cathedral, great cinema as created by master auteurs like Dreyer and Bergman was clearly made to stand the test of time but such timeless cinematic works are few and far between. Of course, this can certainly not be said of virtually all erotica, especially a film like Blue Movie, which was clearly made to cash-in on degenerate trends (if nothing else, producer de la Parra was a clever promotions man), hence why the film is almost forgotten today despite being technically one of the most (monetarily) successful Dutch films of all-time. Still, the film is more intriguing than I expected it to be, if not for oftentimes unintentional reasons, as it unwittingly exposes both the spiritual and sexual bankruptcy of so-called sexual liberation. After all, it is no coincidence that our so-called puritanical ancestors had more sex than we do despite the fact we apparently live in oh-so liberated and enlightened times.  Also, compared to a decidedly degenerate film like Just Jaeckin’s insultingly idiotic Emmanuelle (1974)—a film that is undeniably stylishly directed yet ultimately a disgustingly debauched piece of celluloid doo-doo that derives most of its false potency in its perpetual degradation of tragic Dutch diva Sylvia Kristel—Blue Movie is much maturer and realistic in terms of its message. Indeed, whereas Jaeckin’s unintentional celluloid joke literally basks in cuckoldry and attempts to pass off Sapphic sex as the height of hipdom, Verstappen’s surprisingly whimsical quasi-sexploitation flick completely demystifies the entire sexual liberation (pseudo)ethos and hints at how the ostensible sexual utopia would lead to a degenerate dystopia. Indeed, leave it up to the Dutch to create a fuck flick that features figurative finger-wagging about fuck flicks and a both literally and figuratively anticlimactic climax where the Michael’s flaccid pecker becomes the sort of viscerally pathetic anti-star of the protagonist's own worst nightmare; or, in short, the perils of metaphysically-induced castration anxiety and impotence.

When it comes down to it, Blue Movie is, in many ways (and probably mostly unintentionally), an insanely aesthetically grotesque film that absolutely epitomizes everything that was obscenely ugly about early-1970s clothes, hair, and fashion styles, which is rather fittingly as these gratingly inane ingredients help to (unwittingly) underscore the equally inane ideas of the singularly deleterious ‘save the whales and kill the babies’ generation. In fact, the visuals of the film have aged just as poorly as the odiously sensually overzealous zeitgeist that it so vividly (and, somewhat surprisingly, viscerally) depicts. Notably, the Cult Epics blu-ray of the film includes an interview with Blue Movie lead Hugo Metsers’ son Hugo Metsers Jr.—himself an actor that also happens be the son of avant-garde filmmaker Maartje Seyferth (Venus in Furs, Crepuscule)—and it is somewhat incriminating in terms of revealing the effects that the Dutch porn generation had on its children. Among other things, Metsers recalls a somewhat traumatic childhood experience where he randomly encountered Blue Movie at the mere age of 10 on pirate television while at a friend's house and it devastated him so much that he instantly ran home and cried in his bed. In fact, Metsers describes his childhood as “lonely” due to his parents' careerist self-absorption and sums up the sexual revolution era as being “chaos” for him, which probably explains why he has lived a somewhat disastrous personal life that includes two failed marriages.

Despite technically being the fifth biggest native Dutch box office hit of all-time and demonstrating that sex—even marvelously mundane sex involving floppy flaccid cocks—certainly sells, Blue Movie also confirms that most pussy gets pretty old pretty fast, hence the relative obscurity of the film today (and why it makes a worthy release for the vintage Euro erotica nostalgists at Cult Epics).  Although Verstappen would go on to direct other erotically-charged material like Alicia (1974), quite unlike his pal-cum-partner Pim, he eventually demonstrated he was a somewhat eclectic filmmaker and would greatly mature with age as revealed by his largely genital-less aeronautical affair Dakota (1974) and rather unconventional Dutch Resistance flick Pastorale 1943 (1978). Indeed, as the sagely Peter Cowie noted in his text Dutch Cinema (1979), Pastorale 1943 was “his most successful from a critical point of view” and that “Verstappen formed with de la Parra one of the most significant partnerships in modern Dutch films, and there is a clearly discernible maturity about his later work.” As for Blue Movie producer Pim de la Parra, he would confirm certain unfavorable racial stereotypes by continuing to direct artless smut, including Wan Pipel (1976) aka One People which, aside from being the first feature ever made in the director’s homeland of Suriname, depicts a miscegenation-based bizarre love triangle between a negro, white Dutch woman, and brown Hindu broad. While Pim has revealed certain Godardian pretenses with his debut feature De Minder gelukkige terugkeer van Joszef Katus naar het land van Rembrandt (1966) aka The Not Too Happy Return of Joszef Katus to the Land of Rembrant and even later works like Paul Chevrolet and the Ultimate Hallucination (1985), he never quite achieved the artistic prowess of Wim and can be seen today as a sort of slightly more serious ‘Dutch’ equivalent to Lloyd Kaufman in terms of degenerate schlock influence and curious combination of undeniable likeability and would-be-chic sleaze. As Cowie rightly noted when comparing the producer-cum-director to his former partner Wim, “Pim de la Parra’s successes as a director have been more modest. He is primarily a catalyst, a centre of ceaseless energy and ideas for other to put into practice.”  In that sense, he can certainly be seen as a sort of secondary auteur of Blue Movie, which makes for a good double feature with de la Parra's own sardonically salacious Swinging Amsterdam flick Frank & Eva (1973) also starring Hugo Metsers and featuring Sylvia Kristel in her debut film role.

For being an early fuck flick that even predates the ‘porn chic’ trend sparked by Gerard Damiano’s obscenely overrated Deep Throat (1972), Blue Movie is ultimately strikingly prophetic, especially terms of its ending, as porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) is apparently a serious problem among a lot of modern-day young men as pornography can change the way a man’s brain reacts to sexual arousal.  In other words, pornography is not only largely pathetic, but can also result in sexual retardation, as if the touch and smell of a real woman has been completely neutralized by poorly directed images of a labia-less lady with giant silly silicone tits being blacked by some beefy bro named Tyrone.  Indeed, before porn even became completely vogue in the Occident, Verstappen’s prick-filled flick deconstructed the porn myth of the daredevil dick and really underscored the true pathetic persuasion of porn and the so-called sexual revolution. In that sense, Blue Movie totally transcended any sort of expectations that I had for it (which were admittedly somewhat low). I certainly cannot deny that the film reminded me that the only way to not feel like an emasculated loser while watching porn is if you’re doing it for ‘aesthetic’ reasons (e.g. experiencing true classics like Jonas Middleton’s truly singular hardcore horrorgasm Through the Looking Glass (1976)) and/or in the company of a girl you are about to fuck. Also, there’s something supremely cucked, if not downright gay, about watching some random coke-addled ‘performer’ plow some superlatively silly silicone-powered thot’s well-worn HPV-positive vade-mecum with his extra veiny Viagra-ridden ramrod, but then again I am the sort of guy that cannot help but be reminded of Der Stürmer when I see Ron Jeremy and can only speculate as to how any non-retarded man could find someone as intrinsically plastic and grimy as Jenna Jameson to be extremely sexually desirable.

Of course, most young guys are not going to think of such things and it is no coincidence that the protagonist of Blue Movie is a fairly normal unthinking dude that never considered that there might be some negative aspects to ‘free love’ as he is innately irrational due to being perpetually high on hormones, hence the truly pernicious character of the sexual liberation movement and the rather grotesque and uniquely unsexy virtual gargoyles like Reich and Marcuse that provided the pseudo-philosophical framework to unleash it on Christian Europe.  Speaking of psychoanalytic quacks, not unlike goy Jung with his former kosher mentor Freud, Wim did not really evolve and become an interesting filmmaker with his own distinct voice until after dropping Pim and rejecting a simply sex-obsessed approach to the medium.  After all, Europe did not become great embracing sexual gratification but by deferring it, hence the absurdity of describing sexually degenerate ideas as ‘progressive’ when they are literally and quite unequivocally the opposite.  After all, compare the post-Christian cinematic art of Wim and Pim to the countless great painters (and artists in general) of Dutch Christendom. Indeed, I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that there's more dark erotic intrigue in a small fragment from a painting by Old Dutch Masters like Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder than there is in all of the films of Wim and Pim combined. Additionally, Wim and Pim's approach to the romantically lewd seems rather retarded when compared to one of Godfried Schalcken's more subversive chiaroscuro paintings like ‘A Man Offering Gold and Coins to a Girl,’ but that is exactly why Blue Movie is worth seeing as it painfully, if not playfully, highlights the twilight of Dutch Kultur and spirituality in an almost hypnotically crude fashion.

-Ty E

Apr 3, 2019

Suspiria (2018)

When I first learned that guido giallo maestro Dario Argento’s arguable magnum opus Suspiria (1977) was being remade, I was not all that surprised considering even the most innately idiotic and fiercely forgettable horror films are receiving remakes nowadays as indicated by the existence of such excremental cinema as Andreas Schnaas' Anthropophagous 2000 (1999) and Eli Roth's Knock Knock (2015), at least until I realized that queer Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino—a seemingly constantly evolving arthouse auteur that has never dabbled in horror—of all people would be helming the production. Best known for directing the overrated cocksucking coming-of-age flick Call Me by Your Name (2017) that depicts a lurid love affair between a dorky Jewish teenage (ersatz)twink and a slightly older and more masculine Hebrew in a scenario that is vaguely (but notably enough) similar to underrated artsploitation Italian auteur Salvatore Samperi’s poofter period melodrama Ernesto (1979), Guadagnino seemed a bit ill-equipped to remake a phantasmagorically kaleidoscopic horror classic that was originally directed by a rampantly heterosexual misogynist, yet somehow he didn’t let me down, even if he created a completely different sort of monster that would probably defile the souls of most hardcore Argentophiles. In fact, I would go so far as saying that, in terms of sheer cinematic art that tests the bounds of the medium, Suspiria (2018)—an elegantly eccentric estrogen-drenched arthouse epic poorly disguised as bitchy and witchy horror trash—is superior to Argento’s film, though to compare the two is, to borrow an odd Serbian idiom, like comparing grandmothers and toads. Indeed, whereas the original film was a 98-minute orgasm of neo-gothic terror that basks in incoherence and esoteric intrigue and is arguably best remembered for its potent palette exaggerated neon colors, Guadagnino’s 153-minute epic in eerie aesthetic eccentricity with multilayered stories and a number of strong themes that is literally dark and lacking in even the use of primary colors. In short, the remake is a sort of almost overtly ambitious anti-Suspiria, as if Guadagnino totally hated the original film and decided to completely deconstruct and reinvent it to his liking without even the slightest consideration for diehard fans of the original. Notably, the auteur apparently does not hate the film, but actually has wanted to remake it ever since he was a little kid, albeit as a so-called “cover version” as opposed to a sort shot-for-shot remake à la Psycho (1998) directed by Gus Van Sant. 

 Undoubtedly its eclectic collection of divas both young and old, fierce and frenetic feminine energy, over-the-top aesthetic decadence and sometimes high-camp tableaux, and lesbianic subtext more than hint at the innate queer character of Guadagnino’s shockingly rapturous remake, which is rather fitting considering the film’s time period and setting. Indeed, the film, which is set in 1977—arguably the height of the New German Cinema movement that began in the late-1960s and fizzled out in the early-1980s—was clearly influenced by cocksucking kraut auteur filmmakers, especially Rainer Werner Fassbinder and his dandy-like art fag compatriot Werner Schroeter. In fact, the film’s co-screenwriter David Kajganich once even confessed that, “one of the great wells of inspiration for this film: the work of Rainer Fassbinder. Some of the most potent women on film came out of the crucible of his collaborations with his actresses—including the great Ingrid Caven—and I did my best to construct [Tilda Swinton’s character’s] way of using words and occupying scenes in a Fassbinderian way.” In short, Algerian-blooded guido Guadagnino and his screenwriter were clearly not trying to appease the mostly lowbrow erotophonophiliac tastes of Argento and Fulci fans when they conceived of the film.

Aside from the obvious decadent Teutonic aesthetic influences, the film also virtually pays tribute to the entire New German Cinema movement as a whole—or at least the political spirit of it—via its 1977 German Autumn setting and its (rather unfortunate and clumsily executed) Vergangenheitsbewältigung theme. In its apparent influence of films ranging from the omnibus piece Deutschland im Herbst (1978) aka Germany In Autumn and classic high-camp Werner Schroeter flicks like Der Tod der Maria Malibran (1972) aka The Death of Maria Malibran (which, notably, stars Suspiria star Ingrid Caven), the film virtually covers both the aesthetic and political extremes of New German Cinema, as if Guadagnino simply used the fact that Argento’s original film was set in Berlin, Germany to pay tribute to a beloved Germanic cinema movement. In its arguably pretentious division into a number of narrative acts that conclude with a somewhat surreal climatic epilogue, the film also vaguely recalls Fassbinder’s magnum opus Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), which itself is a period piece that is a ‘remake’ of sorts that also covers a rather traumatic period in the Fatherland's past (the Alfred Döblin novel it is based on was previously adapted by commie-turned-Nazi auteur Phil Jutzi in 1931). In fact, as a huge fan of New German Cinema, I cannot imagine someone fully appreciating Guadagnino’s Suspiria without being at least somewhat familiar with the movement. While New German Cinema only produced a handful of horror flicks, these rather dark and somber cinematic works—which include the Fassbinder-produced sod serial killer flick Tenderness of the Wolves (1973) directed by Ulli Lommel, Niklaus Schilling’s singularly haunting Heimat horror piece Nightshade (1972) aka Nachtschatten, and Hans W. Geissendörfer’s allegorical vampire flick Jonathan (1970)—could have certainly influenced the film due their ominous (and oftentimes cryptic) references to Germany’s past and totally twisted takes on the timeless tradition of German gothic horror.  In fact, despite the majority of these films being fairly unknown, it cannot be ignored that they are certainly more ‘artsy’ than Argento's Suspiria and thus more up Guadagnino's alley.

 As for the film’s brutally baroque Tanz Dance Academy setting, it resembles something in between a somberly lit version of the fascist palace depicted in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s sexually apocalyptic swansong Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) and a lavish château in some obscure Jesús Franco flick like Sinfonía erótica (1980). Of course, despite their more glaring differences, Pasolini, Franco, and Fassbinder certainly had one important thing in common and that was their lifelong dedication to shameless diva-worship, which is certainly strong in Suspiria. Aside from old classic divas like Ingrid Caven—Fassbinder’s one-time wife and criminally-underrated Swiss auteur Daniel Schmid’s main diva that demonstrated an unrivaled talent for morosely melancholic performance in such sickeningly underrated films as Tonight or Never (1972) and La Paloma (1974)—and Paul Verhoeven’s greatest Dutch era diva Renée Soutendijk (Spetters, The Fourth Man), the film features some of the more notable young divas of the modern era, including Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth and—most importantly— Dakota Johnson as the lead. While Argento’s original film certainly features beautiful women, most of these characters seem largely forgettable compared to those in Guadagnino’s remake. Naturally, as an extremely operatic film, this somewhat daunting diva-centrism is imperative as the diva was originally the creation of opera and not cinema. While Argento has never been big on character development—diva oriented or otherwise—the remake does pay tribute to the giallo maestro’s legacy by featuring Suspiria heroine Jessica Harper in a somewhat brief yet imperative role that arguably symbolizes, in a somewhat lame way, German post-WWII guilt over the holocaust. In short, in Guadagnino’s film, there is not a single filler character as every single actor makes some sort of impression, whether it be the exceedingly ectomorphic alien-like South Sudanese negress model Alek Wek in a mostly mute role as a low-level witch or German-Hungarian auteur-cum-cinematographer Fred Kelemen (Frost, Abendland)—probably the last filmmaker you would expect to randomly pop up in a horror remake—in a cameo role as a policeman that literally comes under the spell of the witches. 

 In its seemingly intuitive depiction of the dark side of femininity, it is hard for me to imagine anyone aside from a gay man directing such a film and this is arguably what most distinguishes it from Argento’s original movie, which is hopelessly heterosexual in terms of its very straight scopophiliac approach to the female form; or, in short, it has a glaringly gay gaze as opposed to the stereotypical (heterosexual) male gaze. In fact, aside from a couple exceptions, Argento’s female characters are not much more than aesthetically pleasing ciphers meant to be dispatched in a most marvelously macabre fashion as if the auteur sees the purest poetry in the death of a young dame in her physical prime, hence the (arguably dubious) claim made by certain film critics that he is a misogynist. To the contrary, aside from depicting rather hot young actresses in rather physically and psychologically grotesque ways that will guaranteed to prevent any hetero audience member's cock from getting hard, the remake features a much more unflattering, if not disturbingly intuitive, depiction of womankind than anything Argento ever directed, as Guadagnino, not unlike many great queer filmmakers including Fassbinder and Schroeter, seems to have an instinctual understanding of the more loathsome and monstrous traits associated with the so-called fairer sex, which could not be any less unfair and uniquely insufferable in the film. Indeed, not unlike popular crypto-cucksucker TV creations like Sex and the City and American Horror Story where the warts-and-all approach to femininity is absurdly glorified and undoubtedly a major selling point, Suspiria is expression of a gay man and thus arguably must be read as an unflattering covert depiction of gay men that—by using statuesque twats as stand-ins for sassy sods—ultimately makes women seem more sophisticated than they actually are, hence the disturbing popularity of such ultimately quite sexually deleterious shows among (largely heterosexual) women. In that regard, I am surely not surprised that Argento has complained that the remake, “betrayed the spirit of the original film.”  Rather revealingly, despite being a film that technically does not feature a single gay male character, Guadagnino apparently regards the remake as his most personal to date, which is somewhat ironic considering the auteur originally optioned the film in 2007 with the intention of having David Gordon Green (who, incidentally, also directed his lackluster Halloween remake in 2018) direct it instead of himself.

 Whereas Argento’s film takes a largely esoteric approach and basks in the unexplained and mysterious, Guadagnino’s film is considerably more exoteric (despite being no less esoteric) and provides the viewer with various hints as to how to read the (sub)text. Arguably, most fundamentally, Suspiria is an unconventional tale of historically-charged post-holocaust Jungian individuation where a young and naïve yet talented budding dancer named Susanna ‘Susie’ Bannion (Dakota Johnson)—an American from a strict Ohio Mennonite background that, rather inexplicably, feels like she has been virtually summoned to Berlin to dance shortly after the death of her mother—eventually discovers that she is, in a striking twist, the sort of bodily reincarnation of supreme alpha-witch ‘Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs.’ While Argento’s film was also partially based on opium-addled English essayist Thomas De Quincey's text Suspiria de Profundis (1845) aka Sighs from the Depths, this source was undoubtedly a much more crucial influence on Guadagnino’s undeniably more intricate film. Unlike the heroine in Argento’s film, Susie is no mere stupid innocent American with simple dreams of stardom, although she initially seems as such, and the only real good guy is an elderly psychiatrist named Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton in old fart drag as ‘Lutz Ebersdorf’) who is not even in the original film. In a morbidly matriarchal cinematic work consumed with sinister (and arguably Sapphic) feminine energy, it is only fitting that the (arguable true) protagonist is a patriarchal character that provides fatherly help to young dancers in trouble, even if he is rather weak and ineffectual and ultimately provides very little help to the girls he attempts to save.  Of course, the good doctor's guilt and weakness are no coincidence as they are surely symbolic of the spiritually castrated state of post-WWII Deutschland.  After all, as Guadagnino has stated himself, a main theme of the film is, “the uncompromising force of motherhood,” so it is no surprise that patriarchy would be allegorically personified in the patently pathetic form of a nearly mummified childless intellectual that still hasn't gotten over the fact that he lacked the strength to keep his wife alive over thirty years ago.

As can be expected in such a film, Dr. Klemperer finds it somewhat questionable when some of his patients, including Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Sara Simms (Mia Goth), begin complaining about the witchy tendencies of their teachers at the Tanz Dance Academy, so naturally he gets deeply involved when the girls eventually disappear under dubious circumstances. Undoubtedly, Dr. Klemperer’s failure and inadequacy when it comes to saving both his Jewish wife Anke Meier (Jessica Harper) during WWII and his female patients can be seen as symbolic of the hopelessly emasculated and guilt-ridden state of post-WWII Europa.  Just like his Jewess wife and her warnings of the Nazis, the good doctor fails to act soon enough when he patients warn of the very imminent danger that waits them. Even though Dr. Klemperer is the only character that manages to uncover the secret witch coven operating at the dance studio, he lacks the strength and youthful exuberance and will-to-power to even truly challenge such fiercely feminine and malevolently matriarchal evil, just as German authorities were not prepared for the untamed nihilistic terrorism of the largely estrogen-driven Red Army Faction (RAF) whose aberrant actions fittingly act as a hauntingly ethno-masochistic backdrop to the film. In short, Dr. Klemperer is both literally and figuratively the sick old man of Europe and he and his Jungian theories seem like an absurd anachronism in a decadent West German world that is being terrorized by hyper hedonistic neo-Marxist would-be-rock-stars that want to castrate the cock of the Fatherland.  Needless to say, it is not by sheer coincidence that Mater Suspiriorum makes her great reappearance during this weak and decadent point in Germany history.

 In a world of virtual demonic divas where there is not a single male dancer and a system of covert unspoken misandry reigns, masculinity is naturally undermined the handful of times it makes an appearance at the academy.  For example, when a couple police detectives show up at Tanz Dance Academy to investigate the disappearance of one of the girls, the witches amuse themselves by engaging in termagant terror as they put the two men under some sort of spell, force one of them to strip off his pants and underwear, and then collectively mock the unconscious cop’s cock by playfully pointing at it, laughing, and calling it “kitty” as if it is a ‘pussy’ of some sort. At the end of the film, they use a similar form of sexual humiliation against Dr. Klemperer—an elderly man that seems especially debased by such experiences, as if he is a concentration camp prisoner that is about to be gassed by the all-the-more-sinister sister of Satan himself—by stripping him completely naked while he is somewhat incapacitated and forcing him to endure their big finale ritual since they need a ‘witness’ while he lies on the ground in a fetal position and babbles hysterically about his innocence during the National Socialist era (which, of course, he was also a sort of pathetic passive ‘witness’ to, hence his seemingly perennial guilt). Of course, these witches have certain Sapphic tendencies, as Madame Blanc (also Tilda Swinton)—arguably the fairest and least insufferable of the two head (competing) witches, which also includes a grotesque rotting beastess named ‘Mother Helena Markos’ that literally lurks in the dark for most of the movie—clearly has an almost immediate deep affection for her young blonde nubile American protégé Susie Bannion (whereas Markos simply sees the little lady as a body she can use as her new earthly vessel). The sadomasochistic lesbian nature of the dance academy is also hinted at when Patricia Hingle states at the beginning of the film with a strange combination of fear and fascination in regard to the carpet-muncher coven that she so hysterically fears, “They'll hollow me out and have my cunt on a plate.” All of this adds up to a totally twisted realm of staunch gynocentrism that is so innately irrationally destructive and cannibalistic that it eventually leads to the deaths of about half the witches; or, more specifically, a superlatively sick and sanguinely Sapphic Götterdämmerung of sorts.  In the end, the power struggle between Madame Blanc and Mother Markos ultimately leads to both women being destroyed and the extermination of the latter's followers, which one could certainly argue is symbolic of the ‘spiritual’ war between Germans (and Germanic people in general) and World Jewry during WWII.

Undoubtedly, it is quite fitting that a film about a power struggle between pernicious witches is set in 1970s Germany as it depicts an era reflecting the first generations of krauts, who inherited the supposed sins of their Nazi parents and grandparents, to collectively embrace feminism, which was arguably most glaringly and idiotically represented by the psychotic cunts of the Baader-Meinhof Gang like Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. The same era also produced the first generation of prominent German feminist and/or lesbian filmmakers, including Margarethe von Trotta, UIrike Ottinger, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Doris Dörrie, Helke Sander, and Elfi Mikesch (who is best known for shooting the films of Werner Schroeter and probably the greatest female cinematographer of all-time), among various others. One should also probably mention Austrian performance artist turned auteur Valie Export who, as her more aberrant-garde films like Unsichtbare Gegner (1977) aka Invisible Adversaries demonstrate, would have been perfectly at home at the witch dance coven. To watch films by some of these female filmmakers, one might assume they were either witches or demonically possessed as they feature sympathetic portrayals of the Baader-Meinhof Gang and tend to depict largely soulless (pseudo)intellectual women that lack any sort of maternal instincts and see men as either an oppressive pestilence and/or insufferably arrogant fuck-toys. Indubitably, Chancellor of Germany of Angela Merkel—a childless (ex)communist that, in terms of feminine prowess, is about as dainty as a Dobermann—is surely symbolic of this generation (despite being from Eastern Germany) and I do not think that it is any coincidence that she has single-handedly caused more long-term damage to the Father(less)land than any American or British firebombers caused during WWII by opening the flood gates to a virtually apocalyptic deluge of innately hostile phony refugees from the global south. Not unlike many modern European politicians, Merkel has no children and thus has no need to take heed of Germany’s rather dubious future.  At least figuratively speaking, Merkel is the kraut witch par excellence, but I digress.

 Of course, Suspiria is a film that obsesses over mothers—both biological and symbolic—albeit in a largely sinister, ungodly, and hardly totally literal fashion. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Mother Suspiriorum is a sort of goddess of death and that she randomly appears in 1970s West Germany as it is a country that has since been plagued with a suicidal drop in the birth rate of the indigenous white population as at least partly inspired by (the at-least-partly-Hollywood-induced sham of) Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which undoubtedly gave birth to metaphysically sick miscreations like the feminist movement and self-destructive commie movements like the RAF. Mother Suspiriorum is hardly the sort of mother that enjoys pregnancy and breastfeeding, but instead the witch equivalent of a wicked whacked-out bitch that engages in Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP). In fact, Suspiriorum demonstrates her maternal qualities by literally summoning death to kill her enemies and reveals her idea of mercy by allowing the undead corpse-like victims of Markos to finally kick the bucket.  In short, she takes a little bit too much pride in providing mercy to the singularly suffering.  In fact, most of the motherly displays by the witches is glaringly phony aside from how Madame Blanc closely mentors Susie—though she is clearly her ‘favorite’ (which mother's aren't supposed to have)—and, of course, is, not coincidentally, ultimately revealed to be the great Mother Suspiriorum.

It is notable that, in a flashback scene, Susie’s mother—notably a strict Mennonite and thus someone of German descent—complains, “My daughter. My last one. She’s my sin. She’s what I smeared on the world.” Indeed, it is surely fitting that Susie compulsively travels to Berlin after the death of her mother as if being compelled by some ominous unseen force where she is reborn as the ‘Mother of Sighs,’ as post-WWII Germany and especially New German Cinema has enough sighs and mothers to go around as Odin and his imperative influence are nowhere to be found in contemporary krautland. As films ranging from Sanders-Brahms's Deutschland bleiche Mutter (1980) aka Germany, Pale Mother to Edgar Reitz's Heimat (1984) reveal, the mother is the (rather desperate) backbone of post-WWII Germany and the father is either physically or emotionally completely absent. Undoubtedly, Thomas De Quincey could have been speaking of the titular heroines of Schroter’s The Death of Maria Malibran (1972), Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), and Ottinger’s Freak Orlando (1981) when he once wrote in regard to Mother Suspiriorum, “Her eyes, if they were ever seen, would be neither sweet nor subtle; no man could read their story; they would be found filled with perishing dreams, and with wrecks of forgotten delirium.” In short, much of New German Cinema reveals a largely male-less world full of damaged dames and Suspiria also depicts an unhinged world where damaged dames also dominate society. Of course, as virtually all of European history demonstrates, a gynocentric Europe is no Europe at all; or, to be more precise, there is no ‘Fatherland’ without a father. 

 Out of all the filmmakers associated with New German Cinema, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg—an auteur that dared to combine the aesthetic theories of proto-NS Romantic composer Richard Wagner with the audience-alienating dramaturgy of bolshie bastard Bertolt Brecht—was pretty much the only one that did not fetishize and/or sympathize with leftist terrorist groups like the RAF. In fact, Syberberg who probably not coincidentally, spent his youth in East Germany before eventually moving to Bavaria in the early-1950s, was really the only filmmaker to seriously acknowledge and critique the culturally apocalyptic Americanization of German culture and uprooting of great German traditions that naturally occurred in West Germany. I would also argue that, to a somewhat lesser extent, Suspiria attempts to aesthetically do what Syberberg did with his films in terms of being one of the closet examples of a horror film attempting to be a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (aka ‘total work of art’) in terms of its utilization of a number of artistic mediums (e.g. dance, opera, performance art, literature/mythology, etc.), but of course it would be a sort of political liability for Guadagnino to even mention the cinematic neo-Wagnerian as he is more or less unofficially blacklisted in his homeland due to some of his less than kosher political statements in regards to Jews and left-wingers. Among other things, Syberberg was one of the few filmmakers to actually attempt to not only acknowledge, but also honestly diagnose the spiritual sickness and metaphysical malaise that plagues post-WWII Germany, thus making his cinematic work worth seeing for anyone that wants a deeper understanding of some of the more implicitly Teutonic themes touched on in Suspiria. Indeed, whereas Fassbinder and most of the other directors associated with New German Cinema were part of said sickness, Syberberg at least attempted to combat it in terms of both art and deeds while criticizing his contemporaries, hence his lack of popularity among his peers despite being revered by celebrated cineastes ranging from Henri Langlois to Susan Sontag. 

 Notably, not long after the release of an omnibus film co-directed by Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Edgar Reitz, and various other filmmakers, Syberberg once wrote in regard to what he perceived as the post-shoah cultural cuckoldry and innate cluelessness of his leftist peers, “Now a film was made on this topic, entitled GERMANY IN AUTUMN, by filmmakers of my generation, about the guilt that went back to a different generation. But how are we to depict guilt without a concept? Without aesthetic, metaphysical control and responsibility? I heard from them about anxiety fits—surely small ones compared with mine—in the face of our generation’s representation-compulsion thirty years ago. But without this labor, cinema as a genre will surrender its possibilities. Too many things so far remain unreflected upon, tied to reality, action, goal-oriented, a part of the entertainment and propaganda industry. A profound impotence of means strikes us before the question of how to depict all this—namely, just why all this? This terror, this eruption? Is it not something like the explosion of repressed German irrationalism? The dull, unconscious shriek of a diseased nation without an identity? So much suppression of its own tradition and its nature was bound to evoke aggressions, in the German manner, radical and fanatic. But the decay of methods is dismal. An entire generation in Germany was simply not trained to understand and manipulate the things lying beyond the rational. . . .” Of course, Syberberg rightly considered irrationalism to be an innate and imperative ingredient of Teutonic kultur ranging from fairy-tales to Wagner and one could certainly argue that Suspiria represents a sinister, albeit bastardized, example of this Teutonic tradition that is so ingrained in the Aryan collective unconscious that it is most strongly unleashed in an American Mennonite girl, who becomes what can be seen as being like a sort of spiritually deathly dyke sister of the old German pagan deity and ‘All-Father’ Odin.  In fact, considering both the physical and cultural colonization of West Germany following the capitulation of the Third Reich, it is only natural that Susie is American.

 If there is one individual that is a sort of link between old school German irrationalism and New German Cinema, it is the late great auteur Christoph Schlingensief who, on top of proclaiming to be a maternal relative of Joseph Goebbels, once dared to remake National Socialist auteur Veit Harlan’s morbid melodrama Opfergang (1944) as a savagely sardonic satire. Aside from his obsession with (mostly recent) German history, Schlingensief has a small connection of sorts to Suspiria in that he and Tilda Swinton were once lovers and she even played the heroine of his obscenely underrated film Egomania - Insel ohne Hoffnung (1986) aka Egomania: Island Without Hope (which, incidentally, also stars Udo Kier who also starred in Argento’s original film). Despite its use of unnerving dark humor, including Kier as a demonic baron in drag, Egomania, in many ways, feels like a bad dream about German history of the past century or so, as if it is a depiction of one of the worst nightmares from one of the older witches from Suspiria, but I digress. All of these things got me thinking how that, despite its mischling Italian director and international cast, Guadagnino’s film feels more like a piece of German cinema history than anything else, which says a lot considering the same cannot be said of the films of most contemporary German directors. 

In its various overt (e.g. shots of books) and subtextual references to Jung, Suspiria naturally hints at the collective unconscious and it can be argued that heroine’s Susie’s climatic transformation into Mater Suspiriorum is simply a phantasmagoric depiction of Jungian Individuation, which involves the personal and collective unconscious being brought into the consciousness and ultimately assimilated into the whole personality. In fact, just as Jung indicated, Susie finally achieves this transformation via dreams, artistic expression, and free association, among other things, but I would argue that the arrival of the fiercely feminine Mater Suspiriorum is also symbolic of the demise of the masculine Wotan (aka Odin) archetype that Jung once notably wrote about in reference to Hitler and the Third Reich. Indeed, in his controversial 1936 essay Wotan, Jung argued, “We are always convinced that the modern world is a reasonable world, basing our opinion on economic, political, and psychological factors. But if we may forget for a moment that we are living in the year of Our Lord 1936, and, laying aside our well-meaning, all-too human reasonableness, may burden God or the gods with the responsibility for contemporary events instead of man, we would find Wotan quite suitable as a causal hypothesis. In fact, I venture the heretical suggestion that the unfathomable depths of Wotan’s character explain more of National Socialism than all three reasonable factors put together. There is no doubt that each of these factors explains an important aspect of what is going on in Germany, but Wotan explains yet more. He is particularly enlightening in regard to a general phenomenon, which is so strange to anybody not a German that it remains incomprehensible, even after the deepest reflection.” While Mater Suspiriorum might be a fictional invention of Guadagnino and, in turn, Argento and De Quincey, she is certainly is an archetype that symbolizes something very real as personified in a quite suicidal Germany that refuses to reproduce, allows itself to by colonized by ancient perennial alien invaders, and cares not for what arguably matters most—its ancient art, culture, and traditions. In short, without the return of Wotan and demise of what Mater Suspiriorum really represents, Germany might disappear from history just like the ancient Romans that the Germanic tribes once conquered after the people became too decadent and averse to reproduction, among other things.  Of course, luckily for the Romans, they were at least conquered by a fellow European race and not hyper hostile groups that turned places like Sicily, Spain, and Greece into racial/cultural wastelands.

Of course, like tons of films and TV shows created by gay men ranging from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) to American Horror Story, Suspiria is arguably first and foremost the expression of a literal art fag projecting his own group's arcane homosocial tendencies onto a group of women, thereupon making women seem more sophisticated and cleverly vicious than they actually are (not that women aren't known for being particularly vicious) while giving the auteur the opportunity to live vicariously through stylish and exotic female characters.  After all, despite the themes of the ostensibly classic lesbian-themed film Mädchen in Uniform (1931), the oppressive hierarchical structure depicted in the film is more typical of gay men than woman, or as Camille Paglia once noted in her magnum opus Sexual Personae (1990), “I notice that the Wildean-style homosexual still speaks of race and class with the same breezy daring. Oppressed groups tend to oppress other subgroups. But lesbians do not talk this way. On the contrary, lesbians, in my experience, are relentlessly populist—possibly a function of their repressed maternalism. Male homosexuals have an instinct for hierarchy unparalleled in contemporary culture, outside of Roman Catholicism. Hierarchism explains their cult of the Hollywood star, in whom so many are dazzlingly learned.”  Notably, the film's major cinematic influence, Fassbinder, accomplished something similar in his early classic chamber piece Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (1972) aka The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant where Margit Carstensen and Hanna Schygulla act as stand-ins in terms of depicting the disastrous one-sided romance of the filmmaker and his black Bavarian ex-lover Günther Kaufmann.  Notably, Werner Schroeter, who I would argue had an even bigger aesthetic influence on Suspiria than Fassbinder, went even further and had Isabelle Huppert act as his stand-in in the curious form of identical twin sisters(!) in his insanely nonlinear autobiographical penultimate film Deux (2002) aka Two. In fact, out of all the films I can think of, Schroeter's Tag der Idioten (1981) aka Day of the Idiots—a film starring model and one-time Bond Carole Bouquet that is set in a mental hospital that is plagued by Sapphic surrealism and the obscenely gorgeously grotesque (including a uniquely unhinged urolagnia scenario)—is the one that most reminds me of Guadagnino's film. Needless to say, I don't think it is a coincidence that Ingrid Caven appears in both films, just as I don't think it is a coincidence that there is very little difference between the dance academy and mental hospital as both surely represent the insanely incendiary irrationalism and deep black bottomless abyss that is the feminine psyche, especially one that has been left unchecked and completely neglected to be penetrated by a true patriarchal influence.   

Suspiria may be an Italian remake of an Italian film directed by an Italian director, but it owes its broken black heart and deathly despondent soul to the degenerate generation of kraut filmmakers that beat the La Nouvelle Vague at their own game in terms of unbridled iconoclasm and reinventing the cinematic language.  In that sense, Guadagnino is inordinately cinematically literate and demonstrates a grand eclecticism in his virtually celestial synchronization of Italian horror and New German Cinema that puts pathologically posturing pop cineastes like Tarantino and Nicolas Winding Refn to abject shame.  Undoubtedly, one of the things that makes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 1791 opera The Magic Flute (and especially Ingmar Bergman's 1975 cinematic adaptation Trollflöjten) such a joyous experience in the end is that it depicts a honorable patriarchy destroying a malefic matriarchal force.  Needless to say, horror makes a suitable genre for depicting the triumphing of the matriarchal spirit, hence the true visceral power of a film like Suspiria where one learns the real reason as to why certain women—usually the worst sort of women—were suspected of being witches in the past.  Of course, the film also teaches us that it takes a gay man—or, more specifically, a guido cocksucker with a feminine spirit—to teach heterosexual men the true nuances of misogyny, henceforth confirming that Guadagnino's hero Fassbinder taught him well.

-Ty E