Apr 24, 2014

The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach

While determined avant-gardists during their entire filmmaking careers, French-born self-exiled husband-and-wife team Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet (Moses und Aron aka Moses and Aaron, Klassenverhältnisse aka Class Relations) did manage to direct at least one film, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968) aka Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach, that was more or less made with a general audience in mind and, as far as I am concerned, it is their greatest film. A project that was apparently ten years in the making, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, which was Straub and Huillet’s first feature-length film, only started shooting in the second half of 1967 after the filmmakers managed to get the Committee on Young German Film and producer Joachim Wolf to produce it after various filmmakers and critics actively campaigned for the work. As a man whose first two films, Machorka-Muff (1963) and Not Reconciled (1965) aka Nicht versöhnt, did as much as they could to trash Teutonic history (while also portraying West Germany as a 'post-fascist' entity of sorts run by ex-Nazis), especially in relation to National Socialism, Straub seemed paranoid that the German government was trying to prevent him from creating his first feature, complaining, “It was of course idealist in the bad sense [to try and work within the subsidy system] because I didn’t know the power relations yet that operated in film production and distribution. [We thought], if they try so hard to stop us making this film, then we just have to make it. I realized exactly what the score was when the Ministry of Culture in Düsseldorf rejected my application for subsidy three times in five years. They were desperate to prevent The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach from coming out in the cinemas […] It is obvious, a film made outside the system will never get inside. The system takes revenge.” Of course, Straub also took his revenge because, as he bragged in the documentary The Making of Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (1967) while smirking in solidarity with his wife, he intentionally hired a non-German for the lead role of Johann Sebastian Bach, stating regarding the decision, “I wouldn’t want anyone to view this as a nationalist statement in any respect, that is…neither anti-, nor something else, but I do believe it is also…important that the person who, let’s say, impersonates Bach in this film—he impersonates Bach after all—is not German. Because of what happened in this country, mainly between ’33 and ’45, I am glad to have found a Dutchman.” Indeed, undoubtedly one of the film’s greatest qualities is its immaculate musical performances by Dutch harpsichordist, conductor, musicologist, Gustav Leonhardt, who specialized in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, in what would ultimately be his first and last film role.  Ironically, I think Leonhardt's inclusion in the film only all the more Aryanized the work, as the Dutch people (the composer included!) tend to have more classically Nordic phenotypes that, according to most racial theorists (i.e. Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard), most Germans lack. While a majorly materialistic work (the film focuses on Bach’s struggles with money and patronage) that attempts to deconstruct and dismantle Bach’s ‘mythical’ legacy as a national hero and bearer of Teutonic high kultur, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, which is based on a fictional diary ostensibly written by the composer’s second wife, attempts to make its own myths, ultimately presenting the great German Baroque musician as a ‘proto-revolutionary’ who subverted the system, at least musically.  Rather ironically, with its utilization of authentic wardrobes/instruments, static direction, and obsession with monetary matters, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach seems like a hopelessly bourgeois work that feels like it was directed by a book store owner suffering from Asperger syndrome with a pathologically pedantic understanding of music history.

 Beginning with no less than 4 minutes of Johann Sebastian Bach (Gustav Leonhardt) playing on his harpsichord, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach then proceeds with the incessant off-screen narration of Anna Magdalena Bach (Christiane Lang), which is accompanied by historical documents, vintage sheet music, old drawings, etc. While an ostensibly aesthetically subversive avant-garde work, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach essentially has the same structure as Hollywood musicals (and, in turn, pornography), albeit minus the flamboyant pageantry. Indeed, the structure of the film is more or less like this: narration from Anna Bach, Bach playing, narration from Anna Bach, Bach playing, etc. While watching the film, one learns that Anna’s father was a trumpeter at the court of the Weissenfels and her brother did the same thing for the court of Anhalt-Zerbst. Chapel Master Sebastian (Anna calls her hubby by his middle name) was previously married to another woman in a marriage that sired three sons and a daughter, so 17 months after his first wife died, he married Anna and created a clavier book for her and his children. Sebastian originally received patronage from a music-loving Prince, but after his ‘serene Highness’ married a princess from Bernburg, things sort of fell apart. From there, Sebastian headed to Leipzig and became a Music Director and Cantor at the St. Thomas church but it was not an ideal situation for the composer to go from being a Chapel Master to a mere cantor. Apparently, Sebastian, who was born into a great musical family, always had an obsession with great organists and would travel to Hamburg and Lübeck on foot to hear such musicians play. Like many people of his time, Sebastian was not immune to tragedy, as his firstborn child, Christiana Sophia Henrietta, and second son Christian Gottlieb, died while still young children (although not mentioned in the film, between 1723 and 1742, Anna and Sebastian had 13 children together, though seven died in early childhood). Of course, during his career, Sebastian faced “vexation, envy, and persecution” from rivals, namely from a guy named Krause (Walter Peters) at the University of Leipzig. When Sebastian composed funereal music for a dead queen, the director of the ‘New Divine Service’ of the university protested, and thus he was only able to perform his music “purely as a favor” for a period of time. As Sebastian writes in an appeal for patronage regarding the imperative nature of financial assistance in enabling a composer to dedicate their time to composing new and original music: “It is in any case wonderful that one should expect German musicians to be capable of performing all kinds of music, from Italy or France, England or Poland, just as the virtuosi for whom it is written, who have studied it so that they almost know it from memory, and receive heavy salaries besides, as a reward for their care. This is not taken into consideration, but they are left to their own anxieties, so that many, worried over their bread, cannot think of perfecting, even less of distinguishing themselves. For example, one only has to go to Dresden and see how the musicians there are salaried by His Royal Majesty. All concern for their livelihood is removed. Chagrin is left behind. Each person has only one instrument to cultivate. It must be excellent to hear.” 

 As The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach progresses, Sebastian’s unwavering assertiveness as a composer who is more interested in creating revolutionary works than merely following an outmoded game plan only increases all the more. As a means to appeal to a Prince, Sebastian gave a number of cantatas in honor of the princely household. When Sebastian is told by his superiors that he is a cantor and should yield to Herr Principal and the Rector of the university, he replies to the threat with, “I really don’t care; cost what it may.” Indeed, Sebastian superiors make the following complaints regarding his character: “Not only does this cantor not do anything, but he doesn’t want to explain himself. He doesn’t give the singing lessons, and there are other complaints. A change will be necessary. It must break one day.” When students at the university refuse to play after Herr Krause gets his way, Sebastian is eventually given the title of ‘Court Composer.’ Upon composing works for a certain Count Keyserlingk, Ambassador to His imperial Russian Majesty at the court of Dresden, so that the royal could have solacing music to listen to during sleepless nights, Sebastian was handsomely rewarded with a golden goblet filled with 1000 gold Louis. While Sebastian’s eldest son Gottfried Heinrich’s genius never developed, his 18-year-old son Johann Christoph Friedrich’s genius did, as he entered a fellow named Count Schaumburg-Lippe’s chapel a few weeks before his father death and created a grand credo. While working on the beginning stages of a piece entitled Art of the Fugue (which was never completed), Sebastian lost his eyesight, yet he managed to create an organ chorale on the melody “When we are in greatest need” while blind. While he eventually gained back his vision, a couple hours later he was overcome with apoplexy, followed by a high fever and expired “mildly and blessedly” on 28 July 1750 (modern historians believe he died from a combination of stroke and pneumonia). 

 As typical far-left feminist academic Caryl Flinn wrote in her stereotypically holocaust-worshipping philo-Semitic work The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style (2004) regarding the Frankfurt School influenced essence of The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach: “In the film, Bach’s music is performed on period Baroque instruments, not a common practice in the mid-1960s. That choice insisted on a concrete historical context for a figure whom, as Theodor Adorno argued at the time, Germans had transformed into an ahistorical myth of German nationality. Bach had become museumized, his music confined to the rarefied realm of concert halls. Certainly film theatres were not the place to hear him, as Straub and Huillet learned while trying to get CHRONICLE produced and distributed. Their use of Bach, then, was not just historically appropriate to the film, but helped criticize the contemporary deification that Adorno observed.” Indeed, the greatest aesthetic asset of The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is undoubtedly its authentic instruments and wardrobes, with Gustav Leonhardt’s harpsichord-playing being easily the most emotionally potent aspect of the film (in fact, without his score, the film would be an exceedingly empty celluloid communist manifesto), yet that does not save Straub and Huillet’s work from being an innately static piece of historical revisionism and mythmaking twaddle disguised as state-of-the-art historical authenticity. Like with Straub’s next film Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter (1968) aka The Bridegroom, the Actress and the Pimp, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach concludes in a pseudo-spiritual manner with the lead character gazing out of a window as if staring into eternity. In that regard, as much as The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach opts for taking a typically materialistic Marxist approach to history, the film still ends up wallowing in the mystical world, if only for a moment (but at quite arguably the most important moment), as if Straub saw the act of creation as the greatest spiritual act and the only true form of transcendence. Ultimately, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is most interesting as a historical footnote of German New Cinema, and German film historian Thomas Elsaesser probably best summed up the importance of the film in his book New German Cinema: A History (1989) when he wrote: “’Bach’ is heard (rather than seen) struggling equally hard with poverty, child mortality, musical form, court intrigues, dull insensitivity, the blows of fate and bad medicine. He is seen with the only weapon at his disposal, which is his music. Deceptively coded as piety, J.S. Bach’s response to adversity is one of the clearest articulations of the possible freedom that the artist can have in relation to social demands: the freedom to resist through the discipline imposed by form. […] Precisely because it is not an allegory of the subsidy system, but an act of resistance to it, CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH, even before it encountered its difficulties with the public and the press, was already a formulation and a critique of the Autorenfilm and its concept of the artist.” Indeed, the influence of the film on German New Cinema is incontestable as Fassbinder would make the aesthetic style of Straub and Huillet’s work more palatable with his period piece Effi Briest (1974). Wim Wenders would also pay tribute to The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach with his work Falsche Bewegung (1975) aka The Wrong Move, which includes an excerpt from Straub and Huillet’s film where the suicide of a vice-rector is mentioned. An anti-melodramatic arthouse musical that wallows in antagonizing the audience in its aesthetic sterility and static camera work, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is ultimately a great argument as to why ‘French’ filmmakers should not touch Teutonic historical figures.  Indeed, Fassbinder, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, and Alexander Kluge would only became great filmmakers after they discarded their French influences. As for Straub and Huillet, they would never make a greater film than their first feature The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach.

-Ty E

Apr 23, 2014

The Blind Fly

Unquestionably, Romano Scavolini is one of the more curious cases in post-WWII Italian cinema. While best known nowadays for his vicious video nasty slasher flick Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981) aka Blood Splash aka Nightmare and his Gothic psychedelic giallo Un bianco vestito per Marialé (1972) aka Spirits of Death aka A White Dress for Marialé, Scavolini spent his early career making highly experimental celluloid poems of sorts that would probably bore his art-allergic horror fans to death. Indeed, with his avant-garde short Ecce Homo (1967), Scavolini anticipated the sort of collage videos that are a favorite among YouTube users, albeit using it for postmodern agitprop purposes, juxtaposing Biblical Renaissance paintings with modern images of war, consumer products, and surgery. Whether Scavolini borrowed the title for Ecce Homo from Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1908 autobiography of the same name or from the words of Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of John 19:5 is questionable, but if one thing is for sure, it is that the director’s first feature A mosca cieca (1966) aka The Blind Fly aka Ricordati di Haron aka Blind-Man’s Buff depicts a dispirited world of doom and gloom where God is dead and the ‘last man’ reigns supreme. Vaguely inspired by Albert Camus’ novel L’Étranger (1942) aka The Stranger, The Blind Fly is a little piece of black-and-white cultural pessimism that follows a strange and mostly soulless character who steals a gun out of a car, pushes away his loving girlfriend, ponders on fear and mathematics with friends, and ultimately decides to shoot at a crowd of strangers headed to a soccer stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Despite being made in the same country that gave the world Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), Alberto Cavallone’s Blue Movie (1978), Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980), the strangely gorgeous gore of Lucio Fulci, the horror porn works of Joe D'Amato (i.e. Erotic Nights of the Living Dead aka Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi), and the histrionic theatric iconoclasm of Carmelo Bene (Don Giovanni, Salomè), among countless other examples, The Blind Fly was considered so obscene by the Italian board of censors that it was (and still is) banned in Italy and has never had a commercial screening, or as auteur Scavolini stated himself in an interview with www.splattercontainer.com, the work was, “metaphorically burned at the stake by three censorship commissions and by the State Council” due to its perceived blasphemy, pornography, and irrational violence. Made over a year period of random filming after producer Enzo Nasso (who went on to produce Scavolini’s work The Dress Rehearsal (1968) aka La prova generale) gave the director a bunch of 16mm film stock (which the director described as being, “decaying, almost unusable scraps”), The Blind Fly was originally a whopping 6 hours long, but Scavolini decided to cut down the film to about a hour and focus on the curious character of a metaphysically dead murderer named ‘Carlo’ who decides to waste some random people as a rather irrational way of dealing with the fact that he is a heartless void merely wandering this earth who is consumed with nothingness upon nothingness. Described by auteur Scavolini as a “Beckettian movie” and featuring anti-urban/anti-modernist quotes from French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud, The Blind Fly is certainly the kind of rare film that might push the wrong person over the edge, as a film that “shows the absence of God in our society” (which, according to Scavolini, is the best description of the work and how Catholic intellectuals described the film) and offers no sense of solace, but instead, a nightmare of naked nihilism that reminds the viewer why old Europa is on its last gasp. 

 Beginning with a shot of two men laying on the ground as if they are dead, The Blind Fly almost instantly establishes a sense of absurdism, unease, and tragicomedy. The antihero of the film is Carlo (Carlo Cecchi) and aside from his girlfriend (Italian diva Laura Troschel) and a couple friends, he is completely alone in the world, though his loved ones are also beginning to compound his loneliness, as he finds it harder and harder to relate to them. After horsing around with a friend, stealing a pistol he spots in an unlocked car, and buying a newspaper, Carlo goes back to his dungeon-like room and seems to contemplate many things, including suicide, as demonstrated by the fact that he puts the barrel of the gun he has stolen to his forehead. In flashbacks, we see Carlo is having trouble with his girlfriend because after the two make love, he sulks while sitting at the end of the bed, as if disgusted with the ordeal and his incapacity for reciprocating love in a meaningful way. When Carlo meets a friend, he learns the following ‘mathematical’ formula: “Five is killed by Six but Five killed Four. Every number…Any number…kills the previous number just to be killed by the following number […] One is always a victim. It’s the destiny of the first ones…to be victims.” Carlo seems to be rather appreciative of his arithmetic-inclined friend’s pessimism, as demonstrated by his remark to him, “I feel safe with you. You’re always so peaceful.” Indeed, Carlo is proof that misery loves company. After making love with his girlfriend, Carlo kicks her out of bed, but not before remarking, “You look at me like…like I was an old, impotent man,” which she of course denies (but, as Carlo states, he “sees it” in her eyes). Indeed, Carlo is so dead inside that he has nil interest in sex, complaining to his beloved, “I told you I did not feel like making love to you.” When his girlfriend asks him why he never asks her whether or not she loves him, Carlo calls her “stupid” and an “idiot” and proceeds to chase her away in a rather nasty fashion. While randomly sitting by himself at a table in the city, an old man comes up to Carlo and goes on about how he noticed him staring at a young couple. The old man also tells Carlo that the young lady belonging to the couple he was staring at could feel his penetrating eyes on her, as if his hatred had metaphysical powers. Most importantly, the old man tells Carlo that he can tell he is upset by the way he holds a cigarette. Like most activities he is involved with, Carlo goes to a local fair all by his lonesome and plays a game where he shoots a toy gun, which is juxtaposed with shots of him gunning down random strangers. When Carlo meets up with another friend, he confesses he is scared and proceeds to put his gun to the back of his comrade’s head while asking if he feels fear. Juxtaposing scenes of a soccer game with shots of Carlo killing random strangers who are heading to the stadium where said soccer game is taking place, the viewer soon realizes that the antihero has completely lost it for good. After a seemingly schizophrenic montage featuring Carlo running away frantically from the scene of the crime, random dead bodies with animated quasi-psychedelic special effects, Carlo running up to and hugging his girlfriend, and the antihero grabbing his head while in a seemingly majorly melancholy state, the following inter-title pops up: “Standing Still – Alone – Being Defeated – Never – Samuel – It Never Begins – It Never Ends.” Before going on a murder rampage, Carlo is asked by a friend why he is carrying a gun and he simply responds with, “I need it.” Indeed, Carlo needed to kill in a last ditch effort to see if he had any capacity for emotions, namely guilt, but it is dubious whether or not he found what he was looking for upon committing the unpardonable act. 

 While auteur Romano Scavolini has cited Samuel Beckett has having the biggest philosophical influence on The Blind Fly, I found the utilization of segments from libertine poet Rimbaud’s Illuminations (1874) to be the most effective in summing up the overall tone of the film, with the excerpt being as follows: “I am an ephemeral and not at all too discontented citizen of a metropolis which is believed to be modern because every known taste has been avoided in the furnishing and the exteriors of the house, as well as in the layout of the city. Here you cannot point out the trace of a single monument to the past. Morals and language have been reduced to their simplest expression, in short! These millions of people who have no need to know each other carry on their education, their work, and their old age so similarly that the course of their lives must be several times shorter than the findings of absurd statistics allow the peoples of the continent. Thus, from my window, I see new apparitions roaming through the thick and endless coal-smoke – our woodland shade, our summer’s night! - new Furies, in front of my cottage which is my country and my whole heart since everything here is like this; Death without tears, our active daughter and servant, a desperate Love and a pretty Crime whimpering in the mud of the street.” Virtually completely silent aside from strategically placed music of the mostly discordant sort (though some German classical music is thrown in for good measure) and a couple lines of dialogue between characters, The Blind Fly is ultimately a severely suffocating, claustrophobic, alienating, and dejecting work that expresses through what is nothing short of raw cinematic poetry the metaphysical crisis of ‘modern man’ (very much in the Jungian sense) and his lack of culture and community in a technocratic world of abstraction, deracination, and godlessness. Indeed, aside from Louis Malle’s adaptation Pierre Drieu La Rochelle The Fire Within (1963) aka Le feu follet, which follows a lonely alcoholic who tries to find a reason not to commit suicide, and Wim Wenders’ Peter Handke adaptation Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (1972) aka The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, which follows an emotionally dead soccer goalie who kills a movie theater cashier for seemingly no reason, The Blind Fly is certainly the most effective cinematic depiction of abject hopelessness and despair in an emotionally glacial metropolitan society of anti-organic mediocrity that I have had the distinguished honor of seeing. Undoubtedly, The Blind Fly is easily auteur Scavolini’s most dangerously intimate work, so it should be no surprise that the director warns on his official website that “it is an hectic film not to be liked by the grand public.” Described by filmmaker/cinema connoisseur Gideon Bachmann (who appeared in a couple Fellini flicks and directed the documentary Ciao, Federico! (1970), which features a behind-the-scenes look at Fellini Satyricon (1969)) as follows, “It is the first all-filmic, all-musical film from modern Italy constructed like a musical composition, moving in movements like a sonata, broken up into chords like variations on a theme, and finally expressive primarily through the images it stimulates in the mind, it is essentially a cry of anguish in a world of emotional voids, a cry of solitude,” The Blind Fly is ultimately a peturbingly penetrating reminder of the power of cinema as an artistic medium if in the right hands, as Scavolini’s film is a virtual declaration of intolerable existential crisis and homicidal tendencies, which he was thankfully able to release in a creative way via the art of film. 

-Ty E

Apr 22, 2014

Taking Tiger Mountain

Undoubtedly, in terms of William S. Burroughs related films, you cannot find a more rare work than the American-UK co-production Taking Tiger Mountain (1983) aka Trechi Mynydd y Teigr co-directed/co-penned by Tom Huckabee and Kent Smith. Based on the Burroughs novella Blade Runner (a movie) (1979), which is regarded by some as a ‘closet screenplay’ and which has no relation to Ridley Scott's 1982 science fiction flick of the same name (though the producer’s did purchase the title ‘Blade Runner,’ which in the novel is a reference to smugglers of medical supplies like scalpels, etc.), Taking Tiger Mountain is a decidedly disorientating and deranging black-and-white dystopian anti-agitprop agitprop piece set in the futuristic time of 1990(!) starring a rather young (and oftentimes naked) Bill Paxton (Aliens, Frailty) as an involuntary assassin who is sexually lobotomized by a London-based bourgeois feminazi ‘think tank’ looking to establish a ‘world matriarchy’ and sent out on a suicide mission to assassinate a military major/prostitution commissioner and supposed tiger-keeper at a prostitution resort town in Wales where even old slags manage to turn six tricks in under an hour’s time. Originally intended as a film inspired by the 1973 kidnapping of American ‘golden hippie’ J. Paul Getty and aesthetically influenced by French New Wave films and writings of ex-patriate writers like Paul Bowles, Taking Tiger Mountain started production in 1975 as a totally improvised experimental film after co-director Kent Smith (who attended UCLA with Jim Morrison and made a living creating films for Encyclopedia Britannica) and then-unknown American actor Bill Paxton decided to travel to Tangiers on a whim and create a true celluloid odyssey, but after the two men found themselves bribing their way out of a Morocco prison and without any film stock left, they handed the film project over to Tom Huckabee, who decided to recruit his favorite novelist, W.S. Burroughs, to piece together a narrative of the patently perverse and paranoid sort out of the 10 hours of footage he had to work with. As Jon Dieringer at screenslate.com noted regarding Burroughs, “His novels Blade Runner: A Movie and The Last Words of Dutch Schultz expressly represent varyingly unorthodox attempts at screenwriting craft. Yet to date, Taking Tiger Mountain is the only feature film bearing direct writing credit for William S. Burroughs,” yet Jack Sargeant’s comprehensive study of Beat related films, Naked Lens: Beat Cinema (2009), does not feature a single reference to Huckabee’s film, thus demonstrating the rarity of the work as a true ‘lost film’ that only a handful of people have seen, at least until recently. Indeed, a film that was originally made with a totally different (non)script, abandoned (with the original soundtrack lost), and taken over by Huckabee, who apparently hired lip readers to fill in blanks in the script and added his own off-screen character dialog to fill in the film, Taking Tiger Mountain managed to more or less unwittingly utilize Burroughs’ literary ‘cut-up technique,’ albeit in a manner that is discernibly more coherent. As for Burroughs’ actual contribution to the film, Kuckabee stated as follows in an interview, “Burroughs came to town and watched what I had on a flatbed moviola. He said, ‘I think you’ve got something there, kid,’ and gave me the rights to his material for $100. He even offered to appear in the film, but like an idiot I said there wasn’t really a part for him.” A marvelous mess of a movie of the quasi-metaphysical sort that arguably does Burroughs better than any other film to date, including Cronenberg's Naked Lunch (1991), Taking Tiger Mountain portrays a whacked out world of the apocalyptic sort where fecund-free feminists transcend towelhead Islamists in terms of terrorist activity, thus making it quite arguably the most bizarre and idiosyncratic piece of misogyny ever committed to celluloid. 

 Set in a chaotic world where America and Russia have finally decided to show off their nukes and World War III is in full swing, Taking Tiger Mountain centers on a 20-year-old anti-social Texas-born hippie draft-dodger named Billy Hampton (Bill Paxton) who, like most Americans of his time, especially draft-dodgers, sought refuge in West England from the chaos of World War III, but ultimately became the human guinea pig of a feminist terrorist ‘think-tank’ that claims to be attempting to ‘reinstate a long lost balance between the sexes.’ As one of the frigid feminists states at the beginning of the film regarding their odious objective, “The female is sociocentric. The male is egocentric. But we have found that men can be adjusted…improved permanently. And we can alter the gene pool in such a way that only convivial men can be born. Gender is a learned thing. First we need to understand the male sexuality identity. We need to know which parts are intrinsic and which are conditioned. And we need to learn what parts are essential so the rest may be scrapped away and excised.” Indeed, over a 738 day period, the fiendish feminist hags used a series of aphrodisiacs and psychotropic drugs, electric shocks, and gay porn on Billy to turn him into a gynophobic homo and even had him surgically castrated, but somehow they managed to repair him back to normal as they are using him as an assassin to kill a Minister of Prostitution in Wales named Major Whitbread. Billy is programmed to believe that Major Whitbread is a ‘tiger keeper’ (who is also “actually a tiger”) sent by god who killed his father (who really died of a heart attack) and plans to kill him. Believing he is going on a trip to a village in Wales to experience a ‘sex vacation,’ Billy has no clue what sort of maze of madness he is about to get involved with. 

 As Billy candidly states at the beginning of Taking Tiger Mountain regarding sex, “How does an orgasm make me feel? It makes me feel...it makes me feel like god, man. When I cum…no, not like god…more like Elvis Presley or something.” While Billy enters the Welsh village thinking he will be experiencing an odyssey of heterosexual orgasms, what he actually experiences is psychological torture, horrific hallucinations (including, imagining his eye is being plucked out by a vulture), sadistic gay violence, superlatively shady characters, and multiple deaths. Upon entering a brothel, Billy runs into an old madam who runs the place named Mrs. Davis, who brags that she can “turn six tricks an hour…no matter what, young or old, I’d get them off before I got going.” Mrs. Davis gives Billy an aphrodisiac and proceeds to discuss how Major Whitbread prevented her from marrying her great love. From there, Billy is taken to a prostitute auction by a gay teenage prostitute slave-boy named ‘Sally John’ who recommends that he choose a girl named Judy Church because ‘she is the Major’s favorite.’ Of course, Billy chooses Judy Church and is led to her house by a little boy. Upon arriving at her humble abode, Billy confesses to Judy that he is nervous since it has been a while since he last had sex, but the two end up making passionate love (believe it or not, the scene actually features Bill Paxton receiving an unsimulated blow job from the non-actress). Assumedly as a result of the feminist brainwashing he has suffered, Billy ends up regrettably falling in love with a weird and sexually sadistic Welsh outlaw boy named Tony Boyle, who is almost Satanic in his charm, but he fights his urges. Out of nowhere, Tony begins cutting up his own lip with a pirate knife, which irks Billy, who threateningly states to the boy, “What are you trying to do, you think I get off to that? Blood doesn’t mean nothing to me. You’re no hero, man. Nobody cares what you do.” Welsh boy Tony then proceeds to cut up Billy’s lip in a discernibly homoerotic fashion, but some people scare him off before he can kill the American draft-dodger. After a number of hallucinations, street fights, and lonely days/nights sleeping on the street, Billy finally meets the Major at bar and accuses him of spying on him and attempting to make him into a male prostitute. Of course, the Major denies all these claims and tells Billy he is free to leave on the latest train out of Swansea, but Billy decides not to. After meeting with a fellow American who fled the United States after being busted for selling dope to college students, Billy is chased by terrorist assassins and his new friend is gunned down in cold blood. Billy ends up going back to Mrs. Davis’ house and she and her husband attempt to get him to hook up with their daughter Barbara. While Billy bangs Barbara, he decides to go against Mrs. Davis’ wishes and leaves her home. Ultimately, Billy confronts Tony Boyle and then proceeds to chase down Judy Church at some ancient ruins, as if she is some sort of seductive ghost. In his hunt for Judy Church, Billy ends up falling off of a cliff, but somehow reappears again alive on a beach where he attempts to beat gay outlaw Tony to death. In the end, Tony stabs Billy to death on the beach and the American draft-dodger whispers, “paradise…,” as if his demise has finally brought him solace. 

 Featuring automaton-like prostitutes that work for the government and a lead protagonist that candidly states, “You can’t trust anybody, really, anything real personal…because the only people that ever fuck you are the people that really care about you,” Taking Tiger Mountain is undoubtedly a singular dystopian flick in that it actually manages to conjure up a paranoid state where the personal and impersonal have become one in the same, with even the sex act itself becoming something that one cannot do without feeling that there is some dubious ulterior-motive related to the act. In terms of predicting the future, Taking Tiger Mountain manages to demonstrate how out of hand feminist culture-distorting has become. Indeed, while modern day feminists do no typically surgically castrate men and send them on assassin missions as depicted in the film, one has to wonder about a world where a deranged Jewish feminist like Sheryl Sandberg, who is chief operating officer of Facebook, seeks to have the word “bossy” banned because she believes the word somehow prevents women from seeking leadership roles because they are afraid of being called the B word (personally, I know another 5-letter word that starts with B that is more fitting for Sandberg). Socio-political concerns aside, Taking Tiger Mountain is quite arguably the most ‘trippiest’ film ever shot in black-and-white, which is no small accomplishment for a work that was filmed using the discarded short ends from Bob Fosse’s Lenny Bruce biopic Lenny (1974) starring Dustin Hoffman. Filmed with the real Welsh townspeople playing themselves (indeed, ‘Judy Church’ was played by Judy Church) in an area full of ancient ruins that seem untainted by modernity, Taking Tiger Mountain is like The Wicker Man of Beat movies meets the anti-sci-fi action of Godard’s Alphaville (1965), albeit actually entertaining and paranoia-inspiring, which is partially due to the disorientating soundtrack by Radio Free Europe and the incessant audio clips from fake news reports. Featuring references to how the so-called ‘Christian Democratic Government of the U.S.’ are planning to execute 11 people (including actress Shirley MacLaine, actor Richard Dreyfuss, and former CIA officer turned whistleblower John R. Stockwell) on September 11 (!), Taking Tiger Mountain has certainly aged quite gracefully in a rather strange way and is thus begging for a new cult audience, though it is questionable whether or not modern day viewers will be accepting of the film, as not many people appreciated it upon its release, or as director Tom Huckabee stated in an interview, “I know that some of the bigger fans [of Taking Tiger Mountain] were gay and bisexual men that seemed to get it better than maybe other demographics. And then recently when I showed it here at the theater where Lee Harvey Oswald was caught—there were a bunch of ex-film students in their 30′s that all studied experimental cinema, and people like that tend to get it. I think when it first came out, it was just too weird. People mostly didn’t understand where it was coming from. I think when I show it these days, people tend to get it more.”  Aside from giving me a new sense of respect for Bill Paxton, Taking Tiger Mountain has also proved to me that John Boorman's Zardoz (1974) is not the only decent UK-based semi-pagan-themed dystopian science fiction.

-Ty E

Apr 21, 2014

The Driller Killer

I do not know when NYC-based auteur Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, 4:44 Last Day on Earth) became a full-fledged crackhead, but he certainly seemed like he was smoking rocks at the time he directed and starred in his first ‘official’ film The Driller Killer (1979), even though the film pre-dates the crack epidemic of the mid-1980s. Indeed, while Ferrara had the opportunity to use 35mm film stock for his rather disappointing porn flick 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy (1976), he shot his quasi-arthouse slasher flick The Driller Killer on cheap 16mm film stock, which would prove to only further accentuate the film’s already glaring grittiness and sometimes cinéma vérité-like feel, especially during scenes featuring deranged dipsomaniac bums regurgitating on shitty city street corners. Admittedly, when I first saw The Driller Killer about a decade or so ago, I thought it was a plodding pile of totally forgettable homeless vomit (and, indeed, the film has its fair share of wino bile), yet as a fan of a number of Ferrara’s films, I felt it was about time I give the film another chance, especially after watching 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy and seeing for myself why the director wanted to distance himself from his first unofficial film. A sort of superlatively sordid and sleazy yet suavely stylized work of unhinged aesthetic wickedness set in an urban post-industrial wasteland that seems like a cross between Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and Slava Tsukerman’s Liquid Sky (1982) as directed by a crack addicted Paul Morrissey with an affinity for the killer kaleidoscopic cinematic works of great Guido horror masters like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, The Driller Killer is offensive simply due to the fact that it is an artsy slasher flick that uses blood the same way porn flicks use cum shots and Picasso used paint. Additionally, Ferrara seems so innately irrational, hysterical, and hopped up on who knows what during his performance in the film that it seems virtually unthinkable that he was actually responsible for directing the work, but then again, The Driller Killer also has a sometimes punk rock documentary-like vibe, as if it was made over a couple weekends at the director’s favorite party spots and friends’ homes. Despite being a bottom-of-the-barrel avant-garde exploitation flick that seems to have influenced lesser NYC filmmakers of the ‘no wave’ and Cinema of Transgression movements, The Driller Killer was labeled a ‘video nasty’ and banned in the UK, with Mike Bor—the pansy Principal Examiner at the British Board of Film Classification—stating of the film, “The Driller Killer was almost single-handedly responsible for the Video Recordings Act 1984.” A vehemently vile piece of ‘vigilante’ anti-justice about a mentally perturbed painter who goes around wasting winos with a cordless electric drill, The Driller Killer is an aesthetically and thematically reckless work of low-class celluloid nihilism with the sort of gutter trash cultivation that only an old school street rat like Abel Ferrara is capable of. Although mere speculation on my part, I have to assume that The Driller Killer is a semi-autobiographical work directed by a struggling artist about a struggling artist, as what can be seen as Ferrara’s excrement-ridden equivalent to David Lynch’s masterpiece Eraserhead (1977). Filmed in NYC’s little Italy by Martin Scorsese’s half-Irish tweaker bastard son, The Driller Killer—a work that was hilariously, ‘Dedicated To The People of New York – “The City of Hope”’—is, if nothing else, a tastelessly charming, celluloid cultural artifact that is mandatory viewing for anyone who thinks Andy Milligan’s Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973) features one of the most important and honest historical depictions of the rotten Big Apple.

 Erratic social retard and loser loudmouth Reno Miller (played by Abel Ferrara under the pseudonym ‘Jimmy Laine’), who looks sort of like a Jewish crackhead version of Mick Jagger, is a down-and-out degenerate painter who gets quite a shock when he enters a fancy Catholic Church and an old ‘Father-Christ’ figure grabs his hand, as if he knows the young artist is about to become a portable-drill-wielding psycho killer. When Reno’s girlfriend Carol (Carolyn Marz) asks him who the old man at the church was, the painter eloquently replies, “Who knows, some fucking degenerate bum wino.” Reno lives in a dilapidated Union Square apartment with his girlfriend Carol and her ‘punk pixie’ lesbo lover Pamela (Baybi Day) and they cannot afford to pay the rent nor phone bill. To top everything off, Reno hates the fact that his area is infested with perennially barfing, beer-binging bums who have little respect for civilization, let alone bathing. In the hope of getting money to pay his bills, Reno conspires to get a $500 advance from a flaming fag art dealer named Dalton Briggs (Harry Schultz II) in regard to a giant surreal buffalo painting (Ferrara claims this painting is now in the National Gallery in Washington D.C.) he is putting his finishing touches on, but he is snidely turned down by the pretentious degenerate art queen. When Reno’s girlfriend complains that he should finish the painting now so they can get money to pay the bills, the exceedingly emotionally erratic artist flips out and screams at his best beloved, “Since when did you become such an expert on painting?! I mean, you’re telling me its finished? […] You know nothing about painting, man. You know what you know about? You know how to bitch, and how to eat, and how to bitch and how to shit and how to bitch, but you don’t know nothing about painting, so you don’t know when its gonna be done.” To make matters worse, a no-talent punk band in the spirit of the New York Dolls/Television that is fronted by a narcissistic mascara-wearing wop named ‘Tony Coca-Cola’ (D.A. Metrov) has just moved into Reno’s apartment building and they practice until 2am when the painter is trying in vain to concentrate on his work. After seeing a commercial for a Porto-Pak wireless electric drill and finding temporary solace in playing with the flayed corpse of a mutilated bunny rabbit (which resembles the skinned bunny from Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), as well as the mutant baby from Lynch’s Eraserhead), Reno comes up with the bright idea to let off some steam by killing the bums that have been stinking up his neighborhood.  Indeed, as an artist, Reno is a visionary and a creator and opts for taking it upon himself to create a new world that is free of parasitic subhuman rabble, but the problem is that he loses control and starts killing off more people than just bums.

 As The Driller Killer progresses into deranging aesthetic debauchery and angst-ridden antihero Reno suffers a number of schizophrenic hallucinations and nasty nightmares, the quasi-psychosexually insane social reject begins perniciously penetrating bums and drunks via his trusty portable driller. Indeed, Reno drives his wacky weapon of choice into winos as if he is literally fucking their brains and guts out, even approaching one unsuspecting bum from behind as if he is buggering him. When Reno finally decides to kill pretentious art fag Dalton after he describes his finished buffalo painting as follows, “… this isn’t right…this is nothing…this is SHIT. Where is the impact, it is just a god damn buffalo. This is nothing like your other works…this is far from your best stuff and the size can’t hide it. Reno, the worst thing that can happen to a painter is happening to you…You are becoming simply a technician. There’s nothing there…there’s no feeling, there’s no drama, there’s no passion,” he gets all ritualistic and sexually confused and makes sure to put on some pink lipstick and mascara before literally ‘sticking it’ to the anally retentive sodomite. Indeed, Reno even seduces Dalton over the phone before the killer climax by making it seem as if the two are going to make love, but the only penetration the art dealer receives is with a state-of-the-art consume grade electric drill. Meanwhile, after a series of nasty fights with his girlfriend Carol and various failed attempts at reconciliation (Reno paints her a childish painting with the words ‘I Am Sorry’ written on it), Reno finds himself without a girlfriend, so he kills his little lady’s lily-licking lover Pamela and plots his revenge. Carol has gotten back with her estranged husband Stephen (Richard Howorth), so Reno pays a visit to the two at their apartment. After killing Stephen, Reno sneaks into the couple's bed and waits for Carol to arrive. Ultimately, The Driller Killer ends with Carol getting in bed and romantically whispering, “Stephen… come here” to what she assumes is her husband, not realizing her reject artist ex-boyfriend Reno is laying in the bed with his trusty drill. 

 More ‘art-addled’ than Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and too gory and ultra-violent to appease the passive appetites of Francophile cinephiles who religiously masturbate to the cover art of the latest Criterion Collection release, The Driller Killer really is a film without an audience that was directed by a man who is not pretentious nor phony enough to market his films for art galley poofs and pansies, thus making it all the more significant that an art fag is brutally slaughtered in the film. Aside from possibly his philosophical ‘postmodern’ vampire flick The Addiction (1995), The Driller Killer is easily Ferrara’s most arthouse oriented work to date, yet it is the sort of aberrant arthouse work that could only have been shit out by a decidedly degenerate low-life from NYC, hence the film’s greatest appeal as a rude and morally unredeeming window into an American metropolitan maniac microcosm where all hope has been flushed into the sewer and where discriminatory homicide seems like the only reasonable answer. Indeed, The Driller Killer is not the Jewish bourgeois intellectual New York City of Woody Allen and half-Heeb hipster Lena Dunham, but the visceral and violent racially/culturally mongrelized McWop Catholic quasi-human cesspool of committed crackhead Abel Ferrara where municipal mental illness, mayhem, and murder are just as important cultural ingredients as pizza, crucifixes, and crack rocks. Forget the posturing moral righteousness of Slavic-Tatar Charles Bronson in Death Wish (1974), The Driller Killer is real and unadulterated depiction of what vicious vigilante dreams are made of. Like George A. Romero’s hit midnight movie Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Driller Killer would fall into the public domain due to some lawyer’s negligence, but if you have the opportunity, try to track down the French DVD release of the film featuring an audio commentary track from Abel Ferrara where the auteur gives a discernibly stoned recap of the film and hilariously mocks his own work, as if it is no more culturally significant than an antique ashtray. A true piece of American proletarian art without tradition or cultivation, The Driller Killer is a positively potent sub-avant-garde expression of the fact that American history, even that of a multicultural hellhole like New Amsterdam, was forged in blood, and oftentimes nonsensically so, as the troubled history of the Big Apple demonstrates. 

-Ty E

Apr 20, 2014


As a so-called ‘reactionary’ with an unfashionable proclivity towards anti-liberal iconoclasm, cultural pessimism, 'right-wing' libertinism, and racial/religious hatred, French novelist Michel Houellebecq is undoubtedly a sort of literary grandson to French pariah Louis-Ferdinand Céline. That being said, it is doubtful that any contemporary filmmaker could do justice in terms of cinematically adapting Houellebecq’s work (hence why he probably started adapting his own novels), as it is much harder to get away with politically incorrect material in film, which is probably the artistic medium that has been most debased and exploited by gatekeepers of commie culture-distorting, than it is with books. As the proudly prodigal son of irresponsible ‘bobos’ (aka bourgeois bohemians) who even went so far as to depict the last couple days leading up to his Leninist mother’s suicide in Die Unberührbare (2000) aka No Place to Go, German auteur Oskar Roehler (Jew Suss: Rise and Fall, Sources of Life aka Quellen des Lebens) was more or less the best suited mensch to adapt Houellebecq’s novel Les Particules élémentaires (1998) aka The Elementary Particles aka Atomised, as a work depicting two sexually and socially degenerate ½ brothers whose dysfunctional behavior is a direct result of their whorish hippie mother’s lack of parenting (indeed, like the characters in the book, Roehler was mostly brought up by his grandparents). Atomised (2006) aka Elementarteilchen aka The Elementary Particles, which Houellebecq apparently originally planned to direct himself, is the socially scathing result of Roehler working on a screenplay for 3 years and belated kraut alpha-producer Bernd Eichinger’s talent at producing reasonably decent mainstream films. Like Roehler’s previous (and, in my opinion, superior) work Agnes and His Brothers (2004) aka Agnes und seine Brüder, Atomised seems like it was directed by a Hollywoodized heterosexual Fassbinder. A less than merry mix of existential crisis and impenetrable depression, sexual looseness and impotence, paraplegic suicide and lithium-inspired hallucinations, anti-Oedipal complexes and tragic abortions, and all around social sickness, Atomised unfortunately lacks a lot of the nasty unrepentant nihilism that acted as the driving force of Houellebecq’s source novel yet the film still manages to capture the essence of Occidental decline in a fashion that can be appreciated by the most attention-span-deprived of philistine viewers. Indeed, directed by a man whose own emotional development was clearly stunted by his parents’ lack of love and nurturing, Atomised—with its cheap sex scenes, somewhat contrived direction, and strategic use of played-out pop rock songs—is every bit a product of the cultural and emotional retardation that it so unflattering depicts. The salacious yet saddening tale of two ½ brothers that act as a sort of dichotomy for the two extremes of western man—with one brother being deracinated, introverted, asexual, unemotional, logical and the other being emotional, highly sexual, extroverted, artistic, and irrational—Atomised is ultimately a rare mainstream German film that actually has something to say, even if it goes about saying it in a fashion that would probably give a Hebraic arthouse hack like Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World, Bad Santa) a hard-on. 

 Beginning with the contrived Albert Einstein quote, “One does not have to understand the world, one only has to find one’s way in it,” Atomised immediately introduces protagonist Michael Djerzinski (Christian Ulmen), who abruptly decides to quit his great job as a scientific researcher at a biotechnology institute because, as he writes himself, “I have to go back to the origin of my interest, to that innermost force, which binds the world together. Back to the elementary. I have to resume the research that I interrupted in Ireland 3 years ago. The artificial reproduction of organisms without sexual contact. Is it desirable…? It is desirable for a scientist to ascertain this feasibility. Truth is like an elementary particle. It can’t be split into smaller parts.” Indeed, Michael is a 30+-year-old virgin dork who, as described in the source novel, uses his “cock to piss, nothing more” and turns down a reasonably hot blonde chick at his work that hits on him in the most flattering of ways. After his hot co-worker compliments him by stating, “It is a pity you’re leaving. To me you were always like a Niels Bohr or a Heisenberg: a person of exception intellectual ability, someone with a totally unique way of thinking,” Michael merely admires his own intelligence and not the blonde babe’s voluptuous body. When Michael’s parakeet randomly drops dead, he merely takes the bird out of it's cage and drops it into the trash can as if it were no more valuable than a used condom. Meanwhile, Michael’s half-brother Bruno Klement (Moritz Bleibtreu), who is a high school literature teacher, is giving a lecture on the poetry of Baudelaire, but he gets a little bit distracted by his 17-year-old student Johanna Rehmann (Jennifer Ulrich), whose photo he routinely masturbates to. Needless to say, when Johanna remarks, “I think eroticism was a driving force for Baudelaire’s creativity, but that it made him lonely at the same time. I’d say these lines reveal the classic, tragic core of male fate,” Bruno gets all hot and bothered. Although a teacher, Bruno, who spikes his baby’s baby formula with sedatives when he is working so as to have complete silence, really dreams of becoming a revered novelist, but he tends to write rather politically unfashionable prose, as demonstrated by the following words: “We envy and admire the Negroes for we want to become like them: animals with a long cock and a tiny reptilian brain…The Negroes are still in the Stone Age. They can’t acquire our knowledge, they have no clue about hygiene and they also spread AIDS.” When Bruno meets with his publisher about having this racially charged text published, he is turned and told that he is a, “true racist. You’re full of it. That is good. The stuff about Negroes is great. Its strong, crazy, and daring. You’re talented […] My good man, what were you thinking? The Third Reich is history,” though his publisher also compliments him by stating, “You’re a reactionary. All great writers were reactionaries…Benn, Goethe, Thomas Mann, Dostoyevsky.” Needless to say, after failing to get his work published and pathetically botching an audacious attempt to seduce his student Johanna, Bruno loses it and goes to a mental institution where he is prescribed lithium and less than fondly reminisces about his shattered childhood. 

 As Atomised progresses, it is revealed that Michael and Bruno’s hippie whore of a mother Jane (Nina Hoss) did not even bother to tell her sons that they had half-brothers until the two were both teenagers. While at the nut house, Bruno tells a female doctor named Dr. Schäfer (Corinna Harfouch) about how his mother abandoned him for “hippy shit” and left for Poona. Ultimately, Bruno was raised by his grandparents until he was 13, but was put in a boarding school after both of his grandparents died (rather absurdly, his grandmother died in a tragic kitchen accident involving boiling soup). Bruno also tells Dr. Schäfer about how he had quasi-incestous feelings for his mother as a teenager, confessing, “I jerked off on my mother.” While Bruno desired affection from his mother, Michael would not even let his mother hug him, thus highlighting the stark contrast between the two bastard bros. Now well into their 30s, the two half-bros occasionally meet at a bar and discuss their miserable lives, where on one occasion Bruno complains regarding his wife, “She’s a lousy cocksucker, I felt her teeth – and she’s got cellulite.” When the two brothers go to see their mother, who just recently converted to Islam after being fed ‘Sufi mystic bullshit’, on her death bed at some hippie commune she is staying at, Michael makes the threat to his unconscious progenitor that he plans to cremate her body and put her ashes in a trash bag. After a night of screaming hateful obscenities at mommy dearest, Bruno eventually reaches solace after his mother finally drops dead, though brother Michael seems entirely indifferent to the experience. After reuniting with his high school sweet heart Annabelle (Franka Potente), Michael finally manages to show some minor love and empathy for the first time in his entire life and even manages to lose his virginity in the process, yet after learning all the scientific calculations he made regarding cloning have proven to be 100% correct, he decides to go to Ireland to continue his research and thus leaves his little lady in the lurch. Meanwhile, Bruno decides to go to a hippie nudist camp in a desperate attempt to find a prospective lover. After offending a hippie feminist bitch by describing African music as “too primitive,” Bruno gets in a hot tub to cool off and meets a chick named Christine (Martina Gedeck) who “cannot stand feminists,” thus making the two a perfect match. Naturally, Bruno and Christine practically fall in love at first sight, yet they also become swingers who engage in large orgies. While in Ireland, Michael learns that he impregnated Annabelle, but she was forced to get an abortion because the baby had ‘abnormal cells’, which is rather ironic considering the father of the aborted baby is attempting to perfect artificial reproduction. Meanwhile, Bruno’s relationship also takes a turn for the worse after Christine collapses at an orgy and a doctor subsequently reveals that she will no longer be able to walk again as a result of coccygeal necrosis. While Bruno attempts to save their relationship, it is too late as Christine opts for suicide and jumps off her balcony to her grizzly death. Of course, Bruno goes back to the mental institution, as he no longer wants to go on living as a result of his experiences. In the end, Atomised closes with the following epilogue: “Some forty-five years later, the scientific world came to the conclusion that there is an elementary relationship between sexual aggression and the pursuit of monopolies, dominance and the resulting conflicts of these pursuits – such as wars. Michael Djerzinsky was awarded the Nobel Prize for his alternative theory of the reproduction of the human race. His half-brother Bruno spent the remainder of his life in a psychiatric clinic. According to reports he was happy there.” 

 While no masterpiece, Atomised unwittingly exposes modern German ‘classics’ like Run Lola Run (1998) aka Lola rennt and Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) for the vapid and superlatively soulless pieces of politically correct celluloid twaddle that they are, as Roehler’s film ultimately points the finger at the counter-culture movement/68er-Bewegung generation and technocracy as the two great destroyers of German kultur, community, and family. For instance, in a scene of dialogue that could have been written by Teutonic philosopher of western decline Oswald Spengler, protagonist Michael is told by a mentor: “The thirst for knowledge! Only a few people have it. But these few are the most important power in the world. They keep on researching until one day they possess the key to rational knowledge. Nothing in the history of humanity was ever more important than the need for rational knowledge. Western civilization has sacrificed everything to that need…Its happiness, its hopes, its religion and ultimately its life.” Indeed, in many ways, Michael reflects ‘Faustian man’ yet paradoxically shares qualities of Nietzsche’s prophesized ‘last man,’ as a soft fellow with a typically Aryan drive for knowledge and discovery that is all too happy with the glacial emotions of the postmodern world, wallows in sexual impotence, and who is quite eager to see Aldous Huxley’s prophesies in Brave New World (1931) fully realized. Atomised also wastes no time in destroying the hypocritical joke and abject failure that is feminism/women’s lib as hilariously expressed in a story told by Bruno’s girlfriend Christine regarding her experiences with brainwashed feminists: “I could never stand feminists […] after turning every available man into a miserable, impotent neurotic, they systematically mourned the end of masculinity. So after sending their men packing they ended up getting humped by lousy Latino machos. Eventually they got themselves banged up and started making jam,” thus demonstrating that feminism has only made women all the more miserable, not to mention the fact that it has created a war of hatred among the sexes that has destroyed the nuclear family and has caused the birth rate to decline in such a drastic manner among indigenous Germans (and most Europeans in general) that it can only be described as ethno-suicide. As auteur Oskar Roehler revealed in an interview with http://cineuropa.org as to why he was interested in cinematically adapting Atomised: “I liked the book and wanted to make the film because it tells so much about my generation – especially the male generation – of people who are in their mid-40s now: their weaknesses and the bad experiences they have had with the generation before them and the cultural fights they had to go through. These were the reasons I wanted to do an adaptation of the book; the stories of these characters that were so lifelike and real. It is very daring in that it laughs about male sexuality and the inferiority complexes of men. The book is very fascinating because I never read about these topics before in such an honest way.” Indeed, while Atomised is not some sort of stoic ultra-conservative Evolaian critique about everything that is fundamentally flawed about the modern world, the film does manage to communicate some of the more obvious post-WWII social and cultural plagues that are eating away at the Occident and have only become all the more malignant as the days pass. Like his cinematic forefather Volker Schlöndorff’s greatest films, Roehler managed to simplify Houellebecq’s ideas with Atomised so that they could be made palatable to the most intellectually lazy of layman and in that regard the film more or less succeeds. Indeed, with the possible exception of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, who has essentially retired from filmmaking, no living filmmaker (including Houellebecq himself) would have been fully suited for adapting Houellebecq’s novel in all its thematic complexity and superlatively cynical culture pessimism, so one must just be happy with Roehler’s film, which is like the Teutonic equivalent to one of American Hebrew Todd Solondz's fucked filmic family affairs. 

-Ty E

Apr 19, 2014

9 Lives of a Wet Pussy

Since he is a supposed crackhead (or as Vincent Gallo once noted, “Abel Ferrara was on so much crack when I did THE FUNERAL, he was never on set. He was in my room trying to pick-pocket me.”) who has directed some of the most unwaveringly sleazy works of celluloid art-trash to slither out of the busted bowels of NYC, it should be no surprise that the McGuido auteur Abel Ferrara (Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant) started his filmmaking career in pornography, with his first feature being the incest-themed blue movie 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy (1976). Indeed, Ferrara certainly went ‘all the way’ with his first feature film, as 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy not only features the director’s then-girlfriend getting boned by other people, but the director himself being cinematically debased (though it is assumed by many that he used a cock-double). As Italian actress-turned-auteur Asia Argento, who starred in Ferrara’s little mess of a movie New Rose Hotel (1998), stated in 2001 regarding her colleague, “Mr. Ferrara will not speak about his porn film. He says that now he has two daughters and that’s why he will not allow it to be re-released or talk about in interviews,” yet since then, the director has discussed the film, even complaining about the experience of making the film in a 2010 interview with the Guardian, “It's bad enough paying a guy $200 to fuck your girlfriend, then he can't get it up.” In fact, Ferrara had mentioned 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy in interviews long before 2010 because, as noted by biographer Brad Steven in his work Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision (2004), the director told a French journalist in 1988 who asked whether or not the film was a thriller, “Some episodes were sort of like something you’d find in a thriller, but otherwise it was rather an erotic movie. It was my first feature, one of the first things I shot in 35mm. It was a sexy portmanteau drama about three or four women we knew, their sexual adventures. It consisted of seven episodes, ten minutes each.” David Pirell, who played the cold husband of the main character of the film, speculated that 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy, “was a way of raising funds to do The Driller Killer. That movie (in my opinion) had redeeming social value, although it was basically a grade B porno. It was filmed during Fall 1975. We had a great time making it, because we were all beginning our careers and had been friends for many years. Abel was a good and unique director. I remember the film opening at a theatre in the city: everyone attended this screening and laughed at how stupid this movie was, but we believed it would lead to better things. We all learned a lot about the film process, and I learned what I did not want to do.” Originally made under the working titles ‘White Women’ and ‘Nothing Sacred’, 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy is somewhat in the spirit of the semi-artsy/quasi-narrative-driven works of auteur-pornographers Armand Weston (The Defiance of Good, Take Off) and Cecil Howard (Neon Nights, Scoundrels), albeit somewhat more degenerate and incoherent. Indeed, featuring Abel Ferrara in a scene where he plays a deeply religious old Polack man (he was 25 at the time!) whose daughters take turns raping him after he gets too drunk on wine, 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy features a debauched mix of daughter-on-father incest, lesbo miscegenation and lily-licking of the black blue blood sort, superficial occult themes (including dubious tarot card readings and Nigerian ‘black’ magic), and aesthetically vulgar 1970s hairdos (sometimes it is hard to tell if it is a man or woman that is giving a blowjob), 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy is by no means a lost masterpiece from a great American auteur, but simply evidence that proves Abel Ferrara has always been an ‘exploitation’ filmmaker with a wayward moral compass. 

 Beginning with close-up shots of a negress massaging oily white tits and a high yellow chick sucking on a white cock, 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy at first seems like another miserable miscegenation porn movie, but things change quite quickly after the title screen disappears, at least temporarily. Narrated and presented by a hippie-like chick named ‘Gypsy’ (Dominique Santos), who reads out letters written to her by her former lesbian lover Pauline (Pauline LaMonde), 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy is a curiously convoluted tale of compulsive carpet-munching, anticlimactic cumshots, and rather tedious tarot readings. As Pauline confesses in a letter to Gypsy, she is cheating on her husband David (David Pirell) with a French stable boy (Shaker Lewis), stating of the erotic experience, “oh god, how I love it when he cums and cums…Oh Gypsy, you must really learn to love men again.” As Gypsy states to the viewer after reading Pauline’s letter, “Learn to love men again? That’s Pauline. She does nothing but have intercourse all day long. Then she writes letters about it as if I might be interested.” Indeed, while reasonably beauteous, Gypsy is a devout dyke and has nil interest in men. Instead, Gypsy spends her days all by her lonesome playing with her kitty cat and tarots cards in the hope that Pauline will one day come back to her so they can rekindle their ‘cunning linguist’ games. After smoking opium from an exotic peace pipe, Gypsy reads a letter from Pauline where she complains regarding her hubby, “Oh we still make love together when he’s not snorting coke with Rachel or balling his mistresses and boyfriends,” adding regarding the dubious status of their relationship, “But this cold detachment of his, which derives me wild when we are in bed, makes the rest of my life unbearable.” Indeed, while taking a leak at a gas station bathroom, Pauline decides to counteract her husband’s ‘cold detachment’ by having sex with a random stranger. Reading tarot cards in a supposed ‘Hungarian fashion,’ Gypsy also describes how savage salaciousness is in Pauline’s blood, remarking, “I know Pauline, she has her grandmother’s soul. They even say she has her grandmother’s face. You see, Pauline’s great-grandfather and two daughters came to America in 1903 from Poland. Pauline’s great-grandfather was a very strict Christian. He was really overprotective with the two girls. When the old man would go out to work, he would lock them up in the apartment. The only time they could leave the house was under his chaperon. Life was pretty lonely and…the older they got, the more curious they became.” Indeed, Pauline’s great-grandfather (played by auteur Abel Ferrara, who sports a rather unbelievable grey wig) was sexually ravaged by his own two daughters after he had too much holy wine to drink. Gypsy then goes on to complain about how Pauline had a steamy love affair with a virginal Nigerian princess named Nacala (Joy Silver) and how she “was afraid of that black bitch” and her double black magic. In one of the more would-be-depraved scenes of the film in what is a less than dreamy dream sequence, Gypsy morphs into a man (of course, this is not actually depicted in the film) and literally begins biting Pauline’s beaver. In the end, Pauline somehow ‘magically’ appears at Gypsy’s apartment. After getting all pseudo-philosophical and stoically stating, “There is no reality except human reality,” Gypsy walks over to Pauline’s naked body and states, “Sister, I have been waiting…It has been lonely and dark for me here since you left.” 

 While I was hoping 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy would be a wanton lost masterpiece, it ultimately proved to be one of Abel Ferrara’s worst cinematic efforts to date. While it attempts to tell a sordid story in an experimental way, 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy ultimately seems like a haphazardously constructed collection of banal fuck scenes that Ferrara attempted to piece together with a Sapphic pseudo-occult storyline. Indeed, when everything is said and done, 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy is nothing more than a botched celluloid orgasm with a rather misleading title that, with the exception of sexual degeneracy and cheap exploitation, gives little, if any, indication of what sort of filmmaker Ferrara would evolve into. Of course, as musical composer Joe Delia, who would go on to write music for most of Ferrara’s films, revealed regarding the film, “it was never anyone’s intention to make an intellectual statement with this production. I always had the feeling that it was a means to get to the next level, which was to get another film made.” As early Ferrara collaborator Douglas Merov would also insightfully reveal, “The only reason Abel made 9 LIVES OF A WET PUSSY was because that’s the only kind of film he could get money for. Arthur Weisberg, an old porno producer from Detroit, gave him the money. Why he’s not credited, who knows? Tax reasons, maybe. Arthur was a character, boy – a truly tough, no-nonsense Jew […] I saw the film and laughed my ass off at the sight of my friends in powdered wigs and beards showing their private parts for all the perverts in the world to see.” Indeed, 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy is nothing short of an abject embarrassment, so it should be no surprise that Ferrara tends to tell people that his arthouse-slasher flick The Driller Killer (1979) was his first film, though the director apparently told Brad Stevens, “I’m not ashamed of having made a porn film, but if I hadn’t directed anything except 9 LIVES OF A WET PUSSY, you wouldn’t be writing a book about me.” A work that ranks below Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire (1953) and John Waters’ Mondo Trasho (1969) in terms of embarrassing first features, 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy is ultimately a potent remainder of what can happen when you get involved with Jewish pornographers. 

-Ty E