Jul 28, 2014

48 Hours to Acapulco

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

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

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

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

-Ty E

Jul 27, 2014

May 6th

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

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

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

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

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

-Ty E

Paul (1974)

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

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

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

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

-Ty E

Jul 26, 2014

Fists in the Pocket

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

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

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

-Ty E

Jul 25, 2014

Private Parts (1972)

Poor Paul Bartel. Imagine if you directed an excellent exploitation flick deserving of instant cult status that was buried by a studio and rarely seen, then a degenerate yet exceedingly popular Hebraic shock-jock horndog like Howard Stern comes along and creates a film with the same exact name a couple decades later, thus guaranteeing the film’s permanent obscurity. Indeed, Private Parts (1972) is the debut feature of Bartel and unlike Stern’s 1997 biopic of the same, it is wickedly funny and pleasantly perverse. Sort of like a compulsively campy mutation of Psycho (1960) featuring hagsploitation elements as if directed by the son of Curtis Harrington, Bartel’s quasi-slasher flick is far too sophisticated for gorehounds yet too raunchy and perverse for the sort of bourgeois cinephiles who delicately diddle themselves to the artwork of the last Criterion Collection release. Made at a time when obnoxious bull-dykes did not have their own hit talk shows, parents would beat their sons if they decided to dress like girls, before tranny freaks and other sexual invalids associated with the authoritarian aberrosexual LGBT movements did not start throwing out smear words against heterosexuals like ‘cisgender’ and ‘heteronormativity,’ and—arguably most importantly—when fags still knew how to make fun of themselves, Private Parts is a masterpiece of cinematic homo self-exploitation that demonstrates that gays indeed had an important place in this world when gay-bashing was still somewhat vogue. Undoubtedly Bartel’s most primitive and graphic work (indeed, the film features genitals as advertised), the film is partly a satire of the counter-culture era that features, among other things, a murderous woman who thinks she’s a man that looks like Lou Reed, as well as an old bitchy puritanical hag who helps said loony Lou Reed look-a-like slaughter worthless hippie degenerates. Sort of like Blood Feast (1963) meets Chelsea Girls (1966), Private Parts is the tastefully trashy story of a 16-year-old teenage girl who moves in with her reclusive bull-dyke-like hotelier aunt who runs a rundown hotel inhabited by senile old cranks, gay closeted middle-aged reverends who live second lives as leather-fags, and a cock-less female-to-male tranny of the majorly murderous sort whose idea of a sexual climax is injecting her blood into a water-filled blowup doll. Featuring auteur Bartel during his more ‘svelte’ period in a Hitchcockian cameo as a man having anonymous sex in a public park, Private Parts is a rare ‘psychotronic’work possessing both wit and intellect that demonstrates that horror and exploitation hacks have no excuse for directing mundane and/or mindless cinematic twaddle, as one can make a perfectly perverse film with a bit of sophistication. Opening with a marvelous montage featuring various nudes set against a pitch black background, Private Parts immediately sets a titillating tone of quasi-campy sex and violence of the postmodern Hitchcockian (emphasis on the cock!) sort. 

 After her less than homely bitch of a roommate Judy (Ann Gibbs) catches her playing ‘peeping tom’ (aka she sees her screw some nerdy hippie), 16-year-old Cheryl Stratton (Ayn Ruymen)—a petite little lady that might suffer from a mild cause of autism—is forced to seek shelter elsewhere, thus she decides to head to a rundown hotel owned and operated by her eccentric estranged Aunt Martha (Lucille Benson). Upon arriving at the hotel, Aunt Martha, who seems like a repressed bull-dyke, is somewhat hostile, but finally agrees that she can stay under one condition: “that you promise not to wander around the hotel alone. This is no place for a little girl.” Indeed, as a place inhabited by a gay religious leader named Mr. Moon (Laurie Main), who moonlights as a leather-fag despite being well into his 50s and has young twink hustlers sent to his room that he refuses to pay, and sundry women with varying degrees of dementia, Judy sticks out like a sore spade thumb. When Cheryl’s bitchy ex-roommate’s boy toy stops by to see Cheryl for dubious reasons, he finds himself decapitated by a mysterious slasher killer, with his headless corpse being thrown in an incinerator. Upon asking Aunt Martha about her blood uncle Orville and Cousin Alice, who is supposed to be twice her age, Cheryl gets some rather strange answers. While Aunt Martha states that Orville, “passed on several years ago, age of 73,” she is slightly more ambiguous regarding Alice, stating, “I guess you’d say she’s in the Lord’s hands.” Meanwhile, Cheryl learns that there is a reclusive photographer that lives at the hotel named George (John Ventantonio), who has turned one of the hotel rooms into a makeshift darkroom and only leaves his room at night. When Cheryl’s intolerable bitch ex-roommate shows up at the hotel, Aunt Martha lures her to George’s darkroom where she is assumedly slaughtered. 

 In what ultimately evolves into a non-romantic subplot, Cheryl meets a young man named Jeff (Stanley Livingston) at a locksmith store while getting a key made and the young man asks her to go on a date with him to a rock concert, which she agrees to do. Towards the last 30 minutes or so of Private Parts, the mysterious seeming homo George begins making regular appearances at night. While lurking near a park, a random man remarks to George, who looks like Hebraic proto-hipster Lou Reed, that, “Goddamn hippies, they’re taking over this country. It’s shameful! Ain’t got no morals at all! All these young gals doing it left and right. They don’t care. And there’s nothing they won’t do. You know what I mean?” The guy also says, “Goddamn weirdoes are taking over this country” and he must be right as George soon begins snapping photos of people having sex out in the open in a public park, with auteur Paul Bartel being one of the perverts. When George gets home from his naughty night in the park, Aunt Martha confronts him regarding an apparent obsession he has with Cheryl, telling him she has devoted her life to “helping him….overcome flesh,” to which he emotionally replies, “you’ve helped ruin my life. You robbed me of a normal childhood and now you’re trying to rob me of whatever little pleasures I can still enjoy…I’m a human being and I need human contact. Now.” And, indeed, in his own wayward way, George attempts human contact with Cheryl by leaving her some fetishistic clothing (i.e. stockings, large gloves, etc.) on her bed with a note reading: “you would drive me crazy if you’d let me see you with these things on.” Determined to prove she is a grown woman and not the annoying naïve little girl that she is, Cheryl puts on the stockings and gloves (which leaves her breasts, bush, and butt bare) and takes a bubble bath, which peeping tom George watches via a hidden hole in the wall Norman Bates style. After getting rather aroused by Cheryl’s less than titillating performance, George ‘has sex’ the only way he knows how by injecting his blood into a translucent blowup doll. Indeed, instead of injecting the doll with his DNA the normal way by merely ejaculating in it with his prick, George uses a needle as a pseudo-penis and blood as his semen. 

 While Aunt Martha attempts to save Cheryl from the patently perverted photographer by kicking her out of the hotel, George calls the teen that night and she confesses to him that she likes him because he is the only one that doesn’t treat her like a “little girl.” That same night, Jeff picks up Cheryl for their planned date to the rock show, but she becomes angry after he asks her about her missing cousin Alice. Indeed, after Jeff mentions that Alice disappeared around the time she began hanging out with George, stupid little girl Cheryl becomes enraged at him for besmirching her prospective beau and heads back to the hotel. Upon arriving back at the hotel, Cheryl is warned by Aunt Martha that she has booked her a bus ticket for the next morning to Chicago and that she, “won’t have whores and painted women in my house.” When Jeff goes back to the hotel looking for Alice, he is knocked unconscious with a large glass bottle. Meanwhile, Cheryl meets George in his rather bizarrely decorated room and the two begin a photo session. Of course, things become rather strange for Cheryl when Georgie boy attempts to inject her with his blood. During a struggle, George is killed after a large light stand falls on him, and when Aunt Martha storms into the room afterwards, Cheryl stereotypically cries rape. While Aunt Martha is fiddling with George’s corpse, Cheryl realizes that the recently deceased photographer has breasts and is really a woman. Indeed, Aunt Martha offers Cheryl the chance to also be her pseudo-son like George, stating, “You can stay here and take his place. You can be my son.” Of course, Cheryl declines, so Aunt Martha attempts to stab her with a butcher knife. In the end, the police arrive and Jeff survives. When leaving the hotel of closet-homo horror, Jeff spots Cheryl, who has taken on the identity of the perniciously puritanical persona of her Aunt Martha, who she has killed, just like Norman Bates did with his momma. 

 Undoubtedly, in its depiction of a deranged serial killer of the sexually schizophrenic sort, Private Parts anticipates the teenage tranny slasher flick Sleepaway Camp (1983), but of course, Bartel’s film is infinitely more sophisticated as a work that updates Hitchcock’s Psycho for the counter-culture age. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is that the most demented slasher killer in the film is a repressed bull-dyke who is so out of touch with her own sexuality that she accuses her own female relatives of being wanton whores and even attempts to turn them into men. Indeed, on top of confessing that she had to be artificially inseminated to have her daughter Alicia, Aunt Martha states to Cheryl regarding why she did not have a child with her actual husband, “Not Orville, just me. He was too old. We went to a doctor and worked it out another way. Didn’t need Orville.” Indeed, if the outmoded and pathetically played-out horror genre needs anything, it is more films where the monster is a crazed carpet-muncher who is murderously hungry for the taste of a creamy, young cuntlet. Unquestionably a lost masterpiece as far as campy quasi-exploitation films are concerned, Private Parts is just another example as to why auteur Paul Bartel is one of the most underrated and overlooked filmmakers of his generation, as a sort of Curtis Harrington of his zeitgeist. Indeed, it seems that only exceedingly effete cocksucking camp filmmakers like Harrington and Bartel had what it took to deal with directing boorish old fat cows.

-Ty E