Oct 19, 2016

Every Man for Himself

Although I still regard him as a somewhat preposterous and pathologically pedantic quasi-autistic frog who ranks among the most overrated filmmakers in filmmaking history, my opinion of Jean-Luc Godard has changed somewhat drastically over the past couple years and I now at least consider him to be a sort of eccentric cinematic genius whose overall oeuvre is not even really truly appreciated or understood by many of the same communist and left-wing dildos that claim to be his greatest proponents.  After all, even Godard himself regards one of his most famous and insanely overrated films, Bande à part (1964) aka Band of Outsiders, as nothing more than mere hack work that he created to help his then wife Anna Karina's career, or as the auteur once stated himself in regard to its lack of importance in the context of his entire oeuvre, “That's why I called it ‘Bande à part.’ It's really apart, it won't change anything, it's a diversion, a Bande à part.” Despite the fact that he never stopped creating innovative films or evolving as an artist, many people seem to assume that he stopped being an interesting filmmaker after he finished his apocalyptic dystopian black comedy Weekend (1967 film), fired his regular crew, and began living a more reclusive existence. Although Godard did waste about 12 or 13 years creating mostly worthless Maoist agitprop flicks with kosher communist Jean-Pierre Gorin under the so-called ‘Dziga Vertov Group’ and tinkering around with building a video studio and experimenting with then-state-of-the-art video technology, he did eventually return to what he described as “cinema cinema” and attempted to reenter the mainstream with a fairly fine flick that he would curiously describe as his “second first film.”  Indeed, although largely plotless and fairly idiosyncratic, Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980) aka Every Man for Himself aka Slow Motion was a fairly serious attempt by Godard to get back into the public consciousness and create a film that could be appreciated by more people than just ‘bobos’ (aka bourgeois bohemians) and socially retarded film dorks. After finally watching the film, I must admit that is indubitably one of Godard’s most humorous and accessible works, albeit if not for some of the wrong reasons which largely have to do with self-exploitation and what might be described as ‘aesthetic autism.’

 Notable for being an embarrassingly personal work for Godard, especially in regard to his early years with his longtime partner Anne-Marie Miéville, the director once described the title as being best translated into English as “Save Your Ass,” which makes much sense when one considers the absolutely appalling female lovers and ex-lovers that the insufferably hip and emotionally broken protagonist must put up with while walking around like a sullen bohemian ghost. Don’t get me wrong, the overtly autobiographically named protagonist Paul Godard is a too-cool-for-school sack of shit that has incestuous fantasies about his own preteen daughter (who was inspired by Godard’s partner Miéville’s daughter), regularly calls his daughter and girlfriend a “bitch,” and is just an all around unlikable frog shithead that has next to no redeeming qualities aside from his biting sincerity, yet he still seems to have a tiny inkling more of humanity than the “Les Bitches” that plague his absolutely miserable life. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons I enjoyed the film so much is due to Godard’s unadulterated honesty in terms of demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that he and many of the people in his life are soulless snakes, self-absorbed pieces of elegantly packaged excrement, and intemperate sexual predators with patently pathetic post-Marxist political persuasions who really seem to epitomize everything that is wrong with post-counterculture Europe, especially among the so-called cultural elite (after all, one cannot forget that Godard is considered a national treasure of sorts and that he has been strongly supported by influential leaders like Hebraic socialist Jack Lang, who served as France's Minister of Culture from 1981 to 1986 and 1988 to 1992). 

 Notably, the Criterion Collection release of the film included an essay entitled Every Man for Himself: Themes and Variations by Amy Taubin where the misguidedly gynocentric authoress reveals she has never actually done any serious research on Godard or his personal life by absurdly arguing that the cinematic work is really the director’s “second first film” because he had some sort of life-changing feminist awakening where he realized the errors of the ostensible patriarchal male gaze, but in reality the auteur is a closest misogynist of sorts whose rare feminist posturing is even less sincere than his moronic Maoist phase. In fact, Taubin notes that the only “empathetic connection” in the film occurs between the female protagonists, but any sane non-cucked male will easily realize that the scene in question is nothing more than a stereotypical depiction of the sort of shallow female solidarity that women show for one another against a man that they both happened to have fucked. After all, only a thoroughly brainwashed feminist like Taubin, who once appeared in a film by ultra-feminist Jewess Yvonne Rainer, could describe a film like Every Man for Himself as “erroneously titled” that concludes with the male protagonist dying in the street whilst his daughter and ex-wife walk away in cold indifference (indeed, one can only assume that Taubin believes that Paul Godard's tragic death was well deserved).  Made after the auteur suffered two failed marriages that ended in bitter divorces and causes irrevocable emotional damaged that blatantly affected his filmmaking career, Godard’s “second first film” is the disturbing yet nonetheless devilishly humorous expression of a completely disillusioned man that has clearly given up on the prospect of true love and creating a family, hence the director’s lack of children and continued less than monogamous relationship with Miéville, who can hardly compete with Anna Karina or Anne Wiazemsky in terms of sheer elegance or pulchritude, among other things.

 Right from the get-go with his debut feature À bout de souffle (1960) aka Breathless where the male protagonist is killed after his dyke-cut-adorned American girlfriend betrays him by ratting him out to the cops, Godard revealed in what would ultimately prove to be a lifelong theme that the so-called fairer sex has a certain instinctual lack of loyalty and empathy when it comes to members of the opposite sex. In his semi-autobiographical eight feature Une femme mariée (1964) aka A Married Woman that was inspired by his one-sided marriage to Anna Karina, Godard would argue that modern European women lack the capacity for love and monogamy because they have been brainwashed by magazines, movies, and cultural trends that have instilled them with the grand delusion that the ideal 'liberated' woman is more or less a self-worshiping hedonistic whore of the culturally retarded sort who is only interested in her own quest for pleasure and shallow reputation among other vainglorious women that live to model their largely worthless lives after the fantasy worlds created by the homo advertisers of Madison Avenue. Of course, in Masculin Féminin (1966) Godard would demonstrate that most young women are mindless idiots that have the wants and needs of insatiable ADHD-ridden toddlers. Needless to say, Every Man for Himself—a film that was made at a time when Godard had given up on love and pretty much life in general—is no less unflattering in its portrayal of pretty people with pussies. In fact, the film seems to be a sort of rejection of women in general, so it should be no surprise that cultural Marxist wimp Robert Phillip Kolker once described the title of the flick in his book The Altering Eye (1983) as being “…not only sexist but almost the same as Werner Herzog’s EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF AND GOD AGAINST ALL.” Undoubtedly, only an exceedingly emasculated pansy would describe the title as “sexist,” especially considering the film more or less demonstrates that both men and women are responsible for dysfunctional relationships, even if women are inordinately cold and self-consumed beings that have a nasty knack for being able to turn-off their emotions when it is to their personal advantage, especially when men are involved. 

 In her classic text The Manipulated Man (1971), anti-feminist Jewess Esther Vila expressed a sentiment that Godard would probably agree with when she stated, “Women really are callous creatures – mainly because it is to their disadvantage to feel deeply. Feelings might seduce them into choosing a man who is of no use to them, i.e., a man who they could not manipulate at will.”  Undoubtedly Every Man for Himself is notable for depicting two very different female protagonists suppressing their feelings towards men in a film that subtly demonstrates that women all have a sort of innate quasi-sociopathic quality that is beneficial to their survival. Indeed, as someone that still seems to love her (ex)boyfriend yet wants to be completely independent and start a career of her own as a writer, Denise Rimbaud (Nathalie Baye) cannot give into her true emotions lest she ruin her dubious professional plans. In a somewhat different and all the more debasing fashion, cutesy yet cunty streetwalker Isabelle Rivière (Isabelle Huppert) has to pretend she fancies fat bald old farts because she makes her living peddling her pussy. In fact, the only character that dares to ever expose any degree of personal vulnerability is male protagonist Paul Godard (French rock musician Jacques Dutronc), who makes one last desperate yet ultimately completely hopeless attempt at the end of the film in what is arguably the most memorable scene of the entire flick to both literally and figuratively ‘hold onto’ his ex-girlfriend Denise before she leaves him for good.  In that sense, Every Man for Himself is undoubtedly Godard's most strangely and unforgettably heartbreaking film.

 Divided into three main segments (and a couple sub-segments) that follows three protagonists whose stories prove to intersect in the end, Every Man for Himself is a sort of exceedingly eccentric esoteric romantic-comedy for lovelorn misanthropes and cynics.  Undoubtedly, one could also describe the flick as a melodrama for irredeemably miserable intellectuals who have forgotten what it means to truly feel something, especially when it comes to other people. Not unlike Godard, the autobiographical protagonist Paul—a less than sunny sunglasses-adorned jerk-off that somewhat resembles a more refined and anally retentive 1980s era James Spader—is a filmmaker that works at a TV station, loves fiddling with video equipment, and is responsible for using his professional connections to give his (ex)lover a job working in his trade. At the beginning of the film, Paul calls his ex-girlfriend Denise from a hotel while working on a television project and then leaves the building abruptly after telling her that he will be by to see her in an hour. Somewhat hilariously, while Paul is attempting to get in his car, a racially ambiguous male hotel employee declares his love for him and states in a sickly salacious fashion, “I want you to fuck my ass. Fuck me, sir. I’ve been fucked by half the navy. There’s nothing better than a nice little asshole,” but naturally the rampantly heterosexual filmmaker turns down the rather needy troglodyte's extra odious request. While Paul is not beneath banging hookers and fantasizing about his flat-chested preteen daughter, he is certainly no rectum-reaming homo.  Of course, it is only Paul's bad luck that the only person that wants to fuck him is a disgusting creature that he wants nothing to do with. As far as the viewer knows, the only pussy that Paul is regularly penetrating is that of less than sweet streetwalker Isabelle Rivière, who seems completely incapable of any genuine human affection, let alone love with a man. 

 When Paul goes to pick up his daughter Cécile (Swiss auteur Alain Tanner’s daughter Cécile Tanner) from soccer practice, he talks to her commie coach and asks him in a curiously nonchalant fashion, “You ever felt like feeling her up or fucking her up the ass or something?” In a scene that hints at the director’s somewhat less than ambiguous pedophiliac tendencies, Paul also complains to the coach, “I think it’s unfair that a mother can touch her daughter or son more easily than a father can,” thus underscoring the character's somewhat warped logic and busted moral compass (though one must admit that women are typically more likely to get away with child abuse; whether it be sexual or otherwise).  As a favor to his ex-girlfriend, Paul attempts to pick up filmmaker and novelist Marguerite Duras from a college, but the old hag seems to be absurdly antisocial and never even makes a single appearance in the film. Since Ms. Duras refuses to speak in front of a class that she is supposed to lecture to at the college, Paul reluctantly stands in for her and states to the class in a vaguely melancholic fashion, “I make films to keep myself busy. If I had the strength, I’d do nothing at all. Because I can’t bear to do nothing, I make films. There’s no other reason. That’s the most honest thing I can say about my work. That goes for me too. As for Ms. Duras, every time you see a truck pass by . . . think of it as the word of a woman passing by.” Ultimately, Paul falls to manage to bring Duras to the local TV station where they both work for a planned TV interview, so pissy prima donna Denise reacts by absurdly calling him a “fascist” and smacking the shit out of him right in front of his daughter, thus underscoring the heroine's deep-seated and highly irrational hostility for her ex-beau. That night, Paul eats dinner with his ex-wife and daughter (Paule Muret) and they treat him with bitter resentment like virtually all of the women in his life, so he reacts by calling them “bitches.”  Of course, the only reason Paul's ex-wife agrees to eat dinner with him is to get her monthly child support check.  Not unlike Denise, Paul's ex-wife deeply resents him and has no qualms about letting him know it.  Luckily, Paul has enough money that he can pay for a woman that at least tries to pretend that she loves him and his seemingly wandering cock.

 As hinted at various points in the film, Denise would not have a career in television were it not for her ex-boyfriend Paul, but now she has it in her mind that she wants to be completely free and is willing to live on a farm in the country and work at a publishing company that is owned by another ex-boyfriend to make a new life for herself. Indeed, over-the-hill debutante Denise—a nasty passive-aggressive bitch that no man should have to suffer—believes that her bicycle will bring her true freedom.  While visiting the farm house that she plans to live at, a girl that already lives there states to Denise, “Let me show you something” and then proceeds to drop her pants, bend over with her ass and pussy in front of a line of cows, and proudly declares, “Sometimes they give your ass crack a good lick.” Of course, being an emotionally barren woman that seems to lack a sense of humor, Denise is hardly impressed by the rather raunchy and zany quasi-zoophilic display. As Denise confesses to Paul over the phone in regard to why their relationship is a failure and why it must end for good, “People always say – They always say – They say you need someone to lean on. I wanted someone to lean with. We’ve never really leaned on each other. We never leaned on each other. Something seemed to stop us.” Of course, both Paul and Denise are miserable broken individuals that really know how to make an ugly situation even uglier.  To Denise’s credit, she does not seem to be nearly as innately and irrevocably soulless as Paul's prostitute pal Isabelle, but it seems dubious at best that she could ever maintain anything resembling a healthy relationship.  Needless to say, it is a good thing that Denise does not have any children, as she lacks any real nurturing qualities and could only bring great pain and misery to the lives of any progeny she might spawn.

 When we first meet pretty pussy-peddler Isabelle Rivière—a sassy bitch that lacks tact who seems to loathe everyone and everything, including men and sex—she is waiting in line for a movie with Paul, who is attempting to be a gentleman by taking her on a date even though he is really only with her to purchase her pink-eye. Not interested in the charade of romantic courting, Isabelle coerces Paul into skipping the movie and just going straight to the fucking. While they are having sex, Paul gets annoyed with Isabelle’s blatantly fake moans of pleasures and complains, “stop working so hard” and “stop pretending.” Of course, as the viewer soon discovers, Isabelle seems to lack the capacity for any sort of genuine human emotion aside from a vague degree of melancholy to the point where she seems like a rare women with Asperger syndrome. For whatever reason, all of Isabelle’s roommates seem to hate her and are quite glad that she is moving out of their apartment. When Isabelle’s sister randomly shows up at the flat and begs for money so that she can bail some friends out of jail, the robot-like prostitute gets a sick idea and offers to be her little sis’ pimp despite the fact that she hates pimps as demonstrated by the fact she was roughed up by one while being given the following words of wisdom in regard to her gender, “No one’s independent. Not the whore or the typist […] Only banks are independent, but banks are killers.” To make sure her sister has the appropriate carnal goods, Isabelle demands to see her tits and asks if she has a “thick bush.” To prepare for the pussy-peddling trade, Isabelle also asks her sister, “Have you ever licked a guy’s asshole?” and then remarks, “You’ll probably have to. But don’t just say yes to everything. What guys like is to humiliate you,” thus highlighting her rather misandric view of men. The next day, Isabelle is humiliated by a middle-aged mensch who makes her do a little bit of roleplaying where she pretends to be his daughter, but she fails miserably and is kicked out of the hotel room due to her lack of spirit and emotional authenticity. Luckily, Isabelle bumps into a grade school friend by happenstance who offers her an exceedingly easy job working for a TV station, but she does not even seem marginally interested in pursuing a lucrative career that does not involve allowing strange old men to defile her cunt.  Indeed, it almost seems like Isabelle likes being a prostitute because it gives her some exceedingly warped sense of personal sovereignty (of course, such deranged thinking is not uncommon among contemporary feminists, hence the preposterous propensity of certain porn stars and prostitutes to make lame statements about the supposed feministic qualities of their trashy choice of trade).

 In a nice little twist towards the end of the film where all three of the protagonists are confronted with one another by mere happenstance, Isabelle shows up to an apartment that she hopes to rent and randomly discovers Paul jumping over a table and tackling Denise in an allegorical scene where the filmmaker makes one last desperate attempt to save his relationship by symbolically breaking through the gap that separates him and his beloved. Of course, Paul’s rather sad and hopeless self-described “idea” is a total failure and he confesses, “We want to touch, but we only bruise each other.” Needless to say, little misandrist Isabelle is horrified by Paul’s final last attempt to save his relationship with Denise and complains, “You’re crazy. She looks like she’s hurt,” to which he humorously replies, “She’s got a hard head. She’s a banker’s daughter. I’m going out for a walk.” Not surprisingly, Denise and Isabelle seem to bond over their mutual resentment towards Paul, though the former confesses that it will be hard leaving him, thus revealing that she truly loves him after all even though her extremely harsh words and actions indicate otherwise. In the end, Paul is hit by a car after bumping into his ex-wife and daughter. On top of the fact that she seems totally disinterested in Paul’s previous proposal that they see each other more often, the ex-wife makes no attempt to get him help while he lies dying in the street. In fact, Paul’s ex-wife even says to their daughter, “it's nothing to do with us” and then forces the little girl to leave while her father assumedly dies in the street.  Notably, Isabelle's novice prostitute sister also sees Paul and even seems concerned about him, but her john manages to coerce her into leaving the scene lest the two be spotted by the wrong people. While lying in the street, Paul thinks to himself, “Rather stupidly, I started thinking I’m not dying. My life hasn’t flashed before my eyes. I’m not dying . . . I don’t feel any . . .” 

 Admittedly, one of the reasons I found Every Man for Himself to be so (unintentionally) humorous is because it features a number of absurdly awkward slow-motion scenes that make it seem as if Godard is fairly autistic when it comes to cinematically expressing certain human emotions. Godard named this strangely wacky slo-mo technique ‘decomposition’ and he first employed it in his quasi-pedo TV series France/tour/détour/deux/enfants (1977). Notably, ‘decomposition’ is even utilized in a seemingly unintentionally hilarious climatic scene when the male protagonist is hit by a car, which becomes all the more strikingly odd when one considers that Godard almost died in the summer of 1972 as a result of terrible motorcycle accident that cost him one of his testicles and contributed to him becoming a social recluse of sorts. Surely, there is no doubt to anyone that has seen Godard’s “second first film” that it was directed by a decidedly unhappy and devastatingly disillusioned individual that is haunted by ex-lovers that he believes are ‘killing’ him. Indeed, while Godard might have a cold and unintentionally humorously smug exterior, it seems that a hopelessly haunted and terminally lovelorn man exists underneath. In a scathing review that she wrote on the film for The New Yorker, obnoxious philistine Jewess Pauline Kael somewhat rightly complained, “I got the feeling that Godard doesn’t believe in anything anymore; he wants to make movies, but maybe he doesn’t really believe in movies anymore, either.” Of course, what Kael seems to fail to realize is that Godard had finally matured and realizes that there was more to life than movies and making silly pomo Tarantino-esque movies about movies.  Not surprisingly, Godard would later criticize his former friends from the French New Wave due to their formulaic cinephiliac approach to filmmaking, stating, “I am amazed that people who lack ideas for new films (including some old friends like Truffaut, Rivette, who don't have any more ideas than the guys whom they denounced twenty years ago), continue to adhere to the one and self-same system of filmmaking, which is easy to describe: a sum of so many million, multiplied by so many weeks, multiplied by a certain number of people.”  Indeed, while one can argue that some of Godard's later films are nothing more than badly botched experiments, no one cannot deny that he has not continued to evolve as an artist and create cinematic works that were increasingly more complex and challenging. After all, only an obsessively committed oddball genius of sorts could create something like Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998).

 Indeed, instead of being a “film about film” like his “first first filmBreathless, Every Man for Himself is a surprisingly vulnerable and incriminating film about a uniquely unlikable and pathetically perverted man that finally got the gall to expose his particularly preternatural persuasion to the entire world.  As Richard Brody described in his biography Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard (2008), Godard did not even write a script for the film but instead created a “video script” that included still photographs of the actors and a voiceover commentary from the auteur where he describes “how I see” as opposed to simply “images of the film, how they will be.” Additionally, after hiring Nathalie Baye as the female protagonist (Miou-Miou was originally cast for the role, but opted out when she discovered she would be starring alongside Isabelle Huppert), he convinced her to let him stay at her country home for several days because, as the actress speculates, he “needed to imbue himself with each of [her] gestures.” In short, unlike his perennially infantile would-be-protégé Tarantino, Godard eventually stopped being a mere cinephiliac fanboy poser and began making films about real-life, most notably his own rather dejecting existence. While Breathless was a big hit that changed cinema history and inspired important film movements ranging from New Hollywood to New German Cinema, Every Man for Himself had a much different fate, including being booed when it was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980, though the film was a relative commercial success and positively received by many critics at that time.  Incidentally, Godard himself would once note regarding the difference between his “second first film” and how he originally approached filmmaking, “With BREATHLESS, I rebelled against all those tired shots with the camera anchored on a tripod, and now I made a film of what I used to think were those awful steady shots.”  Indeed, say what you will about the content, but Every Man for Himself is seemingly infinitely more immaculate in terms of form than Breathless, which is the rebellious work of an intemperate boy and not a thoughtful man with life experience.

 Personally, as someone that initially greatly disliked Godard because I felt his films were too phony and contrived (incidentally, I would later discover that the filmmaker considers some of his most popular films like Contempt (1963) and Band Of Outsiders (1964) to be more or less hack work), I must confess that Every Man for Himself is probably my favorite flick by the auteur. Indeed, in the film we discover that Godard is a bitter, spiteful, and all-around despicable self-pitying twat that patronizes hookers and fancies little girls, but certainly that is more interesting and enthralling to see than the mundane meta masturbation of a sexually challenged film dork like the young immature auteur that directed Breathless, which might be best described as the ‘poser film fanboy par excellence.’ Of course, one also cannot completely write-off the integrity of a filmmaker who once rejected a special prize from the New York Film Critics in 1995 because, to quote a fax sent by Godard, “JLG was never able through his whole moviemaker/career to: Prevent M. Spielberg from rebuilding Auschwitz.”  In Every Man for Himself, Godard rebuilt something that is certainly more horrifying than the Auschwitz showers of Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), as the filmmaker presents his life as a sort of perpetual purgatory where he is consumed by gynocentric ridicule and mockery and pangs of lovesick disgrace, isolation, and personal failure.  In short, quite unlike the director's early films, no aspiring filmmaker one can watch the flick and seriously see Godard as an admirable hero or cool role model.  Still, despite Godard's decided disillusionment with love and women in general, Every Man for Himself manages to express a deep affection for feminine beauty in an understated and nicely nuanced fashion, as if the auteur is almost ashamed to reveal his infatuation with femininity.  Certainly, I cannot think of another film where I became so entranced by a woman's hair blowing in the wind as I did with Nathalie Baye's in Godard's film, which I consider amazing on retrospect considering I found her character to be mostly insufferable otherwise.  Aside from being a one-man pity part, Every Man for Himself is also a film about the tragedy of still deeply loving a person that you have grown to loathe.  Also, the film is a rare cinematic work that manages to communicate the sort of metaphysical affliction that comes with being in love with a person but knowing your relationship with them is hopelessly doomed and that there is nothing you can do about it even though your soul longs to be with them for eternity.  In short, Godard's film is the sort of ruthless romcom Woody Allen might direct if he had some degree of testicular fortitude and was less interested in being a smart ass.

A portrait of the obscenely grotesque joke that has become Occidental love and romance, Every Man for Himself is a virtual testament to Godard's failure as both a man and lover.  Of course, judging by the female characters in the film who somehow manage to be both frigid yet whorish and heartless yet hysterical, it is easy to see why he has thrown in the towel on love. Although Godard might slightly disprove, I must admit that at the end of the film where the male protagonist is dying in the street I could not help but think of José Millán Astray's classic quote, “Death to intelligence! Long live death!”

-Ty E

Oct 6, 2016


Until relatively recently, I do not think there has ever been an occasion in my life where I felt a certain overwhelming nostalgia for a film that I had never actually seen, but such is certainly the case with the apparently long ago completed but only just released cinematic work Sin (2005-2008) directed by Dutch-born auteur Nico Bruinsma. I first heard about the film in 2008 but did not become obsessed with seeing it until early 2013 after interviewing director Nico B, whose latest film 1334 (2012) became somewhat of a personal obsession of mine. At the time, my lady friend had become extremely sick with some mysterious illness and joked that she was ill with “1334,” thus the film name became a brief but nonetheless memorable inside joke of sorts between of us (given that both of us are also longtime fans of Christian Death/Rozz Williams, the dark origin of the name was not lost on us). In short, early 2013 was a very happy period in my life and I cannot help but associate the enigmatic film Sin with it, so naturally I have been dying to actually see the film in all its sexually sacrilegious splendor, especially considering that I eventually began to suspect that it might not ever be released.

A partially pornographic, silent black-and-white avant-garde triptych with an innate timeless quality starring both literally and figuratively dark dames with deadly and thankfully wholly organic fleshy curves that should remind any sensible heterosexual man why fake tits are aesthetically repugnant and nothing short of the erotic equivalent of fool's gold, Nico’s rather refined 30-minute celluloid experiment in stylishly sinister eroticism is arguably his most personal and, in turn, auteur oriented, film to date. For those familiar with dark-haired Dutchman, it is no secret that Nico B is arguably better known as a film distributor and owner of the great company Cult Epics than as a filmmaker, hence his fairly small yet nonetheless notable oeuvre. Of course, Nico pretty much always intended to be both an entrepreneur and auteur as he saw it as a practical means to not succumbing to the starving artist cliché that has more or less become synonymous with his famous countryman Vincent van Gogh. In fact, as the filmmaker stated in an interview with proud belligerent dipsomaniac Gene Gregorits in regard to his one-time film professor and mentor Babeth Mondini’s absolutely imperative early influence on his career, “She took me to school every day, because we both lived in Amsterdam. After one month, she said, ‘Okay, I like what you’re doing but the films you want to make are not going to make any money.’ Or, ‘No one’s going to invest money in these films.’ I thought, Well, I’ll make money first, and then I’ll do films. She gave me the best advice of my life.” Ultimately, Nico would return the favor by releasing Babeth’s feature Kiss Napoleon Goodbye (1990) starring Lydia Lunch and Henry Rollins under his Cult Epics label. 

 Not unlike his one-time friend, legendary experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger, Nico B is an auteur that might not direct many films, but when he does they tend to be seemingly immaculate in their esoterically erotic ‘evil’ splendor as singular celluloid works that surely transcend time in terms of both cinematic technique and subject matter. Also, like his one-time professor, Dutch experimental master Frans Zwartjes (Living, Pentimento), Nico seems to have nil interest in appealing to any sort of audience as a perennially underground filmmaker that rarely makes full-length features and is only concerned with exploring his own distinct personal obsessions, especially of the carnal sort. In that sense, Sin is, in many ways, the quintessential Nico B film as a sort of instant cult classic that will only be truly appreciated by those select loyal few that have the will and good instincts to find it.  Somewhat ironically, despite being rampantly heterosexual as demonstrated by his virtually lifelong obsession Bettie Page and the promotion of her bondage films, Nico’s best known film is the homo serial killer meditation Pig, which was co-written and co-directed by legendary deathrock prince(ss) Rozz Williams and thus less geared towards the Dutchman's own sexual proclivities (for starters, the film not only features no unclad female bodies, but not female characters at all). As his early Super-8 student film Slime (1990) rather blatantly reveals, Nico has been long obsessed with many of the same themes, especially in regard to the so-called fairer sex, sacrilege, and the sometimes strangely complimentary relationship between sex, death, and religion.  In many ways, Sin, much like Rozz William's art, is a deceptively spiritual cinematic work in that sense that it feels like it was created by a heretical believer who subscribes to an inverted form of Christianity where sin and human misery are worshiped, as if Nico lost the faith due as a result of living in such a dark, dispiriting, and dystopian realm that he could only bring himself to believe in hell and sinfulness.  Indeed, not unlike much of Zwartjes' films, Sin feels like an aesthetically pleasing expression of hell on earth, thereupon making it all the more notable that the director hails from a literally puritanical Calvinist nation where telling jokes was even considered subversive only a couple of generations ago.

 Notably, nearly a decade ago in 2008, Nico B confessed in an interview in regard to the cryptically semi-autobiographically nature of his film, “My new film SIN is a collection of 3 stories told from my own personal experiences with women I have been with. I put the protagonist of each film in a different time and changed their professional ambitions. All three I shot on Super 8 to get that early century artistic feeling. All three are also very surreal and erotic (and of course controversial). In one story a nun gives an on camera blow job to a priest. I believe this is the first art film to show this on screen. The scene is a tribute to Rozz of Christian Death (both of us being brought up with Christian beliefs). Also, the religious ending of BETTIE PAGE: DARK ANGEL is also a reference to the scene in SIN.”  As Nico's own words more or less express, his film is a sort of amorously abstract three-part cinematic anti-love letter to seemingly mostly dangerous and mentally unstable ex-lovers from his past.  In a second interview that I conducted with Nico in 2013, he demonstrated an almost ambivalent attitude to the act of filmmaking by stating, “I never intend to ever make any film, unless I see no way out,” thus underscoring the internal pain, sorrow, and despair that is at the very core of the film. Of course, judging by the fact that virtually all of the male characters in the film meet a grisly or tragic end, it is easy to see what Nico means as Sin is a fairly forebodingly forsaken cinematic work that, despite featuring unclad busty babes flaunting their entrancing flesh, is clearly the agonized express of a haunted and internally wounded individual that sees sex as an oftentimes deadly affair, at least spiritually speaking. An elegantly gritty three-part Super-8 tone poem fueled by pathos of perversity and full of big and highly suckable milky white tits and nicely trimmed beavers, Nico B’s strikingly beauteous dark romantic cinematic confession thrives on unabashedly laurelling the lethally lustful and sexually neurotic in such an effortlessly confident and reassured fashion that most filmgoers, including thoroughly desensitized gorehounds, will be simply stunned and dumbfounded by what they see to the point where they will only remember the big bosoms and cross-in-the-cunt. Far too moodily aesthetically exquisite to be confused with actual pornography and too politically incorrect and just plain incendiary to be accepted by the more spiritually castrated members of the Criterion Collection crowd, Sin is sinema for the decidedly romantically damned. 

 A modern day mythopoeic silent flick featuring a musical score made up entirely of Impressionist compositions by Claude Debussy that thankfully does not seem masturbatorily cinephiliac in a Guy Maddin-esque fashion nor obnoxiously anachronistic like the sickeningly silly shot-on-video neo-vintage Lovecraft adaptation The Call of Cthulhu (2005) directed by Andrew Leman, Sin begins in a striking fashion that seems like what might happen if someone attempted to reconcile the classic Golden Age Hollywood biblical epics of Cecil B. DeMille with Kenneth Anger’s classic psychedelic Thelemite micro-epic Lucifer Rising (1972). After beginning with an ancient Egyptian princess having her throat slit by some random Egyptian gentleman, the following inter-title appears, “In ancient Egyptian mythology the panther Bastet is the God of pleasure, dancing and music, also know as . . . LADY OF THE EAST.” Literally roaming with black panthers as a child, the Lady of the East grows up to be a sort of archaic stripper and while she is doing one of her exotic dance routines she is ‘bought’ by a wealthy American (Pipo) who brings her back to the United States where she becomes the headliner in a Chicago burlesque cabaret act called “Dance of the Pharaohs” where she exploits her exotic ancestral roots in a fittingly kitschy fashion. Leading a lurid life of potentially deadly vice, the Lady of the East has a traumatic childhood flashback in regard to the murder of her father whilst in an opium haze and subsequently shoots her man dead with a handgun after he gets the gall to attempt to steal her precious whoring money. As the ‘Lady of the East’ segment seemingly unintentionally reveals, America has the power to even debase tough third world whores.  Of course, the segment also reveals that it is never a good idea to get involved with a girl that has daddy issues, especially if said daddy issues began at an early age before any sort of emotionally maturity could have been reached.

 In what is arguably the most intricate and indubitably the most controversial segment of the film, ‘Le Modèle,’ one watches with erotic intrigue as porn star Caroline Pierce—a seemingly forsaken woman that now regularly appears in extremely amateurish ‘mandingo’ porn—portrays a dual role as both a Catholic nun and a lecherous model in a provocative performance that features a devilishly dichotomous look a female sexuality and spirituality. Undoubtedly, one could argue that the model is the nun’s sort of Jungian shadow and vice versa, as both characters seem to reflect the other’s unconscious longings and compulsions. Despite being total opposites in virtually every single way (for instance, the nun is followed by a white cat while the model is followed by a black one), they are merely inversions of one another, with one suffering from sexual repression and the other spiritual repression. Of course, as Nico B more than hints in the segment, the sexual is oftentimes intertwined with the spiritual and vice versa, with a crucifix being arguably the ultimate figurative (and, in the film’s case, literal) dildo and/or phallic symbol. While ‘Le Modèle’ oftentimes feels like a hypnotic hodgepodge of Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet (1930), Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), and John E. Schmitz's The Voices (1953), it also owes a little to the Catholic carnality of Walerian Borowczyk’s classic Nunsploitation flick Interno di un convento (1978) aka Behind Convent Walls. While the nun sucks the cock of a swarthy Jesus-esque priest with great grace, the model seductively stabs her cunt with a wooden crucifix, which she eventually mutilates herself with after adding a crown of thorns to the makeshift holy dildo. After their sexual experiences, both women become somewhat haunted in their own ways, with the nun being obsessed with destroying a statue modeled after the model and the model being preoccupied with the horrors of being seen naked in public by finger-wagging nuns and priests. In the end, the nun stabs the statue in the heart and causes to magically bleed and the model strips her clothes and enters a large church, which immediately becomes consumed with flames of passion.  As to whether either women achieves salvation or eternal damnation, one can only assume, but considering the model seems to worship herself and her own body (hence why she is a model) instead of Christ like the nun, it is probably safe to say that she will become one of Satan's sluts.

 Undoubtedly, the third and final segment of Sin, ‘The Maid,’ is the most understated and enigmatic as a sullen and quite literally pathetic story that centers on a vaguely handsome and independently wealthy legless dope fiend (Mark Lee) that hires an inordinately busty broad (Dahlia Dark) to supposedly clean his humble abode. Indeed, the eponymous cleaner has what might be sensitively described as ‘jumbo jugs’ and she certainly knows how to use them as indicated by the fact that her crippled employer is regularly voyeuristically gazing at her fine fleshy goods. In fact, the perverted cripple even finds himself masturbating with one of his stubs whilst admiring the maid’s absolutely mesmerizing carnal meat, as if her ample sized body parts are all the more of a turn-on for him since he is missing some of his own appendages (whether or not he has a cock remains to be seen). A man that seems to have come to the conclusion that he is nothing and that no healthy sane woman would ever be genuinely interested in him as a romantic partner, the visibly lonely legless wonder seems determined to degrade himself and does so by kissing and gently placing high-heels on his rarely clothed employee’s feet.  The relationship between the man and his maid is innately infantile and almost seem like that of a mother and son as demonstrated by his tendency to crawl around his house like a baby and stare at his employee's fine fuck-udders like he is desperately thirsty for mother's milk.  As an individual that seems to have lived a seemingly unbearable life of pain and discomfort as hinted in haunting childhood flashbacks where he receives large injections from a doctor while be watching by a little girl that may or may not be his sister, it is certainly no surprise that the man is a morbidly morose and melancholic masochist that lives solely to further his own self-debasement despite the fact that he is wealthy. In a bittersweet conclusion that really sums up many of the themes of the entire film, the well endowed maid gives the man an injection that provides him a most permanent form of solace that could not be more ideal considering his extra precarious predicament in life.  As all three of the chapters of Sin make quite clear, sex and death are the only things that make life truly worth living, especially if you are a whore, cripple, or nun.

 In the introduction of his text Erotism: Death and Sensuality, French Nietzschean Georges Bataille wrote, “Eroticism, it may be said, is assenting to life up to the point of death. Strictly speaking, this is not a definition, but I think the formula gives the meaning of eroticism better than any other. If a precise definition were called for, the starting point would certainly have to be sexual reproductive activity, of which eroticism is a special form. Sexual reproductive activity is common to sexual animals and men, but only men appear to have turned their sexual activity into erotic activity. Eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest independent of the natural goal: reproduction and the desire of children. From this elementary definition let us now return to the formula I proposed in the first place: eroticism is assenting to life even in death. Indeed, although erotic activity is in the first place an exuberance of life, the object of this psychological quest, independent as I say of any concern to reproduce life, is not alien to death.” Undoubtedly, Bataille’s words in regard to erotic passion, as opposed to sexual reproduction, having to be imagined by the individual are indubitably relevant to the entire essence of a film like Sin where sex takes a truly transcendental and otherworldly form that entirely eclipses bodily functions, so it is only fitting that the frog anarchist concludes his introduction to Erotism with the remark: “Poetry leads to the same place as all forms of eroticism—to the blending and fusion of separate objects. It leads us to eternity, it leads us to death, and through death to continuity. Poetry is eternity; the sun matched with the sea.” Of course, in a way, cinema is also eternity, thus making it all the more fitting that Nico B’s film has an innate timeless quality as a cinematic work that even transcends the truly bygone era(s) that it recreates, hence its similarities to the films of Cocteau (who Nico paid tribute to with his ‘travel film’ Ville Jean Cocteau (2003), which is included with the BD/DVD combo of Sin released by Cult Epics). 

 Sometimes feeling like an avant-garde porn-snuff flick documenting three real-life cases that were excised from Kenneth Anger’s classic piece of highbrow toilet reading Hollywood Babylon (1953), Sin is nothing short of an orgasmically oneiric celluloid gem that was made for the sort of dark seeker cinephile that looks at hunting down rare and arcane films as a sort of spiritual quest. As a successful film distributor and cinematic poet that clearly only makes films for himself, Nico B is like both Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo van Gogh combined. Certainly, I cannot think of another mensch that I respect as both an artist and businessmen that releases obscure European arthouse films that no one else would dare to release. While set in an idealized past that seems like a schizophrenic universe as dreamed up by the black sheep stepson of Judaic pornographer Irving Klaw and surrealist poet Cocteau, Sin is certainly most potent if viewed from the perspective of a cryptically autobiographical film that is based on three events from Nico B’s life, hence why the filmmaker seemed so reluctant to release it. Of course, as a film with a strangely erotic crucifix masturbation scene that makes the infamous unholy preteen Onanist scenario in The Exorcist (1973) seem like outmoded child’s play, one can only speculate how literal the film is in terms of its autobiographical depiction of the auteur’s sexual life, though one can pretty much assume that Nico B has had his fair share of unhinged girlfriends with humongous hooters.  Naturally, as art history has unequivocally demonstrated, crazy cunts with addictively delectable carnal-traps and devilish curves always make for a great source for artistic inspiration, even if one would rather forget the mind games and violently neurotic tendencies that tend to plague many members of the so-called fairer sex.  Undoubtedly, after watching Nico's film, I could not help but be reminded of Friedrich Nietzsche's poetic words, “The true man wants two different things: danger and diversion. He therefore wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything . . . Man must be trained for war, and woman for the relaxation of the warrior: all else is folly . . . Too sweet fruits — these the warrior does not like. He therefore likes woman — even the sweetest woman is bitter [...] Thou goest to women? Do not forget thy whip!”

In his 1963 article ‘The Camera As A God,’ film theorist and experimental filmmaker Charles Boultenhouse (Handwritten, Dionysus) provocatively wrote, “The good film-maker is he who is engaged (consciously or unconsciously) in preserving and perfecting the demon in the camera; the very best film-maker is he who is engaged in transforming the demon into the god. I am sure you will see that an idea so theological as this will probably make out experimental film to be positively sacred in character and commercial film rather blasphemous. You will be right..” In the same article, Boultenhouse also states, “Hollywood is the tease of all time [...] The teenagers of all ages who worship its fetishes will never be satisfied; nor will the Demon of the Camera, bored almost cross-eyed by the miles of Nothing passing before it into Oblivion.”  Of course, whereas Hollywood gives you nothing more than the a wholly artificial pseudo-blonde silicone-fueled tease that has plagued vulnerable American youth with a sort of collective metaphysical disease that has caused them to confuse love with lust and eroticism with animalistic bodily function, Sin—a delectably demonic film where, in the Nietzschean sense, god is long dead and has been replaced by a sort of Dionysian goddess of erratic eroticism—is a three course orgy that reminds the viewer that sometimes the sight of a certain pussy evokes serious pathos.  As someone that counts virtually all of the great loves of my life as voluptuous women with killer curves and delectable derrieres, I can certainly understand the misery, melancholy, and lovelorn lunacy that the unclad female form can provoke in men, hence my admittedly somewhat perverse personal obsession with a film like Nico B's where a woman's best assets are elevated to the level of spectral archetypes that stir the collective unconscious and penetrate the psyche like a pulsating love truncheon plowing into a fresh hymen-intact prick-purse.  In short, Sin is the sort of romance film that you hope to see from a friend of Rozz Williams and ex-student of Frans Zwartjes.

 -Ty E

Sep 25, 2016

Der Strass


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Ty E