Jul 31, 2014

The Future Is Woman

As a man who once directed a film, The Last Woman (1976) aka La Dernière femme aka L'ultima donna, where a sexually potent proletarian castrates his meaty member because he cannot handle the sexual power that a young little bodacious bitch with nice tits has over him, Italian auteur Marco Ferreri (La Grande Bouffe, Bye Bye Monkey) was probably the most likely filmmaker to come up with a self-cuckolding film title like The Future Is Woman (1984) aka Il futuro è donna. Indeed, while the title of Ferreri’s film refers to the fact that women literally are the future of humanity in that they reproduce and carry on mankind, it is also a figurative remark regarding the dominant position that women will take in the future in all regards, or so one would assume after watching a film where the male protagonist, a bourgeois communist male of the mentally and physically weak sort, dies pathetically after being trampled by a bunch of goofy goombah music fans while protecting his wife, who only becomes all the more stronger after her husband's grizzly premature death. Ferreri’s second and final collaboration with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s main muse Hanna Schygulla, who previously starred in the director’s somewhat inferior work The Story of Piera (1983) aka Storia di Piera, The Future Is Woman is more or less a morbid and sometimes even grotesque quasi-melodrama that depicts how the ostensible ‘revolutionaries’ of the Marxist far-left student movement of the late-1960s, as well as the Italian bourgeoisie (of course, most of these armchair revolutionaries came from middleclass backgrounds), have gotten weak and passive and, quite thankfully, will die out soon as they are too spiritually and physically impotent to produce progeny. Depicting a troubled ménage à trios between Schygulla, Guido Goddess Ornella Muti (who previously starred in Ferreri’s The Last Woman and Tales of Ordinary Madness), and goofy ½ Danish frog Niels Arestrup (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, A Prophet), Ferreri's work is surely a rare quasi-feminist flick that is not banal as hell, though it might make the viewer question whether or not auteur Ferreri was seriously considering becoming an eunuch at the time he made the film, as a somewhat matriarchal work where virtually all of the male characters are weak, meek, and passive. Featuring an upbeat Italo-disco soundtrack with numerous highly addictive songs like “Banana” by Jane Chiquita, Hanna Schygulla dancing around ecstatically in crowded club while sporting quite unbecoming black 1980s spandex pants, a rather therapeutic scene where a wussy guy who likes wearing Che Guevara t-shirts gets his skull crushed, and seedy skinheads picking on hot goombah gals by threatening to punch them in the stomach, Ferreri’s film is certainly a curious celluloid oddity of sorts, even if for the most part like lacks the director’s signature sardonic humor. The partly tragic but ultimately ‘uplifting’ (especially for a Ferreri flick!) tale of a married aging middle-aged of the new left sort who refuse to have children of their own, only to have their views tested upon providing shelter and sex to a young pregnant chick who describes herself as a “warrior,” The Future Is Woman is a rare cinematic marriage between 1980s aesthetic Euro-cheese and avant-garde arthouse pretense that has aged quite gracefully over the years.

While hanging out at an ostensibly ‘hip’ and ‘happening’ Italo-disco club called Marabu Music Hall, a failed leftist revolutionary/tree-mover named Gordon (Niels Arestrup) manages to successfully find his wife Anna (Hanna Schygulla) among all the people in the big building while blindfolded.  As his friends remark, Gordon will do anything for Anna and he has no problem tracking her merely by tracking out her particular scent.  After playing the game, Anna, who symbolically refuses to reverse roles and play the blindfolded game, spots a pregnant young woman named Malvina (Ornella Muti) crying for help as he is being roughed up by a couple young Guido guys, including a skinhead, so she comes to the rescue. Despite being married, Anna agrees to “fuck” the men if they leave Malvina alone, though she never actually carries out her half of the deal. Unbeknownst to Anna, Malvina, who is five or six months pregnant (she is not actually sure), has chosen her to become the adoptive mother of her unborn child. A bourgeois commie of sorts who has become a passive whore of capitalism as an ‘artist’/designer who works in the cultural department of a megastore, Anna has a bizarre obsession with projecting stock footage of dead children from Hiroshima and other historical atrocities over photos of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich while hanging out in her office. In fact, Anna has giant busts of Garbo and Dietrich—two highly independent and individualistic women who, not unlike the protagonist, attempted to act like men and lacked many traditional female traits—commissioned for her store, though the customers are ultimately repelled by the gigantic diva sculptures. Unquestionably, as his friends recognize, Gordon worships Anna but she treats her somewhat effeminate hubby like the slavish ½ man that he is.  Of course, it only becomes a matter of time before Anna becomes quite irked by the fact that her groveling husband begins to give some of his attention to a young salacious chick like Malvina, who has the gall to complain, “what about me?,” while watching the married couple have fetish-fueled sex. Indeed, in no time, a juicy ménage à trois blossoms between the three but it ends just as quickly as it began.

Naturally, when Malvina moves in with the somewhat unconventional married couple, Anna almost instantly becomes jealous of her young rival and soon attempts to throw the knocked up homeless girl out of her humble abode.  Indeed, Anna not only accuses Malvina of stealing her life and home, but the unborn baby as well.  Rather absurdly, Malvina attempts to appeal to Gordon's discernibly fragile ego by telling him that he looks like Marlon Brando (even though he looks more like Klaus Kinski had his head been squashed) and naturally the middle-aged man is quite flattered by the young lady’s attention. Of course, as a man that digs his teeth into his wife's derriere on command like a little dog, Gordon is a slave of Anna who, although somewhat of a jealous bitch, at least temporarily allows her hubby the opportunity of a lifetime of partaking in a threesome with a young pregnant girl. While a domineering and somewhat masculinized alpha-chick (undoubtedly, he dyke-like haircut accentuates her 'manliness') who carries around her spouse’s tiny testicles in her purse, Anna eventually becomes an unwitting slave of sorts to Malvina, demanding nice meals (especially chicken) and other sort of things for the benefit of her unborn baby. When Anna’s jealously of Malvina becomes too unbearable after she catches the pregnant babe modelling one of her fancy dresses for Gordon, she kicks the young lady out of her home and makes a pathetic failed attempt at suicide. Of course, Anna later has second thoughts and Malvina once again reenters her and her husband’s life just as if nothing has happened. Although a patent pansy and pathetic pervert who says sick stuff like, “If I were a father, I’d like to make love to my daughter…And not get my nose and ears cut off as punishment,” and is reduced to tears merely because his wife is late getting home one night, Gordon is certainly an uncompromising protector of both Anna and Malvina and when a riot breaks out at a large concert after a bunch of music fans storm the arena after being denied entry, he even dies protecting the two special ladies in his life after someone steps on his skull. After having Gordon cremated at what looks like some sort of futuristic concentration camp, Anna develops a deeper bond with Malvina that resembles a sort of warped mother-daughter relationship. One night while hanging out at an isolated beach in the country, Anna tells Malvina to expose her stomach to the moon, which induces labor in the little lady. In the end, Malvina’s ‘maternal mission’ is accomplished, as she gives Anna her baby so she can continue living her life as wanton wandering young woman who has no problem accidentally getting pregnant and pawning off her children to other people.

Unquestionably, one of the most potent and memorable things about The Future Is Woman is its rather singular depiction of the superficially ‘zany’ yet reactionary (indeed, during one scene, Gordon is harassed and searched by the cops merely because he is playing soccer late at night) zeitgeist in which it was made. Indeed, depicting a time when one’s fashion sense was more important than their personality and personal integrity, far-left politics had grown even more stale and vapid, cocaine was consumed as much as Coca-Cola (in one rather grotesque scene, Anna finds the pale corpse of an Italo-Disco fan who snorted one-too-many lines), and new and more ‘inhuman’ forms of authoritarian technocracy began to consume the Occidental world, Ferreri’s film ultimately demonstrated that Wop-land was not much different from America at that time, though those gregarious Guidos certainly had greater music and a more refined fashion sense, not to mention more exotically erotic women. In its depiction of a deracinated ‘modern’ post-feminist woman of the rather bitchy sort who has complete control over her husband and who ultimately becomes the (pseudo)mother of a child sired from a classically feminine woman that probably flunked one of those absurdly easy feminist indoctrination courses they have in college, The Future Is Woman seems to, quite absurdly, argue that the children of the future must be reared and educated by frigid self-centered single mothers. In that sense, Ferreri seems like a postmodern prophet, as single-mothers with bastard children have become quite the growing phenomenon in the western world, especially in the United States where a woman, especially a so-called ‘woman of color,’ can jumpstart a workless career merely by allowing herself to get knocked up by the most degenerate of criminal thugs, thus securing herself a nice big welfare check that only grows larger with each extra bastard baby spawned. Of course, Schygulla’s character is depicted as the height of female sophistication and cultivation and not as a morbidly obese sub-literate welfare queen. Indeed, as a sort of spiritual daughter of bisexual Aryan bitches Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich (notably, the latter of whom died single and childless), protagonist Anna fits in with what Viennese Jewish philosopher Otto Weininger described as the ‘prostitute’ type (as opposed to ‘mother’ type)  of woman who, although highly intelligent and completely emancipated from man, more or less lacks all the necessary maternal qualities one needs to be a decent mother yet Ferreri absurdly makes her a mommy in the end. While I found the film to have a somewhat incoherent and rather dubious message, The Future Is Woman is most certainly one of Ferreri’s most underrated and overlooked yet strangely accessible works, as a film that, in terms of style, is like a Guido Liquid Sky (1982) minus the satirical sci-fi element with a tinge of late period Buñuel as directed by a lapsed Marxist feminist cuckold whose greatest dream is to sacrifice himself for his bitchy significant other by dying in a brutal fashion. Indeed, like many Mediterranean men, especially of the Italian persuasion, Ferreri seemed to accept his position as a member of the ostensibly inferior sex. 

-Ty E

Jul 30, 2014

Snails in the Head

Although best remembered, if remembered at all, for her small role as a high-class whore in Marco Ferreri’s savage anti-bourgeois satire La Grande Bouffe (1973) and playing alongside Isabelle Huppert in Claude Goretta’s class-conscious erotic romance flick The Lacemaker (1977) aka La dentellière, French actress Florence Giorgetti deserves to be recognized for probably being the only actress in cinema history who has starred in multiple artsy horror-thriller films as a hysterical woman who suffers the ultimate female insult of being in a relationship with a pansy poof painter who prefers men over women (to make things stranger, Giorgetti also happens to be the mother of French painter Frédéric Arditi, though I am not sure as to whether or not he is on the pink team). Giorgetti’s first cinematic excursion in the realm of flicks about chicks that unwittingly date guys that like dicks was as the eponymous character of superlatively strange quasi-Hitchcockian sodomite slasher flick Monique (1978) aka Flashing Lights directed by undeservedly forgotten artsploitation auteur/gay pornographer Jacques Scandelari (Beyond Love and Evil, New York City Inferno). The second film Giorgetti starred in playing the role of a forsaken babe with a boy-buggering beau, Snails in the Head (1980) aka Un escargot dans la tête, was also directed by a fag frog filmmaker/pornographer by the name of Jean-Étienne Siry. When not directing homo hardcore flicks like Mâles hard corps (1977) and And God Created Man (1978) aka Et... Dieu créa les hommes, Siry was working in the more respectable trade of designing poster art for films ranging from Richard Lester’s Beatles vehicle Help! (1965) to Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lola (1981). As far as I can tell, Snails in the Head is Siry’s first and sole directing excursion in the non-pornographer realm, as a rather idiosyncratic psychosexual horror-thriller with surrealist elements. Indeed, like Scandelari’s Monique, Siry’s film is from a forgotten time in film history during the late-1970s/early-1980s when gay auteur-pornographer’s thought they could capitalize off the popularity of the horror/exploitation cinema while also including a semi-cryptic gay subtext depicting the ‘horrors’ of a homo attempting to live an ostensibly heterosexual lifestyle. Featuring ambient synthesizer-driven soundtrack by Didier Vasseur, who also got his start in gay porn (he scored Jack Deveau’s Le musée (1976) aka Strictly Forbidden, which Siry penned and also starred in) and also appears briefly in the film as a musician, Snails in the Head is a nasty and surprisingly nuanced, if not predictably uneven, little celluloid nightmare that is quite unquestionably trashy and even kitschy in parts, but also manages to be quite unnerving, as if the viewer has the distinct displeasure of being wrapped up in the perturbing (psycho)drama going on inside the fagola filmmaker’s unhinged head. The film is also notable for conforming to racial stereotypes, as the slur ‘Snail-Snapper’ is not used against the French people for nothing, thus making Snails in the Head a sort of French (anti)Heimat horror flick. 

 Opening with the generic warning, “Between dream and reality is a frontier that no-one should ever cross…,” Snails in the Head immediately lets the viewer know that they are about to enter a sometimes surreal world that blurs the line between reality and fucked fantasy. Hélène (Florence Giorgetti) is a somewhat successful novelist, but something must be wrong with her as she is currently staying in a mental institution and one night while sleeping in her hospital room she suffers a horrible hallucination where she sees snails crawling out of the wall during what seems like an earthquake (undoubtedly, this scene seems to anticipate the hospital scene from Clive Barker's Hellraiser). When Hélène’s ex-boyfriend Antoine (Jean-Claude Bouillon) comes by to check on her at the nuthouse, it is revealed she is a highly hysterical woman that has a hard time keeping a mensch around. Happily married with a child, Antoine accuses Hélène of destroying her previous relationships with him and her husband Philippe, venomously stating, “You wanted him to live only through you and for you […] You always destroy everything you touch. It seems you take delight in doing people’s misfortune.” Of course, more daunting drama and devastating eventually comes into Hélène’s life when she involved with a widowed painter named Edouard (played by underrated frog actor Renaud Verley, who previously starred in Visconti’s The Damned (1969) and Claudio Guerín’s A Bell From Hell), who had himself institutionalized after losing his ability to paint after both his wife and daughter were tragically killed in a car accident. Naturally, Hélène is delighted to hear that Edouard is a fan of her latest novel, though she is saddened by his remark that he does not like the portrait of her that was featured on the back of the book. As it turns out, the novelist's ex-husband Philippe took the photo, which Edouard concludes was taken by a man who, “didn’t like women very much.”  If one thing is for sure, it is that Philippe haunts the nut-job novelist's life, as she constantly daydreams about being sexually devoured by her ex-hubby who, although not actually featured in the film (aside from a couple flashback sex scenes), has a certain mystique about him that little Eddie seems to lack.

 Of course, when both Hélène and Edouard get out of the loony bin, they begin dating one another, with their first date being at the former’s dimly lit houseboat. After introducing Edouard to her beloved pet owl Dimitri, Hélène plays a record of Wagner’s “Liebestod” and the painter morbidly and ultimately prophetically declares, “Wagner is the King…Die loving…Love to death…to the height that only death can understand.” As one can expect, Edouard eventually gets his wish to “love to death,” though it is not nearly as romantic as he probably hoped it would be. Of course, in no time, Hélène moves out of her quaint houseboat and moves into Edouard's considerably eerie and equally disconcerting rural farmhouse. Indeed, a man that has not gotten over the death of his wife and child, Edouard not only keeps two mannequins at his dinner table to make him feel less lonely in regard to his recently deceased family, but he has also kept the smashed car that his loved ones died in. While Hélène has, to some dubious degree, fallen in ‘love’ with Edouard, the painter’s elderly friends, an old busybody bitch named Mrs. Sevetier (Jeanne Allard) and her quasi-cuckolded husband Mr. Sevetier (Marcel Gassouk), describe her as a “whore” behind her back. As a man who describes his deceased wife as having a “bitch look” and sometimes nostalgically recollects murder fantasies he has had in the past, Ed is not exactly the most stable of individuals. Indeed, after describing how his dead spouse and her friends once were, “posing and parading like fags to mock me. I could have killed all of them! All of them!,” Edouard violently stabs a piece of food like an autistic child with a unhealthy addiction to Ritalin and shitty slasher flick, which does not exactly cheer up Hélène who, despite having just fallen in love, has an impenetrable case of melancholy. Upon learning Ed and his friends the Sevetiers love raising and eating snails, Hélène begins having grotesque nightmares about slimy mollusks, including one rather disturbing dream where she gives birth to hundreds of these slimy creatures while doctors celebrate by drinking wine (after all, France is the land of wine-sniffing Snail-Snappers). Of course, things get all the more strange when Edouard paints a portrait of Hélène with a giant snail on the top of her head. 

 When Hélène and Edouard go to see the former’s ex-boyfriend Antoine, their relationship ultimately becomes tumbling down in a most deleterious sort of way that not love affair could recover from. Indeed, when Antoine reveals to Hélène that her lawyer has been trying to get in touch with her for days because her ex-husband, who she constantly has flashbacks of having sex with, has committed suicide via self-lynching. Upon learning of the tragic news, Hélène becomes completely hysterical and irrationally hostile and when Ed attempts to comfort her, she absurdly blames him for the suicide of her ex-husband, calls him a “dirty faggot,” and tells him to get away from her. To top everything off, Hélène’s beloved owl attacks Edouard, so the painter breaks the cute little creature's neck, throws it at his decidedly distraught girlfriend, and storms out of the house. Taking what Hélène said to heart, Edouard decides to become a “dirty faggot” and begins a romantic relationship with a Viking-like dude with longhair and leather-fag mustache named Etienne (Charles Dubois), but before joining the pink team, the poof painter ritualistically burns his two mannequins and the car his wife and child died in, thus symbolically destroying all ties to his past and previous life as a heterosexual family man. Instead of painting portraits of Hélène, Ed begins working on a morbid portrait of his boy toy Etienne’s decapitated head. When Hélène shows up to Edouard’s humble abode in a desperate attempt to rekindled their scorched relationship and defiantly declares to Mrs. Sevetier, “I come to see my lover to get laid,” she discovers that her less than sane beau, who is too drunk on snails and sodomy to care about some sad slag, wants nothing to do with her. Eventually, Hélène receives a letter from Edouard telling her to meet him at his house, but when she does, she discovers her lover dead with snails crawling on his fairy face. In the end, the film comes full-circle, as Hélène is awakens in her room at the mental institution and discovers snails, as well as Edouard, coming through cracks in the wall. 

 Equal parts aberrant arthouse absurdity, tasteless quasi-supernatural celluloid trash, and crypto-anti-family homo hysteria, Snails in the Head is certainly a work that defies classification as an artsploitation flick that could have only been created in late-1970s/early-1980s post-counter-culture France. Indeed, auteur Jean-Étienne Siry came from the same circle of iconoclastic frog fag filmmakers like Lionel Soukaz (Race d'Ep aka The Homosexual Century, Ixe), Philippe Vallois (Johan - Mon été 75, Rainbow Serpent aka Haltéroflic), and Stéphane Marti (La cité des neuf portes, Mira corpora) that, although now largely forgotten, took French cinema to unforeseeable realms of unhinged libertinism and aesthetic subversion that make the filmmakers of the French New Wave seem like a bunch of prudish old farts. While apparently receiving mostly favorable reviews when it was first released over three decades ago, Snails in the Head was destined to be forgotten, as it is just too plain preternatural, warped, perverted, and distressing to have ever developed even a small fan base, as a work that was clearly directed by a genuinely sick and depraved sperm burper who seem to see heterosexuality and vaginas (hence, the 'slimy' snails) as quite horrifying. Indeed, not unlike the work of Jörg Buttgereit and Marian Dora, Siry’s film is too intelligent, subtextual, and poetic to appeal to the average philistine horror fan and bourgeois arthouse fans would probably piss their Criterion Collection brand panties if they were forced to endure such a fucked flick that dares to mix kitschy supernatural horror conventions with perverted celluloid poetry. Admittedly, as a work about a mentally deranged woman who falls in love with an even more mentally deranged man who converts to cocksucking after being called a “faggot” one-too-many times and who eventually dies in a distinctly undignified death with snails crawling across his face, Snails in the Head is not exactly an uplifting work, but instead, a spasmodic piece of heterophobia that challenges the bounds of aesthetic and thematic sanity. Indeed, when it comes down to it, Siry’s film is a cryptic cautionary tale about the abject misery that colon-chokers might suffer if they deny their god given right to buggering bros and do the unthinkable by marrying a woman. 

-Ty E

Jul 28, 2014

48 Hours to Acapulco

While he is nearly forgotten today despite the fact he has been directing films for nearly half a century and virtually totally unknown outside his Teutonic homeland, German auteur Klaus Lemke (Arabian Nights, Die Ratte) was a major early influence on the filmmakers of German New Cinema, especially a very young Rainer Werner Fassbinder, whose early avant-garde gangster trilogy—Love is Colder than Death (1969), Gods of the Plague (1970), and The American Soldier (1970)—was heavily influenced by his countryman’s gangster flicks, namely his super stylish cult hit 48 Stunden bis Acapulco (1967) aka 48 Hours to Acapulco aka Time for Action. Indeed, aside from naming Lemke’s 48 Hours to Acapulco as a film he would have liked to have directed in an interview featured in the April 1978 issue of the German version of Playboy, the auteur once stated regarding his appreciation for the film: “The heroes behave like gangsters, but at the same time as they imagine gangsters would behave. The Hollywood stereotype comes through: but Lemke has attempted not to imitate them.” In Fassbinder’s debut feature Love is Colder than Death—a work where the characters are more or less crude parodies of their favorite characters from old Hollywood movies—the quasi-poser gangster played by Ulli Lommel stylizes himself after Alain Delon’s character from Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967), thus demonstrating Lemke’s meta-cinematic influence on the figurative heart of German New Cinema. Of course, Lemke was not a figure of GNC, but the lesser known movement called the New Munich Group (‘Neue Münchner Gruppe’), which also included similarly anti-intellectual, film noir-obsessed auteur filmmakers like Eckhart Schmidt, Rudolf Thome, and Roger Fritz. Made before Lemke fully developed his gritty realist cinéma vérité-like aesthetic with his Hamburg-based nihilistic crime masterpieces like Rocker (1972) and Paul (1974), 48 Hours to Acapulco is a blatantly genre-conscious black-and-white noir pastiche piece featuring jet-set aesthetic influences and a then-‘hip’ soundtrack featuring Cher, Johnny Rivers, The Ventures, and a degenerate jazz cover of “Hey Joe” in a German film that seems as deracinated as they come, yet the work’s post-WWII Weltschmerz does not betray its obvious Germanic origins. Although sometimes similarly ironic like Lemke’s comrade Rudolf Thome’s absurdist pomo-noir piece Detektive (1969), 48 Hours to Acapulco does not merely utilize cynicism and offbeat humor to obfuscate its innate pain and apathy towards life. Shot by auteur Niklaus Schilling (Nachtschatten aka Nightshade, Rheingold), who was also the cinematographer for Detektive and would go on to become one of the most unjustly forgotten filmmakers of German cinema, Lemke’s early minor masterpiece is an exotic international kraut film noir that trades in shadows and urban turf for the sun and surf as a work partly set in Rome and Acapulco, Mexico, yet it is also as metaphysically tortured and hopeless as crime flicks come, as an allegorical work where a Bavarian gangster attempts to play industrial espionage and finds himself in a losing battle with an American industrialist. 

 Gangster Frank Murnau (played by German actor/producer Dieter Geissler, who later produced blockbuster works like The NeverEnding Story (1984) and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999)) has been hired by his boss Gruner (Alexander Kerst) to deliver 500,000 marks to a fellow named Cameron (Roland Carey) in Rome for some dubious documents, but having that much cold hard cash gives the career criminal some bad ideas. While Frank is sent with his boss’ reasonably attractive daughter Laura (played by Christiane Krüger, the daughter of popular German movie star Hardy Krüger), who he is carrying on a sexual affair with, his true love is a femme fatale named Monika (Monika Zinnenberg), who ultimately cons the con into changing his plans with her conniving cunt. Indeed, the first thing Frank does upon checking out a hotel with Laura is call Monika, who knows an American industrialist that wants to buy the documents he is supposed to give Cameron for $500,000. The night before heading to meet with Cameron in Rome, Frank makes passionate love to Laura, but he makes the major mistake of calling her “Monika” during sex. When the two arrive at Cameron’s scenic beachside flat, Laura has sex with the buyer on the beach after the half-ass conman falls asleep on an outside patio. When Cameron finally asks the Munich criminal for the money, Frank says he does not have it and an anticlimactic fight breaks out where the latter is beaten like a bitch. Of course, Frank came to the exchange ready with a handgun and shoots and kills Cameron while laying on the ground while all beaten up and bloody. After killing Cameron and robbing him of the documents, Frank confesses to Laura that he loves Monika and that he is flying out to Acapulco to be with her. Despite being betrayed by Frank, Laura lies and tells her father that “everything’s ok” regarding what happened with the disastrous transaction.

 As Laura’s unwavering loyalty readily demonstrates, Frank probably should have stayed with his boss’s daughter, as Monika ultimately proves to be a true fatal female. Upon arriving in Acapulco, Frank is picked up by a fat, bold American gangster thug who remarks, “Soon you can’t spend your money nowhere anymore. Nothing against communism but if everybody can afford everything…Where’s the deeper meaning?” The obscenely ugly bald man takes Frank to the home of an elderly man named Mr. Wayne (played by real-life playboy/musician/night club owner Teddy Stauffer), who is the American industrialist that wants to buy the documents. Instead of the $500,000 Monika said he promised, Mr. Wayne only offers Frank $50,000 for the documents, so the German gangster makes the ultimatum, “$500,000…Do what you want to do?” and leaves. Upon leaving Mr. Wayne’s less than humble beachside abode, Frank drives away in ecstasy while loudly singing, “California, California, California!” as if he plans to start a new life on the American west coast, but he eventually stops at a Mexican bar, buys an entire bottle of Johnny Walker, and gets thoroughly inebriated. Upon meeting up with Monika, Frank confesses that he killed Cameron and when she asks him why he did such a foolish thing, he simply responds with, “because I love you.” Of course, Monika does not say “I love you,” but instead warns Frank, “Wayne is dangerous, take the money. I booked a seat for you in the next plane.” Of course, Frank refuses the insulting offer. When Frank and Monika are driving on a secluded desert road that night, a group of Mr. Wayne’s men run their car off the road. Of course, Monika has betrayed him. Ultimately, Frank is shot dead on a beach, though he pushes Monika away when she attempts to console him just before he receives a deadly bullet. 

 Interestingly, in the film Baader (2002) directed by Christopher Roth, West German far-left terrorist and Red Army Faction leader Andreas Baader is depicted as a gangster poser who was enamored with film noir/crime flicks and who took his girlfriend/collaborator Gudrun Ensslin to see Lemke’s 48 Hours to Acapulco on their first date together. Indeed, the antihero of Lemke’s film also certainly seems like a delusional moron who saw one too many gangster flicks that got way too over his head, hence his rather predictable death in the end. As German film historian Thomas Elsaesser wrote in his book New German Cinema: A History (1989): “The reasons which made Fassbinder or Wenders approach traditional American genres are several […] For example, Lemke’s 48 HOURS TO ACAPULCO (1967) was an influence on Fassbinder, not so much in its subject (that of a small-time Munich crook caught up in an affair too big for him to handle), but because Lemke’s attitude to his characters was to become typical of Fassbinder’s. The secret was to take seriously the image the characters have of themselves, because the director is willing to recognize as ‘reality’ […] and an inner truth, what are merely the characters’ fantasies.” Of course, by making the characters of their films wannabe gangsters, Lemke and Fassbinder were revealing that they were fully aware that they could never be American and had no interest in fully appropriating an alien ‘culture.’ While 48 Hours to Acapulco was a cult hit and won the auteur a Bambi award, Lemke decided to take the hard road and instead of capitalizing off his newfound success, he moved to Hamburg to hang out with real-life criminals, including pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and bikers, thus inspiring the complete transformation of the director’s entire aesthetic for the better and spawning realistic cult masterpieces like Rocker and Paul, which largely star real-life criminals and non-actors. Indeed, whereas 48 Hours to Acapulco is the product of a sort of proto-Tarantino fanboy in his semi-formative years, albeit less autistic, Lemke's Hamburg era works are the strikingly sincere expressions of a true guerilla auteur who has attempted to make next to no distinction between the real world and the cinematic world. 

-Ty E

Jul 27, 2014

May 6th

Rather ironically yet quite fittingly, the last film Dutch auteur Theo van Gogh (Blind Date, Interview)—the great-grandson of the art dealer brother of tragic post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh—directed before he was himself assassinated was a political thriller based on the assassination of so-called ‘right-wing’ populist politician Pim Fortuyn, who was supposedly gunned down by a pansy vegan animal rights activist who felt his victim was a racist who was using towelheads as ‘scapegoats.’ Indeed, despite being openly gay, Fortuyn was one of only a handful of Dutch politicians who had the testicular fortitude to admit that the Netherlands had a serious immigrant problem (in fact, he once wrote a book entitled Against the Islamization of Our Culture (1997)) yet he was a pro-market kind of guy and his views on immigration were rather liberal compared to serious nationalists (for example, he had no problem assimilating non-whites). Naturally, as someone that was a personal friend and supporter of Fortuyn, van Gogh was able to assemble a film that is more personal, intimate, and intriguing than similarly themed works. Indeed, while certainly no masterpiece (let alone anything close to the director’s greatest film), 06/05 (2004) aka May 6th aka The Sixth of May manages to depict the exceedingly erratic essence and socio-politically schizophrenic multicultural-inspired inner turmoil of a culturally degenerating democracy that prides itself on its ‘openness,’ ‘liberalness,’ and dedication to free speech. Featuring a decadent journalist as a protagonist who is more or less a parody of Dutch liberalness and who has no serious problem with his teenage daughter dating an exceedingly ugly Moroccan thug, 06/05 is a quasi-labyrinthine story in a semi-docudrama style of the hermetic craziness that ensues when a reporter attempts to uncover the dubious assassination of fallen ‘fascist fag’ Fortuyn and finds himself immersed in a dangerous world involving the Dutch Secret Service (aka AIVD), animal rights activists, defense contractors, members of the Bilderberg Group, and scheming American businessmen with glaring hook-noses. A realist depiction of the aftermath of what some might describe as the Dutch equivalent to 9/11 shot in a documentary-like 3-camera-setup technique style and featuring real stock footage of Fortuyn (including when he was once the victim of pieing that would somewhat humorously foreshadow his death) and old newsreels, 06/05 is, quite unlike Oliver Stone’s sophomoric conspiracy turd JFK (1991), plausible in terms of its message as a work that demonstrates that many people in politics, business, and the Muslim world had much to benefit from the ill-fated fag fascist’s tragic death. Perhaps even more interestingly, the film also brings up questions regarding van Gogh’s own assassination, which took place exactly 911 days after Fortuyn's, with the work being released posthumously about a month after the director’s violent death (somewhat notably, 06/05 was the first to be released online before it hit the theaters in the Netherlands). 

 Jim de Booy (Thijs Römer) is an exceedingly cynical 32-year-old divorced photo journalist and while doing a photo shoot with a hot actress model named Birgit Maas (Georgina Verbaan)—a lecherous little lady who talks about her unsavory yet stereotypical goal of attempting to find a ‘sugar daddy’ and how her father remarked regarding her performance in a Harold Pinter play, “I didn’t get it, but you’ve got a nice ass”—in Hilversum, North Holland, he becomes an unwitting witness to controversial Dutch anti-Islamist politician Pim Fortuyn’s untimely assassination by a seemingly deranged animal rights activist named Volkert van der Graaf. While Jimmy boy fails to take pictures of the actual assassination, he does notice a number of dubious individuals hanging around the general area of the curious killing. Meanwhile, a young Turkish-born animal rights activist that belonged to a group called ‘Green Offensive’ named Ayse Him (Tara Elders), who just got out of jail after serving an 18 month prison sentence for her questionable involvement in the death of a night watchman, is packing all of her things to move out of her apartment, which is adorned with far-left propaganda posters reading “Pim the Savior – Stop Racism” depicting Fortuyn as Hitler. Two of Ayse’s lovers, a degenerate Dutch Aryan animal rights activist named Wouter Heemskerk (Gijs Naber), who was the one that was actually responsible for the death of the night watchman, and a middle-aged Turkish far-left journalist/terrorist named Erdogan Demir (Cahit Ölmez), were near the general location at the time when Fortuyn was assassinated. When Erdogan walks in on Wouter attempting to drown Ayse in a bathtub, he kills him and gets his girlfriend to help dump the degenerate Dutchman’s body in a canal. Upon arriving at the crime scene to take photos when the corpse of Wouter, who was placed in his car as if he accidentally drowned after driving into the water, is pulled from the sea, Jim realizes he is one of the strange people that he spotted at the site of Fortuyn’s assassination. Meanwhile, members of the Bilderberg Group and Dutch Secret Service, as well as Jewish-looking businessmen, discuss the future of Dutch politics in the wake of Fortuyn’s death. 

 After Jim turns into a sort of degenerate Sherlock Holmes and does some detective work with the help of his teenage daughter Marije (Caro Lenssen), Jim learns about Ayse and begins watching her every move. Unfortunately, two Secret Service men—a lard ass named Van Dam (Jack Wouterse) and his pernicious pint-sized minion ‘Wester’ (Marcel Hensema)—realize that Jim is on to their sour scent. Unbeknownst to Ayse, her new boyfriend Erdogan is in cahoots with the sinister yet rather silly acting Secret Service men that were involved with the conspiracy to liquidate Fortuyn, who more than likely would have won the upcoming election for Prime Minister, which would have caused major trouble not only for the members of the Dutch SS, but liberal politicians, globalists, shady American businessmen, Muslims, and other culture-distorting rabble who want to turn the entire planet into a worldwide third world inhabited by raceless, sexless, soulless, cultureless, materialistic brown serfs. When Jim eventually catches up with Ayse at a crowded water park and essentially saves her life, he finds himself a marked man, with his friends and family members also being victims of their wrath. While a statuesque Secret Service woman attempts to kidnap Jim’s daughter Marije but fails, the SS men do manage to kidnap the journalist's co-employee John van Gaal (Johnny de Mol), who they talk into believing that his photo journalist friend was involved in the assassination of Fortuyn. While Jim’s daughter manages to find shelter in the home of her towelhead boyfriend Hamid (Fouad Mourigh)—a swarthy aspiring rapper who writes pro-terrorist/anti-Dutch/anti-gay lyrics regarding Fortuyn's assassination like, “They say Left sent the bullet but I don’t believe it…Pity Al-Qaeda didn’t shoot him dead along with all the queers in bed. Volkert – your country needed you…Heroes aren’t born, but you’ll do”—the Secret Service guys eventually track her down, though they fail in a fight against a group of stoned stupid Muslims. In the end, it is revealed that Pim Fortuyn was probably assassinated due to his disapproval in participating in the development of a U.S. jet (aka Joint Strike Fighter project). Indeed, after he was assassinated, Fortuyn’s carefully selected successor approved of the jet plan. 

 While a rather aesthetically unimpressive political thriller with an absolutely horrendous soundtrack and oftentimes unintentionally unnerving acting performances, 06/05 is a consistently enthralling work that probably does a better job than any other film of the past decade or so in terms of depicting the precarious political and cultural situation in the Netherlands today. Indeed, depicting a seemingly insane world where white Dutch girls date unsavory Arab rappers and where politicians literally wish death upon their political contemporaries for holding pro-Dutch politically incorrect political views, van Gogh’s film demonstrates that post-WWII liberal democratic values have dissolved the cultural fabric of the Netherlands and turned it into an increasingly troubled place where hostile foreigners are given special treatment over the indigenous Dutch, who, with the assassination of Fortuyn, have no voice to fight against the rising tide of color in their densely populated Germanic nation. Undoubtedly, one of the most potent and incriminating scenes of the film is a montage featuring carefully selected real news footage of Fortuyn’s enemies wishing death on him, including one politician who sadistically states, “I think Fortuyn has hurt himself. I hope he hurt himself. I hope the wound is so deep, it doesn’t stop bleeding before May 15.” Of course, one of the politicians attempts to paint Fortuyn as a neo-Nazi by quoting Anne Frank and comparing the assassinated politician’s anti-immigration policies to those carried out by the Nazis during the holocaust. No doubt, the most hateful of Fortuyn’s detractors is a popular Dutch TV personality named Marcel van Dam (of course, van Gogh named the fat Secret Agent after this fellow), who unsuccessfully attempted to have his scene cut from the film where he accuses the politician of being “an extremely inferior being” and “rabble-rouser” who seeks to, “exploit potential xenophobia among Dutch people.” Of course, as auteur Theo van Gogh’s own assassination by an ugly untermensch Moroccan demonstrates (which was carried out because said untermensch was offended by the director’s controversial yet ultimately unimpressive short Submission (2004)), the only active xenophobes are the Muslims, not to mention the fact that so-called ‘xenophobia’ is a completely rational feeling for the Dutch to have seeing that they have been displaced within the confines of their own tiny nation. Interestingly, some suspect that van Gogh was not assassinated by a camel jockey, but by the Secret Service (interestingly, the SS was aware of his assassin Mohammed Bouyeri, as he and his terrorist group were under surveillance). Indubitably, after watching 05/06, which depicts the Dutch Secret Service (AIVD) in an exceedingly unfavorable light, it does not seem all that implausible that they would want to kill the filmmaker. Ironically, van Gogh’s father Johan van Gogh served in the AIVD (when it was known as the ‘BVD’), thus the filmmaker probably had certain insights regarding the Secret Service that influenced his rather damning film. Indeed, apparently Fortuyn was hated by the Dutch elite (which van Gogh also hated, as a man that belonged to a political party that calls for the abolition of the Dutch monarchy), who called a boycott against him a couple years before his assassination. Before his death, polls indicated that Fortuyn would have won the 2002 election for Prime Minister and of course he would have taken his revenge against the elite. 

 Assassinated exactly 911 days after Fortuyn was assassinated, Theo van Gogh, who was arguably the most controversial public figure in the Netherlands at the time of his death and certainly a thorn in the side of not just Islam but Zionism and American imperialism, certainly seems like the sort of individual that certain people wanted to have permanently snuffed out. Ultimately, by whom and why he was assassinated is irrelevant as all of these entities are of the same odious anti-Occidental disease and should be treated as such (as they say, if you don’t kill cancer, it spreads). When van Gogh was assassinated, the Jewish Zionist extremist mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, had the gall to call for the unity of the Dutch and Muslims, absurdly remarking, “People can be cynical about this, but I can't do anything about this.” Also, Cohen, who was publicly attacked by van Gogh (who once compared him to a Nazi collaborator due to his weak stance on Islamic terrorism and the Islamization of the Netherlands), was notorious for refusing security to any public figure that held ‘right-wing’ or ‘nationalist’ views while at the same time demanding that the Dutch, “fight nazism and racism.” It should be noted that 05/06 also depicts miscegenation in a negative light, with the protagonist Jim rhetorically asking his daughter regarding her ‘romantic’ relationship with a Muslim, “A nice shit Moroccan? Or are you his whore?,” while at the same time not realizing that his lack of parenting skills is largely responsible for his progeny's degenerate choice of sexual partners. Of course, Jim is also depicted as a negligent father/husband who divorced his wife so he could play ‘Don Juan,’ thus indicating his daughter’s raunchy race-mixing is a form of self-destructive rebellion. Indeed, despite being a lifelong free speech activist who directed some of the most iconoclastic Dutch films ever made, van Gogh seemed to begin to understand the decidedly deleterious effect that liberalism, multiculturalism, Zionism, and globalization were having on his nation. Since it seems rather appropriate, I am going to conclude this review with a remark that Fortuyn made on TV that is featured in 05/06 regarding his revolutionary and much needed dream for the Netherlands: “I reflect an important feeling in Holland. What is wrong with saying that? This is one of the most densely-populated countries. I understand all too well, as I have repeated, I should repeat it more clearly, if I say we should stop […] But it’s essential, if we want to dam the excesses because there’s a massive influx pressuring integration and security, using education, health care, and our social security provisions. If you don’t want the structure to collapse, and I don’t…then we should prevent more from coming in.” If more popular public figures need to be assassinated for Europeans to wake up once and for all to thwart the pervading malignancy that is turning Europa into a third world sewer, then so be it. 

-Ty E

Paul (1974)

While Rainer Werner Fassbinder—the ‘heart’ of German New Cinema—was not exactly a rampantly heterosexual geezer, he was a fan of many rampantly heterosexual films and filmmakers, both from his native Germany and Hollywood, as his early pre-Sirkian film noir/gangster flicks testify. Indeed, when interviewed by Hella Schlumberger in April 1978 for the German version of Playboy regarding, “people making films that you would have liked to make yourself,” Fassbinder named Klaus Lemke and his film 48 Stunden bis Acapulco (1967) aka 48 Hours to Acapulco—a rampantly heterosexual piece of celluloid if there ever was one—as one among only a handful of then-contemporary kraut films for which he displayed serious respect. A sort of Martin Scorsese of Deutschland, albeit more gritty, nihilistic, and taking a more raw realist approach, Lemke is best known for his reluctant love letter to the Hamburg underworld, Rocker (1972), but he has also directed a number of realist crime flicks starring mostly non-actors that anticipate the Dogme 95, with his work Paul (1974) aka Ein Tag ist manchmal das ganze Leben aka Paul - Geschichte eines Ausgestoßenen undoubtedly being one of his more notable cinematic works. Mostly revolving around a tastelessly charming kraut ex-con/small-time gangster who has just got out of prison and who spends most of his time aimlessly walking around drunk, insulting people in an exceedingly boisterously boorish manner, and hitting on used-up strippers/hookers who sport trashy wigs, one might describe Lemke’s little film as a realistic kraut comedy of the nihilistic post-WWII sort. Like his celluloid compatriots Eckhart Schmidt, Rudolf Thome, Roger Fritz, and Max Zihlmann of the ‘Neue Münchner Gruppe’ aka New Munich Group—an all but totally forgotten film movement that,somewhat unlike German New Cinema, sought to entertain and was daringly anti-intellectual in its essence—Lemke was more interested in cool criminals than feminist and neo-Marxist agitprop, even if the eponymous antihero of Paul is about as sensible as a gay autistic negro on crack. Like a Teutonic Mean Streets (1973) drunk off Paul Morrissey’s Flesh (1968), Lemke’s film is a rare crime flick that is as absurdly funny as it is just plain absurd. Filmed mostly around St. Pauli—a sleazy spot infamous for being Nordic Hamburg’s red-light district—and featuring authentic pimps and prostitutes as extras, Paul undoubtedly radiates a certain authentic grit and grime that most crime flicks lack. Indeed, a sort of anti-noir work where the male antihero is a ‘homme fatale’ who actually poses a discernible threat to female characters and not the other way around, Lemke’s 75-minute pernicious celluloid party seems like the hastily assembled and scatter-brained product of a raging dipsomaniac who has never seen a crime or film noir flick, as a truly anarchic work that breaks all the rules and conventions of its genre and them some. 

 After staying in the slammer for seven long years, auburn-haired Paul (played by ex-sailor Paul Lyss) is finally released and greeted outside the prison by his uncouth criminal crony Jimmy (played by Lemke regular Jimmy Braker) and a couple seemingly dim and marginally attractive whores. After telling Jimmy that he looks like he is getting fat, Paul and his friends head back to an apartment and celebrate the jailbird’s release by getting wasted and discussing various whores of all sorts. Indeed, after Paul explains how one of his ex-cellmates had a blowup sex doll that he did not bother to blow up even though he would blow it, he also describes his decided distaste for Bangkok hookers, as he believes they are no taller than chickens. While the two old friends seem to be getting along rather splendidly at first, Paul can sense there is something not quite right about Jimmy, so he smacks around the two prostitutes to see if they know anything and learns that his friend wants to murder him because he owes him $250,000 marks (which is assumedly from whatever crime/robbery Paul committed to get sentenced to prison in the first place), but he has already blown all the money. When Jimmy sneaks in Paul’s room with a handgun, the eponymous antihero bashes his friend over the head with a chair and runs away. With nowhere to really run or hide, Paul gets drunk and randomly shows up at the lavish home of a pretentious and seemingly impotent art dealer named Friedhelm aka ‘Frank’ Murnau (Friedhelm Lehmann), who is having an art show at his place featuring a live Jamaican band. On top of confusing Frank with Jimmy even though the two men look nothing alike, Paul, who seems more or less demonically possessed, causes a major scene at the degenerate art show by screaming at the all-black band to stop playing, insulting every single guest, and comparing all the paintings at the gallery to drawings he created when he was seven years old. Indeed, on top of obnoxiously asking Frank, “What kind of guy is that, is that a homo?,” Paul leaves the party while yelling, “Mob…Riff Raff…Idiots…Abnormal,” at all the startled partygoers. Of course, being a belligerent drunk, Paul soon goes right back to the party and attacks Frank, who is a posh pansy and barely fights back, even though the gangster felon is destroying his home and hitting on his beauteous wife. 

 Unfortunately for Frank, his classically stunning and exceedingly dainty wife Jane (played by Munich model Sylvie Winters) practically falls in love with Paul at first sight. At cuckold Frank's request, Jane naively drives Paul to the jailhouse where the dashing criminal, who absurdly wants to be put back in prison, was recently imprisoned. While Paul demands, “I want back in..I want back in my cell,” to a guard at the jail, he is told that they do not run a homeless shelter, thus he must stay on the streets and face the wrath of his treacherous comrade Jimmy. After the gangster's failed attempt at having himself voluntarily imprisoned, Jane drives Paul to his favorite place in the world, the bar. While Jane is almost raped by one of Paul’s friends, the antihero goes to a super seedy strip club where he is given a lap-dance by a meta-loose lady with an atrocious gray wig who seems to have a rather fine time grinding her poontang against her prized patron's wang. Eventually, Herr Murnau and his wife find Paul again hanging out with his underworld comrades, so everyone, including Jimmy, heads back to the art dealer’s to get even more drunk in what is an ostensible utopian classless party between the rich and poor. While everyone is getting drunk at a dinner table, cuckold Frank, who is unquestionably jealous that his wife has such a strong infatuation with a common and rather uncultivated criminal like Paul, begins attacking his wife Jane. Naturally, Paul and his cronies don’t take too kindly to Frank’s violent behavior against his seemingly fragile statuesque wife, so everyone begins physically and verbally attacking him in his own house in a hyper hilarious scene of innately anarchic Teutonic slapstick absurdity. Indeed, even a prostitute verbally berates Frank by accusing him of being of an impotent show-off by remarking, “He wants to blow on his trumpet…play the exhibitionist with the big money, whoop it up…you know, he can’t get it up and now he…He’s not satisfied, he wants to play the king in front of his old lady. Sure, now she gets it, and then she has to fuck him. Dumb prick. He’s a pig, a pig!” When the party is over, Paul and Jimmy leave together, with the latter remarking regarding the experience, “That was great. Almost like in the old days.” Of course, Paul does not believe that Jimmy has gotten over his desire to liquidate him, so he coerces Jane to buy him an unregistered submachine Uzi from one of his con friends and begins looking for his treacherous friend around all the local bars. Jane attempts to stop Paul from ruining his life by murdering a mensch in cold blood, but he has already made up his mind. In the end, Paul not only kills Jimmy, but Jane as well as she unwittingly walks into the bar at the same time the angst-ridden antihero unloads his Israeli Uzi. Rather ironically, perennially cuckolded Frank begged for Paul to kill him only seconds before his wife is murdered.  While Frank carries his wife away from the bar in a rather melancholy state as if he alone is responsible for her death, Paul walks out of the bar with a blank stare as if nothing has happened.

 Judging by the almost exclusively unflattering pictures that I have seen of the filmmaker, auteur Klaus Lemke seems to be just as regularly inebriated by chemicals as the characters of his films and I am willing to bet that he was sometimes drunk and/or high when he directed his cinéma vérité-like gutter masterpiece of dipsomaniac delinquency, Paul. Apparently heavily influenced by the French New Wave, Lemke, not unlike Fassbinder, certainly seemed interested in playing with the conventions of old school Hollywood crime/film noir flicks just like Godard, but unlike Breathless (1960) aka À bout de soufflé, Paul thankfully does not feature a single phony frog pretending to pull off his best Humphrey Bogart impression. Indeed, when it comes down to it, Lemke’s film feels more influenced by the real-life lowlifes of St. Pauli than by other films, especially French New Wave works, which rarely seem gritty. Like Roland Klick’s Bübchen (1968), Lemke’s flick features a desperate and dispirited Deutschland where perennial drunkenness is a given and senseless nihilism and destruction reign in a corrupted nation that seems to have yet to get over the quasi-apocalyptic effects of the Second World War. Needless to say, Paul is not the sort of crime-fetishizing film like Scarface (1983) or Goodfellas (1990) that would inspire teenage negroes to rob and rape elderly white women, as the work seems like it could have been directed by the aberrant Aryan grandfather of Harmony Korine as a perniciously playful and curiously darkly comedic kraut crime equivalent to Gummo (1997) in terms of its uncompromising realism and real-life-like randomness. Interestingly, despite the fact that the eponymous antihero is portrayed as such a mindnumbingly moronic and innately irrational individual that he gets plastered, kills his friend, and accidentally kills his love interested, he is still portrayed in a more likeable light than art dealer Frank Murnau, whose surname I cannot decide is a tribute or anti-tribute to the great Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) aka Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror director F.W. Murnau (interestingly, Fassbinder previously included a character named Murnau in his (anti)crime flick The American Soldier (1970) aka Der amerikanische Soldat). Indeed, despite the lack of sophisticated socio-political subtext of Paul, it is more than clear while watching the film than the typical Alexander Kluge flick that there is seemingly nil future for anyone in the Fatherland, despite whatever class a person might belong to, be the person an impoverished prole or a cultured art fag with a raving trophy wife and trust fund. 

-Ty E

Jul 26, 2014

Fists in the Pocket

After first seeing him play the character based on Bavarian auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder in
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971), Lou Castel (The Scarlet Letter, The American Friend)—a Colombian born actor of 1/2 Swedish racial stock who got his start in film acting playing as an uncredited extra in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (1963) and who starred in important arthouse works by everyone from Pier Paolo Pasolini to Philippe Garrel, as well as sleazy Guido nunsploitation flicks like Killer Nun (1978)—has always rubbed me the wrong way, which is certainly a good thing when playing creepy twerp characters like the actor did. Indeed, for his breakout role in the Italian film Fists in the Pocket (1965) aka I pugni in tasca directed by Marco Bellocchio (Slap the Monster on Page One aka Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina, Vincere) he portrayed a bourgeois epileptic who absurdly commits matricide and fratricide in an ostensible attempt to liberate his sole ‘normal’ brother from a life of virtual enslavement to a family of invalids who rely on his generosity. A work that predates the far-left student movements that almost plunged Italy and various other European nations into civil wars, Bellocchio’s film is completely anti-bourgeois to the quasi-commie core that demonstrates why the auteur trashed his co-commie cinematic compatriot in the winter 1967-68 issue of Sight & Sound when he stated, “…the sad thing about Visconti is that today he is part of the bourgeois life that he really could analyze and criticize ten years ago. His recent films are trivial and unimportant.” Directed by Bellocchio when he was only 26, Fists in the Pocket is undoubtedly an exceedingly idiosyncratic work that, like Bernardo Bertolucci’s second feature Before the Revolution (1964) aka Prima della rivoluzione, helped take Italian cinema out of the neorealist era and start a new and highly experimental period in Guido cinema. Still delightfully deranged after all these years, originally being released nearly half a century ago, the film was so controversial upon its release that it was attacked by two of auteur Bellocchio’s greatest heroes, Luis Buñuel and Michelangelo Antonioni. Part Guido Gothic horror, part anti-Visconti family melodrama, part libertine black comedy, and part sadistic keenly class conscious quasi-Marxist satire, Bellocchio’s brazen directorial debut is nothing short of a berserk black-and-white celluloid monster that sinisterly devours and dementedly regurgitates film genre conventions, Catholicism, and bourgeois traditions in a rather refined iconoclastic fashion that does not resemble the mental masturbation of a pedantic film nerd/Marxist ideologue with too much time on their hands. Starring Castel as a sort of bonkers Brando figure (indeed, a photograph of Brando from The Wild One (1953) is featured prominently towards the end of the film), Fists in the Pocket is ultimately a rare work of ‘revolutionary cinema’ that has aged quite gracefully that does not only still feature subversiveness, but acts as an example of what Pasolini once described as a “cinema of prose” (as opposed to a “cinema of poetry,” which the auteur used to describe Bertolucci’s French New Wave inspired works). 

 Alessandro aka Ale aka Sandrino (Lou Castel) is the black sheep of a once-well-to-do bourgeois family that no longer has a patriarch (what happened to the father is never mentioned), so the eldest son Augusto (Marino Masé) has reluctantly taken over and now financially supports his blind mother and epileptic siblings. Indeed, his Mother (Liliana Gerace) costs him 3 million lire alone. Ostensibly to help his brother become free from financial and familial slavery, blonde beast Alessandro—a young epileptic degenerate who seems to be suffering from a high-functioning form of autism and stares at people at parties as if he wants to murder every single one of them—decides that he will kill his mother and siblings. Indeed, after failing to execute a plan where he hoped to kill himself and his entire family sans Augusto during a periodic trip to a cemetery (he even writes his brother a suicide letter discussing how he would like to be cremated), Alessandro exterminates his blind Madre by pushing her off a cliff and states, “Blessed mother, pray for her,” right afterward. For whatever reason, Alessandro decides to tell his sister Giulia (Paola Pitagora) that he was responsible for their mother’s death. Indeed, Alessandro also complains of his brother's seeming lack of gratitude, as well as his jealously of his big bro’s fiancé Lucia (Jeannie McNeil), stating, “I killed her [their mother]…with these hands despite my fears. I risked life imprisonment for the family’s benefit, while he, like a thief suddenly becomes “big brother.” He brings in Lucia and has her serve coffee, and he’ll walk off with the fortune I made! This little brain of mine…that you didn’t trust an inch…planned the whole thing.” Naturally, Alessandro and his sister destroy their mother’s things in an attempt to erase her memory. Of course, Alessandro is not quite finished after offing his mother, as he has a rather retarded brother named Leone (Pier Luigi Troglio), who also must die. After his mother’s somewhat eerie funeral where the prodigal son leaps over his passed progenitor’s coffin, Alessandro opts for giving him an overdose of drugs while he is taking a bath, which causes his sister Giulia to have such a bad seizure that the doctor tells him that, “She could live or die or end up paralyzed.” Despite being much closer to Giulia than his other siblings, Alessandro considers smothering her with a pillow, but pussies out. In the end, Alessandro, who tells himself, “everything’s working out for the better,” seems to finally succumb to his familicidal guilt after singing opera in a Werner Schroeter-esque scene and seems to die after a panic attack. 

 Featuring a rather unconventional Ennio Morricone score, bizarre Marlon Brando worship, and Lou Castel in what is undoubtedly his most loony role to date as a decidedly Dostoevsky-esque character in a rather idiosyncratic work that is equally as stark as it is sardonic, Fists in the Pocket is certainly the sort of audience-dividing work that people will either love or love to hate. While auteur Marco Bellocchio joined a Marxist–Leninist group called the ‘Communist Union’ three years after the release of his debut film, the work seems more like the product of a naughty nihilistic member of the bourgeois who has fantasies about killing his relatives and thus used cinema as an outlet to carry out said sick fantasy. In fact, the auteur came from a very similar family to that featured in the film, with Bellocchio once stating in an interview conducted by Danish filmmaker Christian Braad Thomsen featured in the winter 1967-68 issue of Sight & Sound: “The film is not autobiographical in the sense that I recognize myself in a particular sequence or a particular character. I have tried to avoid that. On the other hand, I was raised in a bourgeois family, in the same sort of provincial milieu as that described in the film. This is all part of my own experience, and my life has been a strong reaction to my bourgeois and Catholic adolescence.”  Indeed, in terms of fucked families, Bellocchio’s puts all of Fassbinder’s films to shame and even makes Pasolini’s Teorema (1968) seem somewhat boobeoise by comparison. As I assumed while watching the film, Bellocchio has described the antihero played by Lou Castel featured his debut film as a quasi-fascist of sorts, remarking:  “The boy in FISTS IN THE POCKET is destroyed because he will not accept reality. His attempt to escape reveals not only decadent but semi-fascists traits. I was brought up in a large family that was founded in the Fascist period in Italy, and though my father was not a member of the Fascist Party, I suppose he was emotionally linked to its policy.”  Indeed, not unlike the films associated with German New Cinema, Bellocchio's work demonstrates a certain incapacity with dealing with his nation's past, with post-WWII 'fascism' taking a rather aberrant and sinister form of the somewhat ironic family-exterminating sort. Unfortunately, as his later works like Vincere (2009) demonstrate, Bellocchio eventually became soft with age, with Fists in the Pocket easily being the most audacious, unconventional, and curious film he has made to date.  Unquestionably, if it were not for Bellocchio, Italy would have never produced directors as uniquely and unsettlingly subversive as Albert Cavallone (SpellDolce mattatoio, Man, Woman & Beast, Blue Movie), who also assembled a singular oeuvre of truly modernist apocalyptic horror. Indeed, not just a movie, Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pocket is a celluloid symptom of the death of the Occident and its accompanying spiritual sickness. 

-Ty E