Sep 1, 2014

Midnight Heat (1983)

Without question, if there is any pornographic equivalent to Martin Scorsese’s somewhat nihilistic urban ‘crime drama’ Taxi Driver (1976), it is Midnight Heat (1983) directed by exploitation auteur turned auteur-pornographer Roger Watkins aka ‘Richard Mahler’ (The Last House on Dead End Street, Spittoon) and starring iconically unhinged porn chic era leading man Jamie Gillis (Water Power, New Wave Hookers). Indeed, despite being a true blue fuck movie that was made to capitalize off of the more archaic instincts of pathetic old horny geezers who cannot get a taste of real pussy, Watkins’ nihilistically wanton work is even more nasty and pessimistic than Taxi Driver in terms of its uniquely unflattering and oftentimes depraved depiction of post-civil rights era New York City urban decay. Majorly misanthropic to the marvelously mean-spirited core, Midnight Heat is a rare fuck flick where the fucking seems to enhance the pleasantly pernicious plot in a rather aesthetically seamless sort of way, as a work about a philosophical hitman of the pathologically melancholy variety who screws his boss’ wife and daughter and thus must go into hiding and be extra weary of the wanton women he purchases from sub-upscale escort services because some of them are truly killer cunts. While not Watkins’ greatest porn effort as a work that just cannot compete with the Wagnerite wantonness of Corruption (1983), it is pretty damn close as one of the most aesthetically malevolent blue movies ever made. Unlike with Corruption, the filmmaker had to make a compromise or two on the film, or as Watkins confessed in an interview with David Kerekes featured in Headpress 23: “CORRUPTION and AMERICAN BABYLON are two I had absolute, total control over. MIDNIGHT HEAT is good, except for a really stupid sex scene at the beginning because I felt you needed it. I figured if the audience is stupid, then we got to do this to hold them.” Featuring slow-motion footage of real-life hobos, winos, and crackhead negroes that dwell in cardboard boxes, Midnight Heat is a porn film for pessimists who could care less about seeing some old slag’s gaping gash and are much more interested in seeing the sort of forsaken mentality it takes for one to resort to becoming a pornographer in the first place.  In that sense, one could argue that it is Watkins' most autobiographical work. Indeed, directed by a man who was a friend/protégé of Hollywood auteur Nicholas Ray (Rebel without a Cause, Johnny Guitar) and Austrian-born auteur Otto Preminger (Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm) and whose debut feature The Last House on Dead End Street (1977) aka The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell showed much promise as far as nasty and nihilistic exploitation cinema is concerned, Midnight Heat is ultimately the debasing celluloid hate piece of a disgruntled artist who utilized a film style that is usually specially tailored for lonely losers to wank-off to as an outlet for his own lingering resentment, angst, and misanthropy. A conspicuously corrupt and culturally cynical chamber piece from the bowels of the Bowery, Watkins' work reminds one why NYC is a dirtier hole than that of any ghetto-dwelling crack whore.

 Alan (played by Jamie Gillis in the same $39 suit he wore in Corruption) is a hitman who was probably an associate of Arthur Schopenhauer in another life, as he only kills when he has a good philosophical reason to do so (or if the price is right) and spends most of his time staring out windows and thinking about why life and humanity sucks. When Alan has sex with his wife (Sharon Mitchell) and then proceeds to act all moody broody while staring out a window, his lady love complains to him that he is too “cold” and introverted and threatens to leave him, but he could seriously care less and replies in the following jaded fashion: “Do what you want…I can’t stop you.” Alan may not give a shit about his bitchy wife, but he cares enough about screwing both the daughter (Tish Ambrose) and wife (Dixie Dew) of his employer (Frederick Rein) to quite literally risk his life just for the mere cross-generational familial carnal pleasure. Of course, Alan’s boss inevitably catches him in the act, kisses him on the lips in what can be described as an intimidating figurative kiss of death, and makes the following cryptic threat: “I’ll be seeing you in the streets.” Of course, Alan knows he’s a marked mensch and despite being a rather self-destructive dude with what seems to be a death wish, he does opt for going into hiding in a sleazy dilapidated motel located in a hobo, junky, crackhead, and wino inhabited area of the Bowery. While Alan is able to occupy most of his time staring at the window and admiring all the human filth that plagues the streets, he eventually gets bored enough to hire not one, but two call girls. Of course, little does Alan realize that one of the cash-for-gash gals has been sent to kill him, though it does not take long for his murderous hunter intuition to kick in for him to realize that the rotten whore has homicide on her messed up mind. 

 When the high-priced hookers get to his motel room, Alan, who has been having random bouts of erectile dysfunction, decides to have the girls screw together while he looks on passively. While pussy-peddler Diane (Champagne) is a tall and swarthy Mediterranean broad, Shirley (Joey Karson) is a short buxom bleach blonde that has just gotten into the prostitution profession. Though Alan eventually has little Shirley leave as she does not have much to offer, he has Diane stay at his room as he finds something rather provocative about her. Of course, Alan soon begins sharing his personal philosophies with the hooker, stating regarding the hobos and winos around the Bowery, “Ever think what separates us from them? One morning they just woke up and said, “fuck it.” Precious little separates us.” Of course, Alan is also on the brink of saying “fuck it” and throwing his life down the drain, but he still has enough of a sense of self-preservation to know that there is something not quite right about Diane. While Diane has nightmarish flashbacks about being more or less anally pillaged by her hitman husband Tom (Michael Bruce), Alan recalls being cheered up by his hooker friend Nan (Susan Nero), who could not give him a hard-on but certainly could make him happy in other ways. If anything is for sure, Alan and Diane are both majorly melancholy individuals who are involved in debasing sexual relationships. When the two finally decide to share carnal knowledge, Alan screws Diane from behind and during mid-coitus asks her if she was “sent by someone.” With penetrative pleasure clouding her judgment, Diane confesses she was indeed sent to kill him, so Alan strangles her to death while he reaches sexual climax. In the end, Alan once again stares out of his miserable motel room window as if looking into eternity from his own metaphysical prison. Undoubtedly, I recommend that the viewer stick around until after the credits end, as a final free-frame shot features a wrinkled newspaper with the haunting headline, “EIGHT DIE IN HOTEL FIRE,” thus hinting that Alan may have intentionally burned down the place and killed himself in the process. 

 Beginning with the Henry Miller quote, “Sex can become a weapon,” Midnight Heat is certainly a work that demonstrates that sex is a fatal weakness that leads both men and women to the slaughter. Of course, with its fiendishly foreboding tone, unnerving weltschmerz, abrasive third world-esque set-design, and slow-motion shots of staggering bums and dumpster-dwelling dipsomaniacs roaming around the Bowery as if trapped in some sort of post-industrial pandemonium, Watkins’ work is more about existential crisis in the (post)modern age than it is about mere fucking, for the flick is far too decidedly dreary and disconcerting to give any truly healthy heterosexual man a significant hard-on. As Watkins would reveal in an interview with David Kerekes, star Jamie Gillis’ real-life situation was no less dark and disturbing than that of his character in the film, albeit to a more pathetic degree. Indeed, as Watkins stated, “I like Jamie, he’s alright. I like Vanessa. But they’re in a different world […] all they do is fuck and nobody cares anymore. We were always trying to think of new ways to fuck or do something. Jamie was telling me he was living with Seka […] She is this big, blonde porn star. He says to me, “Man, I think I’m losing my mind… Lately, to get off she gets on her knees and I put her head in the toilet and just keep sticking her head in the fucking water while I jerk off. And when I fucking cum, I flush the toilet.”” With random literary references to T.S. Eliot and Henry Miller and a strangely atmospheric and obscenely oppressive theatric chamber piece style, Midnight Heat may be the Taxi Driver of porn flicks, but more importantly it is an aberrant-garde work that nihilistically delegitimizes art by molesting it with sleazy pornography, thus indicating Watkins’ rather conflicted character as a true artist who whored himself out to the lowest bidder. Indeed, the forgotten prodigal celluloid son of Nicholas Ray and Otto Preminger, Watkins may not have achieved much during his erratic and sporadic filmmaking career, but he achieved more than most by adding an element of danger to cinema, which is something that I, for one, can appreciate. 

-Ty E

Aug 31, 2014

Corruption (1983)

Undoubtedly, a multi-film collaboration between underground exploitation auteur turned nihilist pornographer Roger Watkins (The Last House on Dead End Street, Shadows of the Mind) and Hebraic porn chic leading man Jamie Gillis (Through the Looking Glass, Water Power) was a malevolent match made in celluloid hell. Naturally, this uniquely unsavory collaboration ultimately produced two of the world’s darkest and most unhinged, mystifying, and nihilistic fuck flicks ever made, which is saying a lot considering that they were made within an quasi-underground industry that is dominated by mostly degenerate and forsaken lost souls who make a living exposing their most sacred moments and body parts. Out of the two films that the mischievous movie men made together, Corruption (1983) and Midnight Heat (1983), the former is undoubtedly the greatest, sickest, and most provocative, as a sort morbid masterpiece of the late porn chic era. Watkins directed both films under the pseudonym ‘Richard Mahler’ (a somewhat ironic amalgamation of the names Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler), which indicative of the director’s love of classical music, which is also quite clear in Corruption. A ‘loose’ (and I mean LOOSE) reworking of Teutonic maestro Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold—the first cycle of the composer’s four-cycle Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) opera Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876) aka The Ring of the Nibelung—that the director originally hoped would be three hours and more faithful to the source material, Corruption is probably the most wanton and wicked ‘Wagnerian’ flick ever made as a work featuring an Hebrew born on the same day as infamous Wagnerite Adolf Hitler in the lead role, a prissy porn actress reading a vintage copy of Cosima Wagner's Diaries: 1878-1883, and of course music from Das Rheingold. Needless to say, Watkins’ film is certainly more wicked than wanton, as a work that is more likely to inspire the viewer to shoot themselves than their wad. A fucked flick with truly filthy fucking that feels like an unholy marriage between the paranoia-addled labyrinths of Franz Kalka, the unhinged underworld lechery of David Lynch, and the politically incorrect urban nihilism of William Friedkin and Martin Scorsese, Corruption may be an aberrant adaption of Das Rheingold, but it really owes most of its soul-stabbing sensationalism to the sorry socio-political climate of the post-counter-culture era, as a work set in a world where there is not only no such thing as “free love,” but only the renouncing of love, and where sex comes at the price of one’s soul. Directed by a truly reluctant pornographer who had never seen a porn flick previously and who refused to direct the actual sex scenes, Corruption is a conspicuously corrupt piece of sleazy celluloid featuring ‘honorable’ businessmen selling their souls, seemingly Satanic Kalfka-esque whorehouses run by bitchy Wagnerites, treacherous Gothic top-hat-wearing necrophiles, and ungodly bastard brothers that reminds one that there is indeed such a thing as a cultivated hate-fueled fuck flick. The film also reminds one that the least interesting think about Jamie Gillis is his circumcised kosher cock, as he barely demonstrates his carnal knowledge in the flick yet it ultimately features the actor at his greatest and most strangely understated. 

 As stoic lead Mr. Williams (played Jamie Gillis in a role that seems to be modeled after the character Wotan, ruler of the gods, from Wagner's opera) states at the beginning of the film to a gangster named Mr. Franklin (Michael Gaunt), “I believe in business. I believe in honoring my contracts. I believe…without honor…all business becomes quite useless,” yet little does the businessman realize that business will ultimately lead to him entering a literally and figuratively dark realm of the sexually taboo and sensually meta-sadistic. Mr. Williams is involved in a dubious business deal with a dubious dude of the seemingly mafioso-oriented sort named Mr. Franklin involving a mysterious suitcase. While Williams half-heartedly claims that he loves his wife Doreen (Tiffany Clark) because she doesn’t ask for much (?!), he is completely obsessed with his spouse’s little sister, Felicia (Kelly Nichols), who he spies on masturbating. For a major business transaction, Williams makes the seemingly moronic mistake of sending his feeble-minded partner Alan (George Payne) to carry out the truly curious transaction.  Little does Williams realize that Alan will betray him and join the other side. Indeed, to carry out the transaction, Alan enters a subterranean whorehouse where the whores, who do not even show the slightest traces of empathy and love, force him to follow their debasing command.  Ultimately, Alan will come to the realization that he enjoys power and pleasure over purity and love as a result of his experiences at the semi-surreal brothel.  Alan will also come to the realization that he is an exhibitionist and necrophile who gets off to copulating with corpses, especially in front of men who he betrays.

 Upon first arriving at the building that Williams has sent him to where he is supposed to carry out some sort of unspecified transaction, Alan encounters a brazenly bitchy receptionist aka “Woman at Desk” (Samantha Fox) who mocks him while flipping through a copy of Romantic maestro Richard Wagner's wife Cosima Wagner’s diaries. Alan is told to enter a room where he meets a lingerie-adorned “Woman in Blue” (Tanya Lawson) who tells him to “do nothing” while she fiercely masturbates. Eventually the blue babe commands Allan to, “Come over here and smell my pussy,” which he naturally complies with like a good little passive boy. After provocatively stating to Alan, “There’s something nice about the smell of a cunt, isn’t there Alan? Something exciting…something forbidden. Just watch…Just sit there and watch me fuck myself,” the Woman in Blue reveals to the businessman that she is not going to fuck him because she has “given upon on men.” After Alan is asked if he could give up on women and “rely on nobody” but himself, the Woman in Blue is annoyed by his uncertain answer and tells him, “what you’re looking for is beyond that door.” In the next room, Alan meets a “Woman in Red” (Marilyn Gee) who tells him to “eat me,” which the beta businessman does with a sort of hesitant gusto. Of course, while the red woman gives him a blowjob, she ultimately refuses to give him an orgasm and says, “one more door Alan, one more room” just as he says “I’m cuming.” In the third and final room, Allan meets a “Woman in Black” (Tish Ambrose) who tells him that he must “renounce love” if he wants the thing that all men desire, which is “power.” After agreeing that he will renounce love, the Woman in Black states in a bitchy tone, “Well, come and fuck me.” When the two strangers make (anti)love, the “Woman in Black” seems both bored-to-death and exceedingly annoyed and when Alan is about to cum, she states in a contemptible manner, “don’t cum inside me,” so he busts on her bum instead. When Alan leaves the final hate-fuck session, he finds a suitcase waiting for him.  Of course, Alan, who has renounced love (and thus has become like the dwarf Alberich of Wagner's play, which has been described by kosher commie Theodor Adorno as a “negative Jewish stereotype”), has already made his decision to betray Williams.

 When Williams goes to meet his low-life quasi-midget criminal brother Larry (Bobby Astyr)—a superlatively swarthy and sleazy guy that puts the “Kosher Nostra” members of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) to abject shame in terms of innate repugnance and moral bankruptcy—at a strip club where the the strippers danced in a seemingly trance-like fashion like somnambulists on crack, he begins to realize the depth of the personal hell that he has gotten himself into. Like his (ex)comrade Alan, Williams is taken by little lunatic Larry through a pandemonium of pernicious perversion where he witnesses lurid lipstick lesbianism, gimp-themed S&M brutality, and even necrophilia. Indeed, while Williams finds the necrophilia so disturbing that he bangs on the door and screams, “Open this fucking door” at the guy fucking the corpse, his bastard ½ brother Larry finds the entire scenario to by rather hilarious.  Of course, the necrophile in question is Alan and he now only has contempt for Williams and his pansy second-rate businessman ways.  Meanwhile, Williams’ feisty sister-in-law Felicia is kidnapped by one of the leaders of the mafia group that the businessman did business with.  As a result of Alan's treachery, the mafia men never got what Williams promised them, thus they want revenge.  While the mafia pig anally pillages Felicia, he sadistically states, “Williams asked us to do his dirty work for him. We knew it was only a matter of time before we owned him. I guess he knew that too…otherwise he wouldn’t have sent that fool Alan on a man’s errand.” Not long after that, Williams’ bastard ½ brother Larry comes in and blows both Felicia and the raging rapist away, or so the viewer assumes (their deaths are not actually depicted). In the end, Williams' wife becomes a soulless whore (indeed, she acts more or less like the 'Woman in Black') and says to her hubby, “You know what I want? I wanna get fucked. Not make love. I wanna just fuck. Think you can accommodate?” Of course, since Williams is more in love with a prostitute named Erda (played by Vanessa del Rio in a role named after an “earth goddess” from Wagner's opera who warns Wotan of an impending doom), he does not really care that his wife has degenerated into a debauched whore. As the conclusion of the film reveals, Larry set up Williams from the beginning. 

 On top of being one of the most foreboding fuck flicks I have ever seen, Corruption also happens to be one of the most wonderfully cryptically incoherent, as a lecherously labyrinthine work that seems like Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973) meets Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) as directed by the world's most pernicious Wagnerite pornographer. Indeed, when everything is said and done, it is almost a cinematic tragedy that it is a mere porn flick, as the film shows elements of what could have been a cult masterpiece, especially if Watkins had been able to make the 3 hour erotic epic that he originally intended, as a true pornographic ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ would be nothing short of magical.  As anyone can tell by reading an interview with him, Watkins was a real lowlife and patent underachiever who wasted his life and artistic talent on drug addiction, so in a way, it was only natural that he become a pornographer. While Corruption is, in many ways, quite anti-erotic, I surely found it more sexually appealing than most blue movies, as the sinister sleaze element certainly equips the work with a sort of debauched danger that most similarly themed films lack, not to mention the fact the film has a certain debauched dream logic that is quite singular, especially compared to similar works.  A waywardly wanton and wicked de-Teutonized pornographic adaptation of one of Wagner's most revered works starring swarthy sensual Hebrews, Corruption is a fine aesthetic example as to why Oswald Spengler was probably not nearly as pessimistic as he could have been when foretelling Occidental decline.  Indeed, somehow Wagner and circumcised wieners seem like a curious combo.

-Ty E

Aug 29, 2014


I don’t know about other people, but when I hear the word “diva” I usually think of bitchy childless broads with deep voices that are mindlessly worshiped by both effete fags and fag hags alike.  Of course, when it comes to the world of cinema, the importance of divas in both the personal and professional lives of gay filmmakers is no different. Indeed, Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Schroeter, Daniel Schmid, Paul Bartel, John Waters, and Steve Balderson are just a couple of the auteur filmmakers that were/are obsessed with divas and utilize(d) them for their films. For his debut feature film Diva (1981), mainstream heterosexual French auteur Jean-Jacques Beineix (Moon in the Gutter, Betty Blue) would appropriate elements of gay culture and somehow managed to make a film featuring a wild chase scene with exactly nil cultivated cocksuckers about a young moped-riding frog mailman of the supposedly straight sort whose obsession with a black diva accidentally leads him to being targeted by both Taiwanese gangsters and a physically grotesque alpha-pimp police chief of the miscegenation-proliferating sort. Unquestionably a work with a majorly moronic and oftentimes absurd plot, Beineix’s flick features the sort of storyline you might expect from a Hollywood blockbuster where the studio heads attempting to appeal to a minority of gay southern hairdressers instead of the hopelessly proud philistine majority. Indeed, Diva and some of Beineix’s works are the sort of films that the technically proficient hacks of Hollywood should make, as true cinematic experiences that may not be big on nuance, subtext, and thematic complexity, but do have a certain alluring artfulness that almost makes one forget that they are watching what really amounts to frivolous frog twadde of the aesthetically spectacular sort. Part of the so-called ‘Cinéma du look’ movement—French works directed by Beineix, Luc Besson, and Leos Carax during the 1980s that emphasized style over substance and that were largely influenced by late era American New Wave works (e.g. Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, Coppola’s One from the Heart), late era Fassbinder (Lola, Querelle), music videos (especially of the New Wave and New Romanticist variety), fashion photography and even TV commercials (!)—Diva is cultivated kitsch drowned in a fulfilling visual feast of throbbing blues, Italian Romantic opera, and naughty neon nights that almost make multicultural Paris seem like a magical and mystifying place that totally transcends it world famous reputation as Europe's modern day Sodom. Based on the 1979 crime novel of the same name written by French novelist/poet Daniel Odier (under the pseudonym ‘Delacorta’), Beineix’s film fell into my lap by accident while checking out ‘official’ music videos by the drug-addled electronic group Thieves Like Us, which ‘unofficially’ used clips from the famous chase scene for one of their videos. Set in a modernistic ‘post-racial’ multicultural France flooded with sexually alluring women from virtually every single race except white, the only major white female character is a frigid chick who thinks her gun is an appropriate substitute for a dick, a quasi-megalomaniacal American negress is the ultimate diva, and all forms of authority/order are depicted as being overtly ‘fascistic,’ Diva does virtually every annoying politically correct thing one can imagine to the point were it had me fantasizing about France being once again occupied by Germany yet somehow the film works. Co-produced by Russian-Jewish-French producer Serge Silberman, who previously collaborated with Luis Buñuel on such masterpieces as Diary of a Chambermaid (1964) and the director's swansong That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), and featuring a pastiche of Erik Satie's Gnossiennes created by Romanian composer Vladimir Cosma and a nocturnal chase scene that Roger Ebert compared to those featured in classic films like Bullitt (1968) and The French Connection (1971), Diva is, if nothing else, certainly one of the most successful cinematic marriages between high and low art, as a sort of proletarian arthouse flick. 

 Young French mailman Jules (played by Frédéric Andréi, who would later became a filmmaker) is a cultivated prole of the seemingly half-autistic sort who rides his beloved moped to a Parisian opera house one night to watch and illegally record his favorite opera singer Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez)—a celebrated black American soprano opera singer—performing “La Wally,” act 1, by Italian Romantic composer Alfredo Catalani. Unbeknownst to gentleman Jules, two sunglasses-adorned Taiwanese gangsters saw him record the performance and they want the bootleg recording because Ms. Hawkins is an old fashioned ‘artiste’ who refuses to record albums, thereupon making the mailman’s recording an extremely rare and truly one-of-a-kind item that is all but priceless. After the performance, Jules awkwardly attempts to chitchat with Hawkins and when that more or less fails, the peculiar postal worker subsequently steals her gown from her dressing room, thus demonstrating his particularly perverted obsession with the colored diva. Of course, Jules’ danger is doubled when he unwittingly comes into possession of a cassette tape that is dropped in his bag by a Slavic prostitute named Nadia (Chantal Deruaz), who is subsequently murdered in broad daylight by a mean midget skinhead named ‘Le curé’ aka ‘The Priest’ (Dominique Pinon) and his tall Svengali-like Mediterranean comrade ‘L' Antillais’ aka ‘The Caribbean’ (Gérard Darmon). The hitman odd couple work for a considerably corrupt Police commissioner named Jean Saporta (Jacques Fabbri) who is secretly runs a global prostitution ring where he trades hard drugs for brown, black, and yellow girls that he has hustle for him in the streets of Paris. Before being murdered, Nadia, who was the former mistress of the crypto-pimp police commissioner, recorded an incriminating testimony regarding Saporta’s carnal underworld empire.  No small-time crime novice, Saporta has set it up so that the local authorities and media think that the Parisian hooker industry is under the control of a fictional Indian man and Nadia's tape reveals this fact. Unbeknownst to Jules for most of the movie, he is in possession of this rather incriminating recording as Nadia dropped it in his mailbag shortly before she took a fatal knife to the back, so it takes the mobile mailman a while to figure out why he is a marked man. Meanwhile, two ‘good cops,’ Paula (Anny Romand) and Zatopek (Patrick Floersheim), who seem to represent the ignorant yet well-meaning French middle class, attempt to catch up with Jules to get the tape.  Ironically, it is when good cop Zatopek attempts to catch Jules that the film features its iconic chase scene.  Indeed, Jules does a lot of running from various parties, but it is not until towards the end of the film that he realizes who he should be truly afraid of.

 After being impressed by her thievery at a hip record store and nude black-and-white pin-ups, Jules strikes up a mostly platonic relationship with an underage Vietnamese chick named Alba (Thuy An Luu), who loves stealing, modeling for ostensibly artsy nude portraits, listening to her headphones, and rolling around buildings in roller-skates. Alba is the muse/girlfriend/slave of a genius artist/gangster/philosopher figure named Gorodish (Richard Bohringer)—a man that initially seems like a total recluse because he spends most of his time hanging out at his lavish home yet is a truly worldly man that seems to know just about everything about everything, no matter what the topic may be—who states to Jules while wearing a goofy snorkel and buttering a baguette regarding his theory of Zen, “Some get high on airplane glue…detergent…fancy gimmicks…My satori is this: Zen in the art of buttering bread.” Gorodish is also overprotective over his tiny Asiatic muse Alba (who, it should be noted, was a pale blonde girl in the source novel) and when she shows up late one night after after hanging out with Jules, he threatens her by calmly stating, “Do this again and I’ll drop you off back on the interstate, with the Vietcong.” As he will ultimately prove, Gorodish is the “master of the game” and “deus ex machine” who will manage to solve all of Jules problems by virtually singlehandedly taking out the Taiwanese gangsters, as well as Saporta and his two ‘fascistic’ goons, by merely playing them like chess pieces. Indeed, compared to Gorodish—a man with a somewhat flat affect who seems to personify stereotypical French pretense, sexual degeneracy (after all, his girlfriend is an underage gook thief with a seemingly low IQ), and artistic dilettantism but ultimately proves to be a super sly criminal genius of the seemingly indomitable sort—Jules is a stupid kid with a celebrity crush who lives in a fantasy world and has no idea of the magnitude of the trouble he mostly unwittingly got himself into. Indeed, if it were not for his new comrade Gorodish, Jules would most certainly be one extra-pale froggy corpse. 

 Unquestionably, one of the most ridiculous elements of Diva is the ‘romantic’ subplot between protagonist Jules and his dark divine diva Cynthia Hawkins. Not long after awkwardly attempting to speak with her in her dressing room after her performance at the beginning of the film, Jules randomly swings by Cynthia’s lavish luxury hotel room and absurdly reveals to her that he is the crazed fan that swiped her gown. Initially angry and threatening to call security, Cynthia soon begins wallowing in Jules’ somewhat unsettling fan boy worship. In fact, Jules has such a bizarre obsession with the diva that he pays an Indian prostitute to model the gown he stole from Cynthia, though he does not dare to look at the streetwalker's bare body when she changes into the glittery dress, as if he is an embarrassed schoolboy who lacks the tools to get down and dirty with a delectable dame. When the brown prostitute remarks to Jules, “You seem a little nutty,” the young mailman is not at all offended and proudly replies, “I am,” as if he feels special due to his strangely obsessive behavior. A lonely and unpredictable artist with very specific demands and routines, Cynthia refuses to take her manager’s advice and record an album after it is revealed that a bootleg of her Paris performance has surfaced. Of course, in the end, the opera singer does not have to worry about anything after Jules recovers the bootleg recording and brings it back to Cynthia and plays it for her, to which the diva remarks, “never heard [herself] sing,” as if she feels humbled by the experience. Ironically, despite being a world famous opera singer, Cynthia only manages to feel like a true ‘diva’ after being swooned by a French lumpenprole mailman on a moped who was swooned by her singing. 

 I think it is only fitting that my first viewing of Diva was via dubious download (as for who made this dubious download, I cannot be sure), as a crime-thriller centering around a bootleg recording that was created in an era when the internet did not exist and one had to deal with shady characters if one wanted to obtain rare artistic materials by less than official means. A rare film with a great and rather iconic chase scene that actually has a bit of artistic merit, Beineix’s debut feature proves that there actually be a healthy medium between mindless entertainment and celluloid art that one might describe as ‘proletarian cinematic poetry.’ Indeed, next to Belgian auteur Patrick Conrad’s absurdly underrated flick Mascara (1987) starring Charlotte Rampling and Michael Sarrazin, Diva has to be the best from the 1980s about divas, death, and aesthetic excess. While technically a crime-thriller, Beineix’s work will surely be more appreciated by fans of new wave/punk/goth stylized cult flicks like Liquid Sky (1982), Eckhart Schmidt’s Der Fan (1982) aka Trance, The Hunger (1983), Repo Man (1984), Pejzazi u magli (1984) aka Landscapes In The Mist, and even To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) than by Brian De Palma fanboys. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the film was advertised in the United States with the following tagline: “Here comes a new kind of French New Wave.” Unquestionably, as much as I love some (emphasis on “some”) films and filmmakers of La Nouvelle Vague, I have to admit that I lean more towards the ‘new romantic’ aesthetic of Diva and some of Beineix’s other films and I say that as someone that is rather repelled by the mainstream auteur filmmaker’s flagrant multicultural fetishism and proclivity toward typical frog twaddle. Indeed, a film has to be doing something right if it manages to make a romance between a goofy half-autistic frog dork and a American negress opera singer seem somewhat cute and touching. 

-Ty E

Aug 28, 2014

The Dark Angel (1983)

When it comes to the Golden Age of Porn, you can pretty much guarantee a film is a classic or at the very least interesting if it stars Jamie Gillis (The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Neon Nights), as he proved that porn stars could do much more than bust loads in gaping bungholes and receive sloppy, wet blow jobs while being only semi-erect from busted old slags with aesthetically displeasing platinum blonde dye jobs. Indeed, Gillis did not enter the blue movie realm until he was already in his early-30s, yet he became one of the most demanded, commanding, and captivating actors, as a sort of David Hess meets Harvey Keitel of hardcore flicks who could humor viewers just as much as he could horrify. Indeed, from the incestous patriarch ghost of Jonas Middleton’s Through the Looking Glass (1976) to the excrement-enamored ‘Enema Bandit’ of Shaun Costello’s Water Power (1977) to the Faustian pact-making businessman of Roger Watkin’s Corruption (1983) to the punk-rock-pussy-plagued old dork of Gregory Dark’s New Wave Hookers (1985), Gillis always demonstrated with his multidimensional roles that he probably wasted his talents in the ‘adult film’ world when he probably could have easily made it big in Hollywood were one of his Hebraic homies to have hooked him up (of course, Gillis did appear in a couple mainstreams films like the 1981 thriller Nighthawks starring Sylvester Stallone and Rutger Hauer). Of course, as a Hebrew that was spawned on the same day as Hitler, Gillis was practically born for the dark and depraved world of pornography as demonstrated by his innovation of ‘gonzo porn’ as an auteur of sorts. With that being said, it is only natural that the sexually versatile ‘actor’ would play a role where he would fall in love with the devil. Indeed, in the forgotten phantasmagoric fuck flick The Dark Angel (1983) aka The Devil Wore High Heels directed by auteur-pornographer Pieter Vanderbilt (Blue Dream Lover, Woman in the Window) Gillis plays a wealthy and wanton businessman who degenerates into something nothing short of wickedly obsessed after spotting a mysterious blonde babe who is really Satan in super sensual female form. Featuring multicultural mental institution orgies with black chicks in whiteface, mystifying midnight gang rapes, and satanic shoe fetishism, The Dark Angel is one of those rare semi-surreal and sometimes artful blue movies where it almost seems like a shame that is a porn flick, as this eloquently sleazy erotic flick surely deserves some type of cult following.

 As wealthy businessman Leland Keller (Jamie Gillis) describes while caressing a single red stiletto while sitting in the back of his car next to an ocean side cliff near San Francisco, “You wouldn’t think that this simple object keeps me from total insanity…but it does…because there’s something real. This solitary red shoe haunts me because it was left behind…in my dream.” Flashback many months back and Leland is receiving a blowjob from two pseudo-cultivated chicks at the same time while his chauffeur watches on. As the protagonist explains, “My friends call me ‘Lee.’ I was the original golden boy. Everything I touched seemed to have ‘success’ written on it. The world was mine for the taking. And I took. If I wanted something, I’d buy it. If it couldn’t buy it, I’d find another way to get it.” Of course, when Leland encounters something he cannot simply buy/own, he begins losing his sanity, or as Leland explains himself, “I was riding a glittering wave of success…the future seemed seamless. And then I saw her for the first time. It was one of those San Francisco nights. My chauffeur and I were coming home from a party…she was standing underneath a streetlight. I felt a rush pass through me like an electric charge. She looked right at me, like she could see through my very soul.” While Leland would continue to drive by the spot where he first saw the girl (played by Desiree Lane), who was sporting a red witch-like cape, in the hopes of attempting to swoon her, she would never be there, though he would later spot her at the most random spots in San Francisco. Indeed, obsessed with the mystery blonde in red like James Stewart was with Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958), albeit in a much darker and depraved manner in a San Francisco that barely resembles the sunny city of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Leland is finally going to see what it feels like to be infatuated with flesh that he cannot find, let alone fuck. 

 As Leland describes to his friends regarding the mystery woman in red, “I don’t know if I want her because she is just that beauteous…or because I just can’t have her.” In the hopes of attempting to get get him to kick his sick infatuation with the mysterious chick, Leland’s friends set up an orgy party for their opulent friend, but it only makes him more enamored with the satanic chick. Hoping to spice things up, Leland has a friend let him stay in a nuthouse with an eclectic group of raving nymphomaniacs, which include a bull-dyke-like amazonian chick with a mullet, a high yellow black chick sporting whiteface, and a crazy cutie who incessantly stares at a mirror-less mirror. Of course, Leland’s naughty night with the nymphs at the nut ward does nothing to diminish his deep-seated desire to defile the mystery girl in red. When one of Leland’s female friends does an erotic dance in a warehouse that ultimately ends with her getting mock gang-raped (indeed, unbeknownst to Leland, his friend hired the fake rape squad) by a threesome of degenerates in demon masks, the posh pervert is hardly affected, or as he subsequently states himself, “I no longer have any feelings. I knew this was what she [the mystery woman] wanted from me.” 

 Hoping to liven things up, Leland gets involved in S&M and even bites a woman’s nipple off, stating of the meta-erotic experience, “I also enjoyed something else about myself that night…I enjoyed hurting people […] had a taste of blood. I knew I was crossing over into some other reality…losing all control.” With his sadomasochistic violence getting out of hand, Leland concludes, “I had to go somewhere and think,” and heads to the beach where he spots the mystery woman in red standing on a rock. After the mystery woman mocks Leland for not realizing who s/he is, the desperate man follows his obscure object of desire up a hill as s/he strips and tells her that he will give her “anything” to be with her. Of course, the devil dame asks for Leland’s soul, which the hyper horny businessman is more than willing to give. Of course, after making strangely intimate love on an otherworldly bed in a bright white room, Leland never sees the sensual satan again. Flash forward about sixth months later, The Dark Angel comes full circle and ends where it began with Leland sitting in his fancy car while caressing satan’s stiletto and stating to himself, “All that was less than six months ago. I’ve been coming here every day since then…in hopes that I may catch another glimpse of her…but I never have. All I have is this memento [red shoe] to remind me of the night I slept with the devil.” 

 A sort of superlatively sordid celluloid marriage between Goethe’s Faust and Hitchcock’s Vertigo with an oftentimes silly synth-driven score that sounds like it was taken from some third rate 8-bit NES game (unquestionably, the film would have benefited from featuring the song “Fucked by the Devil” by the L.A.-based deathrock band 45 Grave), The Dark Angel is ultimately a tasteless, if not sometimes aesthetically intriguing, tale of a tragic horn dog with a voracious sexual appetite of the satanic sort. While not Gillis’ greatest film, auteur Pieter Vanderbilt’s aesthetically and thematically pernicious porn flick certainly seems like it was specially tailored for the aberrant adult film star. Part metaphysical horror, part pulp (one reviewer rightfully compared the nuthouse scene to Samuel Fuller’s 1963 cult classic Shock Corridor), part film noir, and part salacious satire of Reaganite preppies, The Dark Angel is certainly one of the more underrated works of the late ‘porn chic’ era as a fuck flick that may not be as good as Nightdreams (1981) and Café Flesh (1982), but it is certainly more sophisticated, horrifying, and titillating than the majority of slasher/horror flicks that were coming out at that time.  As a mensch who was not really plagued by the various ills that seem to be an innate part of his trade (e.g. drug addiction, AIDS/STDs, mental illness, suicide, etc.), as well as a fellow that seems to have genuinely enjoyed his job of getting countless onscreen blowjobs, Jamie Gillis certainly seems like the #1 candidate in terms of a porn star who would have/could have sold his soul to devil.  Indeed, with his devilish charm and appearance, less than kosher Hebraic background, seemingly lunatic love of libertinism (aside from being involved with scat and S&M, he was an open bisexual who sometimes boned bros), seemingly demonically-possessed persona, and virtually immaculate talent for portraying evil sensual beings in already fucked fuck flicks, Gillis most certainly would have been more fitting for the role of the devil in The Dark Angel than some pseudo-blonde bimbo like Desiree Lane, but then again, the Fallen Angel is the master of deceit.

-Ty E

Aug 26, 2014

Senso '45

Leave it to Italy’s foremost ‘erotic auteur’ aka pornographer, Tinto Brass (Salon Kitty, Caligula), to take a classic Italian film like Luchino Visconti’s luscious Risorgimento-era melodrama Senso (1954) and turn it into a quasi-campy fuck flick set during the end of the Second World War featuring sensual SS men as played by Guidos with glaringly fake blonde hair and Nazi whores urinating into bedpans. Ironically, Brass claimed one of the reasons he decided to ‘remake’ the film was because he did not like Visconti’s version and felt the director took a too liberal approach to Camillo Boito’s 1882 source novella of the same name. In other words, Brass probably felt Visconti’s film had a homo essence and had far too much histrionic acting and not enough hairy beavers and supple big sippers. To Brass’ credit, his remake/re-adaptation, Senso ’45 aka Black Angel (2002), is apparently more faithful to Boito’s novel, though both film version make the female lead older and more sympathetic, as if the films were specially tailored for old bourgeois trollops who want to reminisce over the good old days when they had affairs with handsome and sexually virile young men. On top of being another Senso adaptation and arguably Brass’ last ‘masterpiece,’ Senso ’45 is a work of self-reflexive cinema that acts as a ‘fascist-film-within-an-antifascist-film’ with various references to the director’s previous works, especially his (in)famously salacious Nazisploitation flick Salon Kitty (1976) incidentally starring Visconti’s Austrian boy toy Helmut Berger. Featuring gratuitous pussy shots of the corpse of female partisans who have been executed by fascists troops, a blond SS man selling pornographic watercolors by degenerate German artist Georg Grosz to a morbidly obese Jew, underwater shots of an SS man’s hairy balls and bunghole, and various other of forms of Brassian celluloid bawdiness, Senso ’45 is, if nothing else, the most elegantly degenerate and lavishly lecherous Nazi-occupation film ever made. Indeed, a truly ‘libertarian’ work (Brass is affiliated with the ‘Italian Radicals’) in that it mocks pretty much everyone, including the aristocracy, bourgeois, fascists, commie partisans, and Italian industry, Brass’ film certainly deserved the 1.6 million Euros given to the film’s overall budget by the Italian Minister of the Arts and Culture, as a quasi-erotic war epic that puts Liliana Cavani’s somewhat similarly themed work The Berlin Affair (1985) aka Leidenschaften to abject shame in terms of sensuality, aestheticism, and socio-political critique. Featuring a scene where, “Cinema is the strongest weapon,” is featured on the chalkboard of a film studio, Senso ’45 demonstrates that—for better or worse—European cinema has come a long way since the days when Joseph Goebbels oversaw the production of melancholy Veit Harlan melodramas. 

 Unlike Visconti’s film, Senso ’45 features black-and-white scenes from the ‘present’ where protagonist Livia Mazzoni (Anna Galiena) tells how she feel head-over-heels for SS man Lieutenant Helmut Schultz (Gabriel Garko). Beginning on, “March 25, 1945, Year 23 of the Fascist Period,” with Livia riding in the car of family lawyer Ugo Oggiano (Franco Branciaroli)—a man she has made a “wicked pact” with—as they drive to get Helmut, the film is mainly comprised of color flashback scenes chronicling the almost always carnal, sometimes comical, and even sometimes accidentally corny rise and fall of the protagonist’s extramarital romance, as well as the German occupation of Guidoland. While watching a horrendous play with her old fart yet opulent husband Carlo (Antonio Salines) where commie partisans stormed the stage and dropped leftist leaflets, Livia first set eyes on Helmut, whose mere stare managed to not only wet her panties, but give her an orgasm. As described by Ugo, Helmut got his elite position in the SS as a member of the German Film Unit and his status as a “stud who fucks them all” by acting as Joseph Goebbels' pimp, even hooking up the Minister of Propaganda with his Czech mistress Lida Baarova. That night, Livia is forcibly fucked behind by her husband while she stares at the moon, but her hubby finishes in a couple seconds, so she masturbates while thinking of Helmut to achieve an orgasm. While her husband tells Livia while he is fucking her that Helmut is , “amoral, cynical, a gambler, a degenerate, with women too,” the horny middle-aged countess does not care. Luckily, the next day, Helmut stalks Livia as she walks down the road, follows her inside her home, and immediately beings manhandling like a major champ while declaring to her “you’re mine,” thus commencing a hot and steamy yet short and bittersweet romance. 

 As Livia in all seriousness states regarding her ridiculously risqué romance with Helmut: “Venice acted as pimp to our love.” Of course, Helmut has a different view of things, as he treats the city as his own personal whorehouse where he buys morphine that is supposed to be used for partisans so he can get high and where he ultimately uses Livia as his southern ‘sugar momma,’ as she offers to pay his way, including funding his drug use and gambling habits, among other things. Before Livia offers to pay his way, Helmut makes money doing dubious things like selling a stolen George Grosz paintings to grotesquely fat Jewish art dealer for 20,000 liras. After the transaction, the Jewish art dealer lets Helmut know that he forgot his suitcase, to which the sardonic SS debauchee says he can keep it, hilariously stating to the Israelite, “A memento of Dr. Goebbels, as a gift from me.” Indeed, Helmut is a shameless opportunist who, although he has a macho Apollo-like appearance, is really quite the degenerate who couldn't care less about the National Socialist cause as demonstrated by the following rant he makes to Livia while buggering her bum: “to fuck the whole world in the ass. Fuck Hitler! Fuck Mussolini! Fuck Stalin! Livia, I’m drunk on your ass! Fuck the priests! Fuck the bosses! I want to go crazy in your ass! Tell me it’s drunk! Say it!” Needless to say, Livia’s husband and lawyer Ugo soon realize that she is regularly humping Helmut, but the wanton aristocrat does not care as indicated by various confessions she makes like, “I realized I was entirely dependent on him. Even giving him money made me cum.” Unfortunately for Livia, Helmut is more interested in her cash than her gash, which she ultimately realizes when it is too late, thus resulting in tragic, if not tastelessly titillating consequences. 

 A would-be-playboy who loves gambling all his hard stolen and blackmailed money away, Helmut eventually realizes he can use Livia for large sums of money. Indeed, after Helmut gambles all of Livia’s money away at a campy drug orgy featuring chicks roaming around wearing giant golden strap-on dildos and SS uniforms sans pants, his mistress agrees to gamble herself to a lesbian actress named Elsa (Simona Borioni) if he loses. Of course, Helmut loses and Elsa penetrates Livia with a strap-on dildo, but the debauched blue blood babe does not care, as she is high on cocaine and feels like she is proving her love to her boy toy by “sacrificing” her heterosexuality. Naturally, when Livia is told by her cuckold husband that they must move to their chateau in the country because the war is getting bad, she nearly cracks, as she cannot stand to be without her sensual SS man. Before Livia moves, Helmut comes by her home and tells her that he needs 1 million liras so that he payoff some quack doctor so that he can sit the rest of the war out. Of course, Livia obliges Helmut and after handing him the money, she proceeds to give him a rough blow job. 

 Needless to say, Livia does not handle being away from Helmut too well after moving to the country, so she offers her lawyer/husband's friend Ugo sex if he agrees to drive her to Venice to see Helmut. Of course, being grovelingly in love with Livia, Ugo agrees to the “wicked pact” and the two head to Venice. When the two finally arrive in Venice after their car breaks down and they hitch a ride from a truck of fascist soldiers, Livia stops by Helmut’s apartment, only to walk in on him screwing a young prostitute and discussing to the somewhat average-looking streetwalker how he does not love his mistress and merely uses her for her money. Hysterically heartbroken, Livia decides to head to local Nazi headquarters to tell a Nazi general that Helmut is a deserter. When the General questions her motives and tells her regarding Helmut, “You’re signing his death warrant, Livia coldly replies, “I’ve done my duty. Now do yours.” When Helmut is arrested and brought to Nazi headquarters to be executed via firing-squad, Livia takes Ugo to watch the big event. A coward to the pseudo-kraut core, Helmut shouts, “I don’t want to die!” and attempts to escape, but is shot down almost instantly like a rabid dog, with his young (and topless) prostitute soon running out to hug his corpse while crying hysterically. Rather hurt by seeing the prostitute crying over Helmut’s death, Livia demands that Ugo fuck her right then and there in a desperate attempt to dull her own pain. 

 Despite being a quasi-pornographic remake of Visconti’s melodramatic masterpiece, Senso ’45 was heavily inspired by the Italian neorealist films of Roberto Rossellini, especially Rome, Open City (1945), or as director Tinto Brass stated himself in the featurette, The Making of Black Angel, regarding his film: “There are many cinematic elements. Other than character typing, there are scenes, tributes to those I consider my masters. Other than the fact that it can be retraced to Visconti…In fact, the language of the film is more Rossellinian. I was more influenced by Rossellini, who was my master since I was his assistant director. One sequence explicitly refers to the one when Magnani is cut down by machine gun fire as she runs after the van that is taking her husband away.” Of course, there is little about Brass’ film that is socially redeeming aside from the fact that is demonstrates the upper-classes are literal and figurative whores who will join any political movement, even communism, if it is ultimately to their social and monetary benefit, or as protagonist Livia states while quoting Mussolini: “The people are like women…they go with the winning man.” Featuring an original score by Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, countless references to classic Italians films and painters (somewhat notably, Brass received his nicknamed ‘Tintoretto’ from his grandfather Italico Brass, who was a celebrated Gorizian painter), and seemingly immaculate technical direction, Senso ’45 is certainly not your typical Nazisploitation flick as a work that unequivocally proves that Guidos are probably the only masters turning sleazy and oftentimes senseless eroticism into relatively respectable celluloid art. Indeed, for all those individuals that are tired of seeing cliche World War II films that milk the holocaust, portray commie partisans as morally pristine heroes, depict all SS men as humorless bureaucrats and/or coldblooded killers, and present WWII as a clear cut example of holy and righteous battle against evil, Senso ’45 ultimately offers something more morally ambiguous and absurdly amorous, as a rather risqué Rossellini-esque dark epic romance of the Hightalian quasi-impressionistic sort.

-Ty E