Jan 10, 2020

The Skin (1981)

Aside her fundamentally flawed SS sadomasochistic danse-macabre Il portiere di notte (1974) aka The Night Porter and to a lesser extent her dystopian sci-fi flick I cannibali (1970) aka The Year of the Cannibals and Nietzsche horn-dog hagiography Al di là del bene e del male (1977) aka Beyond Good and Evil, Italian auteuress Liliana Cavani—a filmmaker that is always more interesting when she is more intemperate artsploitation than plodding arthouse—has never been a filmmaker I seriously respected yet she certainly won me over with a recent viewing of her exceedingly eccentrically epic Curzio Malaparte adaptation La pelle (1981) aka The Skin.  Curiously feeling oftentimes more Fellini-esque than Fellini in terms of combining the post-neorealist humanism of something like I Vitelloni (1953) with the surrealist situational travelogue-like approach of Roma (1972) and a sort of primordial dago decadence à la Fellini Satyricon (1969), not to mention a weird inexplicable monster fish scene that recalls La Dolce Vita (1960), the film is, in my obscenely obnoxious opinion, Cavani’s greatest contribution to the art of cinema in terms of apocalyptic intrigue and downright sheer sleazy entertainment. Indeed, quite unlike the filmmaker’s other films which, not unlike those of cosmopolitan commie Bertolucci, are completely deracinated and rarely guido-esque in a flagrantly gommbah fashion like the films of Pietro Germi and Ettore Scola, this wayward WWII epic—a delightfully degrading tribute to human debasement and desperation—is shamelessly and insanely Italian in its essence to the point of bordering on full-blown whacked-out wopsloitation à la Scola's Ugly, Dirty and Bad (1976) aka Brutti, sporchi e cattivi. In fact, the film is the ultimate ‘antifascist’ flick in terms of completely contradicting the Mussolinian ideal and portraying the Italian people, or at least the Neapolitan people, as a superlatively shameless people without pride or scruples.

 Indeed, in the film, mothers literally sell their little boy’s buttholes to pedo-prone Moroccan Muslim invaders and fucked fathers hold group shows where American soldiers get to take turns fingering a rare teenage virginal vagina. Likewise, Sicilian slags—a less than gorgeous group that invades Naples and drops the price of pussy for everyone—are so desperate for the dollars of darkie GIs, who are quite stereotypically only interested in fucking blonde white women, that they wear blonde wigs on their overly punished sub-prole pussies. Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures, but somehow I seriously doubt that the all-the-more-demolished krauts had reached such ungodly extremes of virtually transcendental whoredom, even if the kraut capitulation resulted in the unwanted births of various Günther Kaufmann bastard types. In short, The Skin—a sometimes vertiginously vulgar film full of venal vulgarians that manages to find a certain assuredly aberrant joy in the collective degeneration of a sub-piss-poor peoples—exemplifies the sort of scathing cynicism, shameless honesty (paradoxically combined with grandiose dishonesty), and ‘unflattering humanism’ that guidos do best. Forget Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1948), Cavani’s odious odyssey of obscenity dares to plunge the viewer into the true dark disgusting depths of despair and destitution that plagued the defeated peoples of the Axis Powers in a manner that no Teutonic filmmaker has ever dared to touch despite the New German Cinema obsession with WWII and its virtually post-apocalyptic aftermath.  Still, Cavani’s underrated flick makes for a great double feature with Rainer Werner Fassbinder's classic The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979).

 While The Skins is uniquely unflattering in its depiction of Italians, it is strangely ‘pro-American’ in a sort of cynical backhanded Italian sense where the dumb uncultivated yank is ridiculed for his naiveté. Indeed, as Cavani stated in the featurette At the Frontier of the Apocalypse in regard to the source writer’s view of dumb yanks, “Malaparte sees the Americans in THE SKINS as a young and naïve people, which is somewhat true, and he’s very attached to them. He has a love for them. There’s a love for this quality, as if they were still clean, somehow untouched by sin, by the sin of war, the sin of butchery, by these things. He sees them in a positive way, as a person who has a positive view of the world would. And this comes out. He sees them as naïve because a city like Naples is the complete opposite of the American mentality. It can’t get any more different.” As to the right sort of symbol of strong puritanical American naïveté, Cavani felt that Burt Lancaster—a cultivated American that already contributed greatly to guido cinema via masterful Luchino Visconti flicks like The Leopard (1963) and Conversation Piece (1974)—was the right mensch for the job, or as she explained, “…I needed an American that didn’t seem malicious at all. That really represented the idea of the American liberator. In that sense, ariose, with traits of goodness. Rough, but rough like a father.” Of course, as the same singularly stoical actor that portrayed the strangely paternal and harshly heroic GI lead Major Abraham Falconer of Sydney Pollack’s underrated WWII flick Castle Keep (1969)—another apocalyptic Europa-in-ruins epic of eccentricity that combines tragicomedic realism and surrealism—Lancaster was the perfect man for the job, but great Latin lover Marcello Mastroianni shines no less as the lead.  Speaking of Pollack’s flick, Mike Nichols' similarly overlooked dark war dramedy Catch-22 (1970) seems like an obvious influence on The Skin, especially in terms of its playfully preternatural depiction of American GIs and unhinged depictions of guidette whores, among other things.

 As The Skin fleetingly makes reference to as if to absolve the writer of guilt, Curzio Malaparte—a half-German by birth that was born Curt Erich Suckert but a 100% Italian in terms of effortless charm and unscrupulous spirit—was originally a card-carrying fascist to the point where he was a vocal intellectual supporter of the rise of the National Fascist Party and Benito Mussolini, but he was too uncompromisingly individualist to properly play the game and opportunism eventually led him to switching sides to communism and Catholicism after WWII (though one would not realize that by watching the film).  In Cavani’s fucked flick, Malaparte comes off seemingly like a sort of spiritually decadent aristocrat of spirit that is easily able to adapt to the most ungodly and atrocious of circumstances, including being elegantly passive-aggressively hospitable to an uncultivated conquering army made up of largely blond-haired and blue-eyed soldiers that are quite generous when it comes to terms like “wop” and “greaseball.” For example, although ostensibly working from a pro-fascist perspective while a war correspondent on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, Malaparte’s oftentimes uncensored articles acted as the genesis for his unclassifiable magnum opus Kaputt (1944) that is more of a razor sharp amoral literary masterpiece of despair and destruction than a tribute to any sort of fascist ferocity or Mussolinian martial prowess. While Kaputt managed to achieve official Catholic Index librorum prohibitorum (‘List of Prohibited Books’) status and the author was once a hardcore atheist that later supported the atheistic commies, he was even trying to scam god at the end of his life by getting close to the Catholic Church. As to his contributions to cinema aside from being the debauched brain behind The Skin, Malaparte made one attempt at directing with the largely forgotten Il Cristo proibito (1951) aka The Forbidden Christ. Additionally, the writer's legendary house ‘Casa Malaparte,’ which he once proudly showed-off to legendary German general Erwin Rommel, appears in Jean-Luc Godard's Le Mépris (1963) aka Contempt.

In The Skin, one certainly gets the sense that Malaparte—a man with a pseudonymous surname that means “evil/wrong side” (and is also a play on Napoleon’s family name ‘Bonaparte’ which in Italian means ‘good side’)—is the ultimate cultivated conman as a effortless charmer that knows how to tell a person to eat shit without even causing the slightest bit of offense yet you cannot help but love him, so naturally Mastroianni is the perfect man for the role. After all, not unlike Malaparte, Mastroianni was a sort of unofficial ambassador for the Italian people and Italian culture, which is exactly the thankless job that Mastroianni-as-Malaparte performs in The Skin—a film that probably deserves the distinguished honor of being the mostly uniquely unflattering tribute to Italy in all of cinema history.  Indeed, if you thought Spike Lee did a spectacular job of goombah-bashing in films like Do the Right Thing (1989) and Summer of Sam (1999), you have not been bombarded with rotten garlic that Cavani's film reeks of. Speaking of Lee, his hopelessly Hollywood-esque WWII flick Miracle at St. Anna (2008) penned by Judaic mulatto James McBride turns the Italian campaign into a negro fantasy with cardboard characters that includes a preposterous love triangle between an Italian partisan chick and two black GIs instead offering a honest look at the horrors and whores of war like Cavani's flick.

 In Teutonic dandy auteur Werner Schroeter’s brutally beauteous The Reign of Naples (1978) aka Nel regno di Napoli—a sort of Pasolinian neo-neorealist epic where communism and Catholicism battle for the soul of Italy while the people wallow in impoverished misery—a woman sells her daughter’s virginity to a negro sailor for a bag of sugar in what ultimately seems like a completely unbelievable scenario. Admittedly, I found this scene, which is apparently historically accurate, to be fairly disturbing despite Schroeter’s laconic approach to the material, yet it is nothing compared to the sheer and utter human depravity and abject desperation of the fittingly titled The Skin where human flesh of the most intimate sort is much cheaper than beef and pork. Indeed, as Malaparte (Mastroianni) somberly states, “We lost the war. Women and children lost if more than anyone else.” The year is 1944 and, aside from 112 German POWs that are being ‘fed’ by a scheming Camorra mobster named Eduardo Marzullo (Carlo Giuffrè), there are no more fascists or Nazis in Naples, or so do members of the United States Fifth Army learn as they arrive in town with the expectation of doing some serious fighting and instead find a virtual city-sized whorehouse. Led by the largely benevolent yet no-bullshit General Mark Cork (Burt Lancaster)—a man that hates his own elites and finds it easy to like a deceptively affable chap like Malaparte—the army and various other foreign soldiers certainly treat the city as one big giant bordello as the locals aggressively attempt to sell gash for cash lest they starve.

Aside from being hired by General Cork to broker a deal for the 112 German POWs who are being intentionally overfed by mob boss Marzullo with the intent of scamming more money out of the Americans, Malaparte is also assigned to act as the chaperon and sort of cultural tour guide of a bitchy blueblood female aviator named Deborah Wyatt (Alexandra King) who also happens to be the wife of a U.S. senator and is thus absurdly made an honorary Airforce officer. A supposed ‘Queen of the Sky’ that flies into Naples as part of a nonsensical publicity stunt that, much to General Cork's chagrin, is backed by both Eisenhower and FDR, Mrs. Wyatt—a superficially cultured dame whose beauty is only transcended by her hubris—is an uptight cunt that immediately demonstrates a sense of racial superiority over the lowly swarthy guido people that she has ostensibly come to pay tribute to. Of course, being a man of subtle almost-Svengali-like seduction talents that oftentimes relies on projecting a deceptive image of adoring obsequiousness, Malaparte effortlessly gets his revenge on Mrs. Wyatt when she least suspects it by forcing her to virtually bathe in her own sanctimonious hypocrisy. Indeed, Malaparte brings Wyatt to a virtual white slave market where Italian mothers pimp their prepubescent sons to Moroccan soldiers and the upperclass lady naturally completely loses it when she witnesses an Islamic pervert examining the anuses of these poor forsaken boys, thus resulting in her losing a not-all-that-small segment of her hair after the swarthy sexual savage takes a swing at her with a dagger (notably, said sand savage then proceeds to showoff his ‘white woman hair trophy’ to his equally thrilled savage comrades). Needless to say, the voyage to Italy does not end well for Mrs. Wyatt as she crashes her plane after Mount Vesuvius erupts and is subsequently the victim of a gang-rape scenario by her own American GIs in an unsettling scenario where the flying diva is brought down to the same level of abject degradation as the Neapolitan people that she previously looked down on in a scenario that would probably provide catharsis to certain guido viewers. 

 Aside from General Cork, Malaparte also befriends a young naïve but well-meaning GI named Jimmy Wren (Ken Marshall) who does not think twice about partaking in as much as guidette pussy as he can possibly penetrate, or so one would assume from all his bragging.  In fact, when a Judaic comrade named Goldberg complains, “Are you crazy? Every nigger this side of the Atlantic has been in them wop broads. You forget them movies about what happens to your pecker if you get the clap?,” Jimmy boy simply mocks his fellow GI for sticking to pathetically masturbating to porno magazines despite having unlimited vaginal opportunities in Naples. Despite partaking in prostitutes and even obtaining an Italian girlfriend (Rosaria Della Femmina), Jimmy eventually unexpectedly falls in love with a young Italian peasant girl named Maria Concetta (Liliana Tari) after encountering her selflessly comforting a dying GI whose guts and intestines are literally hanging outside his stomach. Needless to say, Jimmy suffers a mental breakdown of sorts upon discovering that his beloved Maria Concetta is part of a sick sideshow attraction as the supposed ‘only remaining virgin in Naples’ where he father charges GIs to finger her hymen-intact honeypot. In fact, Jimmy is so disturbed by this quasi-incestuous scenario that he angrily uses his fingers to break Maria’s hymen and then proceeds to wipe the fresh blood on her father-cum-pimp’s face in disgrace. Luckily, Jimmy finally gets over it and decides to bring Maria Concetta home as a war bride, or so he tells a less than enthused Malaparte who is probably not proud about being the member of a defeated nation where all the hot young girls are desperate to leave. Of course, despite the degradation that she suffers at the hands (or, in this case, fingers) of horny GIs, Maria Concetta is one of the lucky ones because, as Malaparte explains to Jimmy in regard to the prostitution situation in Naples, “Well, you know, the price of human flesh is below that for beef or pork. A week ago, you could get a 20 year old girl for 10 dollars. Now she’d be worth no more than four … bones and all. The Sicilian girls flooded the market. They’re older, so they cost less.”  Needless to say, the Sicilian streetwalkers are depicted as the most grotesque and ill-shapen of pussy-peddlers.

 As an ex-fascist turned reluctant pro-American that seems to simply opportunistically support whoever is winning, Malaparte may not seem like a serious man of principle but as he proudly proclaims to Miss Wyatt and some dinner guests, “The real Italian flag does not show three colors but the male organ. Morality, Honor, Family, the cult of religion are all there, between the legs.” In short, Malaparte is a covert pagan of sorts that has experienced what happens when civilization is stripped away and untamed libido reigns. Indeed, more than anywhere else, defeated nations reveal that sex sells and that everyone is willing to sell it if they are desperate enough, especially when conquering armies can simply pillage pussy for free as some of the GIs attempt to do in the film. Somewhat subversively, the film also dares to depict the racial character of sex and how certain groups are more hopelessly depraved than others. Indeed, whereas various Muslims are depicted as boy-buggering barbarians and “sodomite who likes sunflowers,” negroes are depicted as sort of anti-alchemists that love defiling golden hair. In fact, civil rights saint Emmett Till’s father Louis Till was executed by the U.S. Army on July 2, 1945 after taking part in the murder of an Italian woman and the rape of two others while surviving in the Italian Campaign as an American soldier (notably, great modernist poet and fascist propagandist Ezra Pound, who was imprisoned alongside the colored lust killer, mentions Till in lines 171-173 of Canto 74 of his Pisan Cantos). Of course, in general, the American GIs, especially of the Anglo-Saxon sort, come out looking as the least sexually debauched. Needless to say, aside from the love affair between Jimmy Wren and Maria Concetta, all the sexual behavior depicted in The Skin is simply grotesque and that this completely loveless lust exposes human-beings as being nothing more than bestial animals, albeit worse as at least (some) humans have a conscience and thus should know better. In that sense, war and it its aftermath is where man is at his most unflatteringly atavistic, or so one discovers while watching The Skin

 Naturally, The Skin would not be the artsploitation war film par excellence if it did not conclude in a highly sensational apocalyptic fashion where a Boston Brahmin-like bitch crashes her plane and faces a world of pain in the form of rape-happy GIs and is forced to learn a little humility for once in her luxurious life. Undoubtedly, Mrs. Wyatt’s nightmarish night in Naples almost seems like the auteuress’ revenge as the American aristocrat is previously depicted going on a hateful anti-Italian rant and spitting the following acidic vile at protagonist Malaparte, “I hate your attitude, you Latin snob! Know-it-all! All of you! Backwards! Scummy! Oily! Hairy, dark, greasy gigolos! Wop! Wop! And you’re laughing at me? You can stick your flag right between your legs, up your ass!” Rather regrettably, Malaparte does largely prove to be a know-it-all as far as his patently pessimistic perspective is concerned and the film even concludes with the hapless hero becoming hopelessly dejected after witnessing a happy Italian peasant man celebrating the American occupation being completely crushed by an American tank in an allegorical scene that more or less sums up the cultural effect of the American occupation on Italy. Needless to say, it is no coincidence that the film concludes with the arrival of the U.S. Fifth Army in Rome through the rather paradisiacal Appian Way. As Malaparte somberly states to his young American ‘friend’ after witnessing the crushing of a fellow goombah by an American tank, “You can go, Jimmy. You are the winners.” 

 In terms of its absolutely scathing and sardonic sentiments that are in stark contrast to the heavyhearted humanism of classic Italian films like Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Umberto D. (1952) and Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945), The Skin is like the anti-neorealist film par excellence and a tastefully tasteless tribute to maestro Malaparte's almost otherworldly cynicism in relation to the American so-called liberation of Italy. Indeed, as Peter Bondanella noted in his classic text Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present (1983), “Cavani investigates a moment of Italian history already familiar from many well-known neorealist films; however, she captures it from an entirely different perspective. In place of the nobler values of sacrifice and courage neorealist films celebrate, Cavani forces us to reconsider the dramatic story of occupied Naples as the relationship between the victor and vanquished. The director implicitly protests the cultural hegemony of America over Italy that began during the last year of the war. Malaparte’s grotesque realism survives from the novel […] The romanticism associated with the war by those who fought on the winning side, or who participated in the Resistance, is removed from Cavani’s story, and what remains is a tale of survival, of saving one’s skin in the midst of hardship, starvation, depravity, and uncertainty […] Cavani reminds us, human history is made at the expense of human sacrifice, literally from our hides.” As American half-wop Abel Ferrara’s rather depressing documentary Napoli, Napoli, Napoli (2009) reveals, it seems that Naples has yet to completely recover from the Second World War, but then again this is a historically degenerate place that, as depicted in The Skin, there is, among other things, an old ‘womb envy’ tradition of ‘gay birth’ where a gay guido pretends to go into labor and give birth to a sort of mock baby boy with a large cock after nine months of ‘gay marriage.’ Of course, this absurd ‘gay birth’ celebration is organically Neapolitan and should stay that way as it would be a shame if it replaced by American trash like Queer Eye and Drag Queen Story Hour in terms of representing gay goombah identity. 

 Despite being assuredly antifascist, The Skin does follow in a certain distinctly Italian tradition as exemplified by the proto-fascist aesthetic perversity of Malaparte and his contemporary Gabriele D’Annunzio who, on top of writing decadent Nietzschean literary, was the first ‘Duce’ and a great national war hero that Benito Mussolini stole most of his best ideas from. Of course, Cavani’s most (in)famous film The Night Porter is even more of a reflection of this sort of perverse fascist aestheticism, but I digress. In my opinion, what The Skin ultimately demonstrates is that Cavani is, at best, a sort of inordinately cultivated exploitation auteur that, due to her gender and propensity towards controversial subject matter, scammed her way into the arthouse, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, even in a film like Francesco (1989)—the second film of the director’s career-spanning St. Francis of Assisi trilogy—where Cavani attempts what Paul Schrader has described as ‘transcendental style,’ the almost absurdly amoral female filmmaker cannot help but include a scene where a completely unclad Mickey Rourke, who curiously portrays the titular lead, literally fucks snow. As for anyone that knows anything about Nietzsche or his philosophical weltanschauung, Beyond Good and Evil manages to make John Huston’s obscure cinematic disaster Freud: The Secret Passion (1962) seem like a respectable biopic by comparison. As for her Jun'ichirō Tanizaki adaptation The Berlin Affair (1985)—a film depicting a bizarre love triangle between a Nazi diplomat, his wife, and the daughter of a Japanese ambassador—it is about as erotic and aesthetically potent as a mid-1990s Showtime softcore flick, but I digress. 

Undoubtedly, there is no sharper contrast to the films of Cavani and novels of Malaparte than the writings of Italian ‘super fascist’ Julius Evola who denounced the stereotypical dirty debauched dago types that The Skin so unforgettably depicts. Indeed, in a chapter entitled ‘Latin Character—Roman World—Mediterranean Soul’ featured in his book Gli uomini e le rovine (1953) aka Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, Evola makes a dichotomous comparison between two very different Italian types. Indeed, whereas the ‘Roman’ type is stoic, noble, disciplined, loyal, hierarchal, and orderly, the ‘Mediterranean’ type is histrionic, amoral, undisciplined, disloyal, resentful, disorderly, and proudly sexually ill-restrained. Needless to say, Evola believes that the Mediterranean type has come to define the Italian people, or as the magical baron once wrote, “The qualities of the ‘Roman’ type represent the positive limit of dispositions hidden in the best parts of our people, just as the qualities characterized as ‘Mediterranean’ correspond to the negative limit and the less noble part of it; these limits are also found as components in other peoples, especially in the ‘Latin’ group. However, we must realize that too many times behaviors resembling the ‘Mediterranean’ type have been identified, especially abroad, as typically Italian, and that the ‘Mediterranean’ component appears to have prevailed overall in Italian life following World War II.” Of course, The Skin and most of Cavani’s other films confirm Evola’s unflattering thesis. 

 When reading Evola’s remarks on Nietzsche, it almost seems absurdly ironic that Cavani—a woman that, not unlike fellow Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti, certainly had a German obsession of sorts—would even dare to direct a biopic about the Teutonic philosopher yet, at the same time, some of his ideas also strangely support the Cavanian style of filmmaking and a sort of ‘Italian’ romanticism in general. Indeed, as Evola wrote, “Nietzsche himself warned against every morality that tends to dry up every impetuous current of the human soul instead of channeling it. The capability of control, equilibrium, continuity in feeling and in willing must not lead to a withering and mechanization of one’s being, as seems to be the case with some negative traits of the central-European and Anglo-Saxon. What matters is not to suppress passion and to give to the soul a beautiful, regulated, and homogenous, though flat form; but rather to organize one’s being in an integral way around the capability of recognizing, discriminating, and adequately utilizing the impulses and the lights that emerge from one’s deep recesses. It cannot be denied that passion is predominant in many Mediterranean Italian types, but this disposition does not amount to a defect, but rather to an enrichment, provided it finds its correlative in a firmly organized life.” Of course, it can be argued that, in terms of the artistic life she has lived, Cavani somewhat ironically achieved this lofty Evolian ideal. Additionally, The Skin undoubtedly proves that Evola, Malaparte, and Cavani share similar sentiments in regard to the racial differences between Italians and Anglo-Saxons. It is certainly hard for me to imagine some uptight WASP stating in regard to his daughter’s virginal vagina “It doesn’t bite” while exposing during some superlatively sleazy sexual sideshow attraction, but such is Cavani’s singularly sick cinematic realm of depraved dago sexual abandon and sodomic desperation. 

-Ty E

Jan 2, 2020


A nonlinear big budget Hollywood sci-fi arthouse flick addressing the Allied powers unofficial war crime of the totally terroristic firebombing of Dresden during the Second World War certainly seems like a sort of wishful alt-right fanboy fantasy yet, somewhat inexplicably, such an insanely idiosyncratic cinematic work actually does exist and naturally it is not exactly a famous film despite being based on a relatively famous novel.  Luckily, it is also a great film that, despite being nearly half-a-century old, is rather fresh despite technically belonged to a genre that does not typically age gracefully.  Indeed, Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)—a film based on American postmodern writer Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel of the same name—is, in my less than humble opinion, one of the greatest films of the so-called ‘New Hollywood’ era and certainly more deserving of notability than the various classic films associated with the movement as directed by the likes of Peter Bogdanovich, Hal Ashby, Miloš Forman, and Arthur Penn, among countless others. Likewise, I would also argue that it is a rare film that, not unlike Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), is superior to its source novel (in fact, Vonnegut was quite happy with the film and would even state, “I love George Roy Hill and Universal Pictures, who made a flawless translation of my novel”). Of course, the film’s director George Roy Hill is best known for the New Hollywood classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)—a sort of American Western answer to François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962)—which is a film that I have always found to be hopelessly soft, sentimental, and obscenely overrated.

Not unlike his American New Wave contemporaries Michael Ritchie (Prime Cut, The Bad News Bears) and Alan J. Pakula (Klute, Sophie's Choice), Hill is a good argument against auteurism as a talented filmmaker that, relatively speaking, lacked a potent personalized approach and signature style, which was arguably a benefit to a preternatural picture like Slaughterhouse-Five that could have easily been an absolutely abominable artistic disaster were it helmed by a more monomaniacal and/or fetishistic filmmaker (speaking of, Guillermo del Toro, who has certainly demonstrated his commitment to the cultural marxist cause by introducing interspecies miscegenation in the fiercely fishy The Shape of Water (2017), announced in 2013 that he plans to remake the film in collaboration with silly semitic screenwriter Charlie Kaufman). That such a film was ever made in Hebraic Hollywood—a place that, more than any other, clearly has no sympathy for the complete destruction of an ancient German city and countless priceless pieces of architecture—is nothing short of a miracle and virtual fluke of cinema history that reveals Hill's inordinate artistic integrity as a rare Hollywood filmmaker that was clearly not willing to bend-over for Zion (notably, underrated kiwi mischling auteur Vincent Ward would later depict the firebombing of Dresden in a somewhat less effective yet nonetheless still potent fashion in his rarely-seen film Map of the Human Heart (1992)).  Needless to say, had Hill prostituted himself by directing a holocaust film on a similar scale to Slaughterhouse-Five, he would probably be better remembered and more revered today.

 Notably, the full title of Vonnegut’s book is Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death and the author is described on the title page as “A FOURTH-GENERATION GERMAN-AMERICAN NOW LIVING IN EASY CIRCUMSTANCES ON CAPE COD [AND SMOKING TOO MUCH], WHO, AS AN AMERICAN INFANTRY SCOUT HORS DE COMBAT, AS A PRISONER OF WAR, WITNESSED THE FIRE-BOMBING OF DRESDEN, GERMANY, ‘THE FLORENCE OF THE ELBE,’ A LONG TIME AGO, AND SURVIVED TO TELL THE TALE. THIS IS A NOVEL SOMEWHAT IN THE TELEGRAPHIC SCHIZOPHRENIC MANNER OF TALES OF THE PLANET TRALFAMADORE, WHERE THE FLYING SAUCERS COME FROM. PEACE.”  Indeed, as Vonnegut’s author description (possibly unwittingly?) alludes to, one of the greatest absurdities of WWII, not unlike WWI, is that German-Americans made up the largest ethnic to fight for the United States against Germany and Vonnegut—a battalion scout with the 106 Infantry Division that was captured on December 22, 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge—even had the singular displeasure as “fourth-generation German-American” of witnessing an irreplaceable Teutonic city from his ancestral homeland being completely eradicated by his own countrymen while a POW in what was ultimately a literal ‘holocaust’ (aka ‘sacrificial mass slaughter via fire’). Notably, Jean-Luc Godard of all people noticed the absurdity of this situation in his obscure feature Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991) aka Allemagne 90 neuf zero where it is narrated, “The US never understood the war, or took part in it. At best, their fight was not the state’s fight, nor on the same battleground. The US can only imagine a civil war. It’s always themselves and their own defects, personified by the enemy, that they combat in all wars. For them, war is a moral dilemma. When they were English, they fought the English. When they became Americans, they fought Americans. Once sufficiently influenced by the Germans, morally and culturally, they attacked the Germans. The first American to take a prisoner in 1917 was Meyer. The prisoner’s name was also Meyer.” Of course, life’s great dark absurdities are what Slaughterhouse-Five is all about, hence its lack of popularity among the general public which prefers disposable neatly-packaged feel-good banalities to mercurial movies that challenge the mind and seep into the soul. 

 Alien abductions, the firebombing of Dresden, homicidal wop psychopaths with lifelong grudges, and a seemingly autistic affectless hero are just a couple of the seemingly discordant ingredients that make Slaughterhouse-Five so insanely yet ideally idiosyncratic, yet the film is no less exceptional in terms of its form as a nonlinear flick with a virtual ‘jigsaw’ approach to editing (courtesy of editor Dede Allen of such classics as The Hustler (1961) and Night Moves (1975)) that manages to mimic human memory in terms of switching back-and-forth between major events from the protagonist’s fairly eclectically traumatic life. Indeed, it is an extraordinary film about an extraordinary life as lived by a largely less than extraordinary individual that just floats through existence yet somehow achieves a sort of strange truly out-of-this-world transcendence in the end. While technically a sci-fi film and undoubtedly one of the first to deal with the theme of alien abduction, Vonnegut clearly has no special love for the genre and merely uses it trappings for mostly philosophical reasons (of course, for Hebraic Hollywood to make a film about the horrors of the Dresden Bombings seems like science fiction in itself, but I digress). Just as in the novel, the film is a quasi-existentialist work where the magnificent meaningless of life is given a vaguely optimistic spin where the viewer is asked to focus on the good and forget the bad, even in a demented culture-destroying world where the Dresden tragedy occurred. Notably, in a special introduction featured in the 1976 Franklin Library edition of the novel, Vonnegut stated of the event, “The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I'm in.” Undoubtedly, Vonnegut’s sentiments sum up the overall charmingly dispiriting spirit of the film, which is very much beauteous in a bitingly surreal fashion comparable to blood splattered across fresh white snow (which, quite fittingly, actually appears in the film). 

 Although a man that probably could be best described by the title of Austrian novelist Robert Musil’s unfinished three-volume novel The Man Without Qualities (1930–1943), the film’s protagonist Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks)—a tall blond American boy with an all-American Norman Rockwell-esque essence—has led a virtually magical life filled with great tragedy and heartbreak but also great wonder, intrigue, and splendor. A virtual cipher of a man that lead actor Sack portrays quite perfectly as far as effectively radiating a flat affect is concerned, Billy is clearly a model for the eponymous heroes of Woody Allen’s Zelig (1983) and Forrest Gump (1994), Chance the gardener in Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979), Léon in Andrzej Żuławski’s L'Amour Braque (1985), and Dougie Jones in Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), among various other examples. Luckily, Billy’s character is perfect for such a story as it allows the viewer to more easily embrace a film that deals with both the very real horror of war and a sort of goofy science fiction that defies reason. Falling somewhere in between an ‘Everyman’ and Nietzsche’s ‘last man’ with a good bit of autism thrown in for good measure, Billy is also in many ways quite typical of an American male of his era in that he goes off to war, gets married and has two kids, has a relatively successful career, and then retires, but only two events from his life give it true meaning: the Dresden firebombing and alien abduction. Of course, the latter is pure fantasy and a sort of expression of Vonnegut’s own pseudo-metaphysical wishful thinking in regard to some intangible humanist heaven where even autists like Billy Pilgrim get to fuck premium grade pussy for eternity for an exceedingly erudite all-alien audience. 

 While the film begins during WWII with a seemingly lost Billy roaming around in a considerably chaotic snowy Europa, the film rather seamlessly weaves back-and-forth between his life, including before and after that war that seemingly left indelible scars on his curious psyche. The son of a fierce fat father that—to impress his equally big boorish friends—put him in a traumatizing ‘sink-or-swim’ scenario as a small child where he was thrown into the deep-end of a public pool while completely naked and a comparably ludicrously large-and-in-charge mouthy mother, Billy hardly has the makings of a martial soldier and he virtually sleepwalks through the entire war despite it also having a totally traumatizing effect on his life.  For example, when the Germans give him a woman's coat to wear in an attempt to emasculate him, Billy is completely clueless that he is being mock until a British POW makes it crystal clear to him and even then he does not seem to care.  Aside from surviving the horrors of the Dresden terrorist bombings and being forced to move countless charred kraut corpses with other GI POWs, Billy also witnesses the senseless execution of his sole friend Edgar Derby (Eugene Roche)—a kindhearted teacher and family man that acts as a sort of much-needed father figure for the hapless protagonist—who is punished for ‘theft’ by some overly enterprising SS men after randomly being spotted rather innocently grabbing a Hummel figurine from some ruins.  Undoubtedly, Derby's absurdly senseless death, which is over a cute inanimate object that, rather innocently and sentimentally, reminds the poor character of his son and that one of the SS men subsequently throws away like trash after having the middle-aged GI swiftly executed, completely personifies the spirit of dark tragicomedic absurdism that guides both the film and novel.  Although Billy made a short-lived but completely unforgettable friend in Derby while a POW, he also becomes the #1 eternal enemy of a psychotic Sicilian-American named Paul Lazzaro (Ron Leibman)—a loudmouthed lunatic of the suitably swarthy sort that, arguably quite revealingly, has turned irrational homo-hating into a sort of unintentionally humorous poetic art—that vows to kill him one day because he quite wrongfully believes that he caused the death of his comrade Roland Weary (Kevin Conway), or as he initially threatens the protagonist, “A fag frolic in Wyoming. I’ll be there, Pilgrim, waitin’ for you.” Needless to say, Lazzaro does kill Billy and, as someone hopelessly “unstuck in time” that experiences various events from his life at various times multiple times, the protagonist is well aware this death-by-dago awaits him. 

 While Billy survives the Dresden Bombing and, in turn, the Second World War, and then gets married, has two kids, and becomes a successful optometrist, he seems completely detached from his ‘life’ and instead seeks sanctuary in his beloved doggo ‘Spot.’ After catching his son Robert (Perry King) masturbating to a centerfold of a sexploitation starlet named Montana Wildhack (Valerie Perrine of Bob Fosse's Lenny (1974)), Billy also finds a rare source of solace in the sensual lady and the silly sword-and-sandal (aka peplum) films that she stars in (and that his incessantly nagging lard ass wife, who he clearly does not love, highly disproves of). The Tralfamadorians—a group of highly intelligent and sophisticated extraterrestrials who exist in all times simultaneously—seem to realize this and transport both Billy and Montana to a virtual human zoo located on their planet of Tralfamadore, thereupon leading to an unlikely love affair between the protagonist (who is now middle-aged) and voluptuous diva that eventually leads to the birth of one son. As Billy tries in vain to explain to his pedantic son-in-law in regard to the important insights that he has acquired from these aliens, “On Tralfamadore you learn that the world is just a collection of moments, all strung together in beautiful, random order. And if we’re going to survive, it’s up to us to concentration on the good moments and ignore the bad.” In the end, Billy even learns to accept his own rather absurd assassination at the hands of his deranged wop nemesis Lazzaro who kills him while he is giving a speech on the subject of Tralfamadore while in the guido’s shitty home city of Philadelphia.  Despite Billy’s insistence on remembering the good, the Dresden bombing, which acts both as the climax and ‘centerpiece’ of the film, sticks out the most in the end (as it should).  After all, it is hard to forget the complete incineration of a singularly striking place full of happy children and old people (as Hill underscores during the pre-bombing scenes) that the protagonist initially describes upon first seeing it as, “the Land of Oz.” Indeed, right before the climatic bombing scene, the viewer is teased with a quasi-travelogue of sorts featuring the most beauteous pieces of ancient Teutonic architecture juxtaposed with a composition by Johann Sebastian Bach in a virtually aesthetically angelic combo that arguably represents the height of apolitical German high kultur in an exceedingly ethereal scenario where it seems ‘nothing bad can happen,’ henceforth perfectly underscoring the true apocalyptic horrors of the firebombing of Dresden.

 When I was in college, I once had this insufferably whiny slave-morality-ridden professor—a seriously shameless shabbos goy that once asked all the Jewish kids in my class to stand-up in a bizarre scenario of seemingly worshipful racial fetishization—that used to use his monotonous lectures to cry about being persecuted for being a “polack” (which, considering his relatively young age, seemed rather unlikely) or to philo-semitically proselytize for the chosen amongst god’s chosen. During one fairly unforgettable lecture where he rather recklessly exposed the pathetic heights of his craven ressentiment-driven bloodlust, this exceedingly erratically effete professor did an impassioned speech on how good the Dresden firebombings were and even went on to describe in great detail the cultural importance of the city and how it was easily incinerated because it was largely made up of wood buildings due to being so ancient. After witnessing this bitchy biddy—a virtual middle-aged boy with the sad sick soul of a neurotic sex-starved old woman that probably still has not gotten over the ostensible trauma of a jock shoving him into a locker during high school—practically drool with a certain sadistic glee at the mere thought of the totally senseless brutal extermination of German woman and children and destruction of great German culture, I naturally came to the conclusion that those that ordered the senseless bombings were operating from a similar unhinged mindset.  After all, rabid Jewish United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. infamously came up with the Morgenthau Plan with the odious objective of turning Germany into a depopulated wasteland, not to mention the fact that Albert Einstein lied to FDR about Germany’s advancements in nuclear science so that he could get the Manhattan Project started in the hope that his ex-homeland would be nuked.  Of course, what makes Slaughterhouse-Five such a successful antiwar film is that it is not plagued with the sort of hatred or resentment that inspired the pseudo-heroic Morgenthau and Einsteins of the world or the literary frauds like Elie Wiesel and Jerzy Kosiński. Indeed, it is only because Germany was destroyed and Zion prevailed that we even know of the zio-media-hype names of Einstein and Wiesel today while ignoring real geniuses like Nikola Tesla and a peaceful Aryan humanist like Vonnegut (who, if he was not a leftist of sorts, would have surely been completely ignored). 

While Slaughterhouse-Five is unequivocally the greatest Vonnegut film adaptation of all-time as the novelist himself recognized, Mother Night (1996) directed by Christine (1983) lead Keith Gordon surely makes for a great double feature with George Roy Hill’s film. Based on the 1961 Vonnegut novel of the same name, the film, which features an iconic cameo from the German-American writer, centers around the considerably conflicted antihero of Howard W. Campbell, Jr.—a character that seems to be inspired by both American modernist poet Ezra Pound and William ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ Joyce—who lives a sort of double life and overall schizophrenic existence as an American Nazi propagandist that quite deceptively uses his radio show to spread hidden messages that can only be decoded by Allied intelligence. Notably, the character also appears in Roy’s Slaughterhouse-Five during the early part of the Dresden bombing scene in a red-white-and-blue swastika uniform that whacked-out wop Lazzaro describes as a “fag outfit.” While neither film is even remotely ‘pro-Nazi,’ they both manage to question the official WWII narrative and, quite unlike virtually any Hollywood WWII films, make light of atrocities committed against the Germans (in fact, Mother Night director Gordon is a member of the tribe, but he doesn’t let his ethno-racial loyalties get in the way of a good weird paranoiac story, as the film even makes reference to the mass rape of German women by Soviet hordes). As for other Vonnegut adaptations, the Jerry Lewis/Sam Fuller vehicle Slapstick of Another Kind (1982) is one of the worst films ever made and Breakfast of Champions (1999)—a film that should have worked since it was directed by offbeat auteur Alan Rudolph who, not unlike his friend-cum-mentor Robert Altman, is totally suited for such subject matter—is a total mess that the author apparently felt was “painful to watch.” 

 As far as I am concerned, George Roy Hill is one of the most underrated filmmakers associated with the so-called American New Wave and Slaughterhouse-Five is superior to anything that was ever directed by more respected filmmakers associated with the movement like Paul Mazursky, Norman Jewison, Sydney Pollack, Peter Bogdanovich, Mike Nichols, and countless others. A sort of spiritual cinema son of Hollywood maverick William A. Wellman (Wings, The Ox-Bow Incident) as both filmmakers were man’s men that served as fighter pilots and had a lifelong love of flying in general as demonstrated by their respective films, Hill brought a certainly inordinate masculinity to American cinema during an exceedingly emasculated (post)hippie era with underrated films like the mesmerizing männerbund aviation drama The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)—a film that pays tribute to the singular glory of Teutonic fighter pilots and the similarly daredevil-ish American pilots that, despite technically being enemies, respected them—and the vehemently anti-p.c. hockey dramedy Slap Shot (1977) starring Paul Newman in a rare lovably sleazy role. With The World According to Garp (1982)—a personal childhood favorite that, until relatively recently (last year), I could not recall the name of despite it being burned into my mind nearly thirty years ago—Hill directed a film that was clearly a (quite superior) model for Forrest Gump, albeit darker and more inordinately eccentric. While not one of his masterpieces, Hill brought some unexpected much-needed-nuance to the whole perennial Israeli–Palestinian conflict with his John le Carré adaptation The Little Drummer Girl (1984) starring Klaus Kinski of all people as a sort of Machiavellian Mossad agent in an uneven yet reasonably enthralling film where the Israelis ultimately come out looking like the most underhanded of international terroristic exploiters. In my less than humble opinion, it is a damn shame that Hill will always be best remembered for the softcore western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but Americans love their westerns and hate their war crimes. 

 While the curious combination of real-life war atrocities and alien abductions might seem a tad bit silly, especially to those that take the Dresden firebombing seriously, the two things somehow work together perfectly in Hill's Slaughterhouse-Five and their seemingly discordant combo make even more perfect sense if one has consulted the UFO writings of the great ‘Aryan Christ’ Carl Jung. While Jung did not completely rule out the possibility of space aliens and flying saucers, he did feel that the whole UFO phenomenon that more or less kicked off during World War II was part of a psychological and, in turn, spiritual crisis that was plaguing the Occidental mind. Indeed, as Jung argued in Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky (1959), “One can hardly suppose that anything of such worldwide incidence as the Ufo legend is purely fortuitous and of no importance whatever […] The basis for this kind of rumor is an emotional tension having its cause in a situation of collective distress or danger, or in a vital psychic need. This condition undoubtedly exists today, in so far as the whole world is suffering under the strain of Russian policies and their still unpredictable consequences […] Precisely because the conscious mind does not know about them and is therefore confronted with a situation from which there seems to be no way out, these strange contents cannot be integrated directly but seek to express themselves indirectly, thus giving rise to unexpected and apparently inexplicable opinions, beliefs, illusions, visions, and so forth. Any unusual natural occurrences such as meteors, comets, ‘rains of blood,’ a calf with two heads, and suchlike abortions are interpreted as menacing omens, or else signs are seen in the heavens.” Undoubtedly, despite his general autistic demeanor, Slaughterhouse-Five protagonist Billy Pilgrim—an absurdly lucky survivor of the hell-on-earth Dresden nightmare—is a man plagued with a certain ‘emotional tension,’ which he is ultimately relieved of with the best next thing to heaven: a sort of extraterrestrial fuck factory where he gets to make love with the literal girl of his dreams in a baroque out-of-this world setting where his alien overlords, the Tralfamadorians, tell him everything he needs to know about life and existence, thereupon elevating him of every single fear and worry that he has. In that sense, both Vonnegut’s novel and Hill’s film adaptation act as sort of esoteric escapism where the ‘emotional tension’ that has resulted in the UFO phenomenon is cured by said UFO phenomenon; or at least Vonnegut’s fantastic fictional humanist version of it. 

 Notably, in attempting to describe the nightmarish state of painting in the post-WWII UFO age, Jung remarked, “Just as women’s fashions find every innovation, however absurd and repellent, ‘beautiful,’ so too does modern art of this kind. It is the ‘beauty’ of chaos. That is what this art heralds and eulogizes: the gorgeous rubbish heap of our civilization. It must be admitted that such an undertaking is productive of fear, especially when allied to the political possibilities of our catastrophic age. One can well imagine that in an epoch of the ‘great destroyers’ it is a particular satisfaction to be at least the broom that sweeps the rubbish into the corner.” While Slaughterhouse-Five—a film that literally depicts one of the greatest cities in human history as a sort of grotesquely gorgeous rubbish heap as partly caused by largely cultureless American philistines—does have a certain ‘soothing’ quality, it is also indubitably an expression of the ‘beauty of chaos’ that Jung describes in our pre-dystopian age of ‘great destroyers’ of the innately cosmopolitan alien culture-distorting sort. In that sense, the film is more potent than ever, not to mention radically red-pilled compared to the rancid raunch and cultural retardation that epitomizes most recent Hollywood sci-fi flicks (and movies in general).  After all, you will not find another Hollywood movie that makes positive reference to English historian and supposed ‘holocaust denier’ David Irving who, as the film alludes to, was the first to seriously study the Dresden atrocity with his revolutionary text The Destruction of Dresden (1963).  As for Vonnegut’s novel, it might even eventually prove to have predicted the forsaken future of the U.S. when it notes that, “The United States of America has been Balkanized, has been divided into twenty petty nations so that it will never again be a threat to world peace. Chicago has been hydrogen-bombed by angry Chinamen. So it goes. It is all brand new.” Indeed, so it goes. 

-Ty E

Dec 24, 2019

Blast of Silence

While I recently felt a certain degree of long buried nostalgia upon re-watching the classic Xmas TV movie special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)—an inordinately cute, clever, and shockingly kindhearted production courtesy of none other than great muppet auteur Jim Henson—as it is one of my earliest film memories and something I probably have no seen in well over twenty years, I would be lying if I tried to pass it off as reflecting my current mentality or how I feel about the so-called holiday season. Surely, it is keeping with my current cynicism that I was not at all that surprised to just learn that the film’s 1971 source children’s book of the same name was penned by chosenite Russell Hoban (which explains the film's somewhat grating ‘class consciousness’) and mischling hack Frank Oz had to taint the film with his voice, but I digress. Feeling like I might be able tap into a smidgen of Xmas spirit with a quasi-arthouse slasher featuring a bunch of Warhol Superstars in the quite fitting roles of mental patients, I decided to re-watch Theodore Gershuny’s Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972), but it reminded me more of hokey Halloween hijinks than jingle bells and red-nosed reindeer. Hell, I even gave Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984) a re-watch after two decades or so, but I was distracted by its odd neo-Orientalism and the fact that the recent PSYOP-like emergence of ‘Baby Yoda’—a sad unintentional symbol of Werner Herzog's strange newfound Hollywood whore status (though, to be fair, the Bavarian auteur started heading into this direction with his soullessly sentimental Spielberg-esque shoah shit show Invincible (2001))—has forever tainted the memory of the film in my mind. Indeed, I am somewhat ashamed to admit it, but the only film that could get me into the Christmas spirit—or, more specifically, the anti-Christmas spirit—is the nasty little neo-noir Blast of Silence (1961) directed by one-anti-hit-wonder Allen Baron who also acted as the film’s writer and antihero.

Despite being a relatively obscure figure that was mainly involved in doing completely irrelevant hack directing for popular (and not so popular) TV shows including The Brady Bunch, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Charlie's Angels, and The Love Boat, Baron was recently a casualty of the yeast-infected Me Too campaign at the ancient age of 91 after being exposed by his former personal assistant Anna Dey who not only accused him of doing disgusting things like throwing cum-rags at her, but also curiously accused him of the following in a July 2018 lawsuit: “Baron is a person of Jewish faith and expressly discussed his disdain for [Dey’s] Christian religion.” Of course, any non-pozzed thinking person that has seen Blast of Silence will see this as no big surprise as the film is devoutly anti-Christmas in a sort of marvelously mean-spirited and misanthropic fashion as if the writer-director fantasizes about a sort of semitic (anti)Santa Claus using his magical Kabbalah-charged sleigh with evil Golem-like Reindeer to drop a nuke on happy Christmas carolers. Indeed, Baron’s debut feature offers the viewer the opportunity of spending Christmastide with a half-crazed coldblooded hitman killer of the absurdly alienated and perverted sort who glorifies solitude and ultimately achieves a perennial sort of solitariness with his much-warranted grisly demise. In short, there is no doubt in your mind that Baron absolutely loathes Jesus Christ's b-day and the great joy, happiness, and spirituality associated with it, thus making the film a must-see film for ‘spiritual Ebenezer Scrooge’ types. Like a more morbidly mental Melville movie for sleazy American philistines created years after the release of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958) when film noir had already more or less died, the film is no immaculate masterpiece yet it manages to bleed alienation, despair, and a certain hardboiled nihilistic fervor that makes this film an apt experience for those less than jolly beings that can’t get into the Christmas spirit but don’t necessarily want to blow their brains out.  Whereas sadistic sod gutter auteur Andy Milligan's proto-slasher Seeds (1968) offers the ultimate depiction of family dysfunction where hate epitomizes the holidays, Blast of Silence wallows in a lethal sort of loneliness where murder is merry, at least for the absurdly aberrant antihero.

 Aside from obvious racial and cultural reasons, I have always been counter-kosher for largely aesthetic reasons because I cannot stand the innate artificiality and overall phoniness that plagues Judaic artists, especially filmmakers ranging from Mel Brooks to Steven Spielberg to Darren Aronofsky to J.J. Abrams. Indeed, as Ludwig Wittgenstein noted in a more articulate fashion, to be kosher is to be cosmopolitan and, in turn, completely culturally bankrupt which leads to soullessly ‘universalizing’ the art of the people of their host nation, hence the oftentimes obnoxious Judaic propensity towards satire and parody where an artistic model is manipulated and subverted for (at least partly) comedic (but more often subversive) ends. Over the years, I have realized that the Hebraic filmmakers that I actually do like, quite unlike softboys like Spielberg or Abrams, tend to come from rougher backgrounds where their art comes from the rather organic source of the streets. Indeed, even in their big budgets films, the street smarts of tough jews like William Friedkin and Michael Mann is quite apparent (whereas Spielberg's films reek of a certain insipid suburban soullessness and sapless artificiality).  Before switching to artless Zionist propaganda, streetwise semite Peter Emmanuel Goldman almost made the desperation and nihilism of gutter-dwelling counterculture types seem cool in underrated films like Echoes of Silence (1965) and Wheel of Ashes (1968) in between whoring himself out for sexploitation trash like The Sensualist (1966). Indeed, it is hard to imagine that early Martin Scorsese flicks, especially his first feature Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967), would exist were it not for Goldman’s largely unknown influence. Similarly, Actors Studio co-founder Jack Garfein—a supposed shoah survivor that had a certain glaring contempt for white America—demonstrated with his two fictional features The Strange One (1957) and Something Wild (1961) a certain singularly scathing depiction of human psychology and abnormal behavior that makes the films of John Cassavetes seem like sentimental children’s films by comparison. Needless to say, Baron does for film noir with Blast of Silence what Goldman did for underground arthouse cinema and Garfein did for adult drama in terms of bringing a certain uncompromising vehemence and viscerality to the medium. As to the defining trait of Baron’s first and only worthwhile feature—a film that makes The Lady from Shanghai (1947) seem quite campy and Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death (1947) seem humanistic by comparison—it is its pure and unadulterated venom as if the filmmaker needed to create it lest he commit a mass murder spree. 

 Just judging by the opening scene of Blast of Silence, one might suspect it would be more fitting for the film to have the Cioranian title The Trouble with Being Born as a nasty and nihilistic virtual antinatalist film noir where the strangely angsty antihero ‘Baby boy Frankie Bono’ (writer-director Allen Baron)—a covert wop character that is, somewhat believably, portrayed by a Jew—immediately begins narrating his great displeasure with being born juxtaposed with a train emerging from a pitch black tunnel like a bastard baby being violently blasted out of its mother's monstrous womb.  Indeed, as Frankie narrates (by way of blacklisted kosher card-carrying commie Lionel Stander), “Remembering, out of the black silence…you were born in pain […] You were born with hate and anger built in.” Needless to say, Frankie will also die in pain with his hatred and anger still intact as if it was a fate he instinctively understood all along. A deranged hitman that, unfortunately for him considering the particularly perturbed state of his psyche, largely lives in his own mind as highlighted by the film’s exceedingly effective and superlatively sleazy narrated ‘internal monologue’ (notably, celebrated screenwriter Waldo Salt of Midnight Cowboy fame wrote the narration under the pseudonym ‘Mel Davenport’) where fucked Frankie boy practically seems like his head might explode at any moment. Indeed, Frankie is a virtual ticking time bomb, but some other gentlemen do him the honor of extinguishing him before he can explode on his own in what ultimately proves to be a pathetic end to a patently pathetic life.

A resentful ex-orphan that seemingly spent his entire childhood in an orphanage and thus never received critical things like love and affection as a childhood, Frankie naturally has mixed emotions about traveling all the way from Cleveland to his hometown in Manhattan to execute a hit on a mid-level goombah gangster. As Frankie gloats to himself in a self-deluding manner upon first arriving via train while suavely sucking on a cigarette, “You’re alone. But you don’t mind that. You’re a loner. That’s the way it should be. You’ve always been alone. By now it’s your trademark. You like it that way.” Unfortunately for Frankie, he won’t be alone for long as he bumps into some old childhood friends by mere chance, including an old love interest, thus leaving him vulnerable and warping his plans in an ultimately rather pathetic scenario that underscores the angst-ridden antihero’s incapacity to completely connect with other people on any meaningful level. In that sense, it is surely fitting that splenetic psycho Frankie meets a miserable end on a cold and rainy day in a scenario that hardly inspires lachrymose in the viewer.  Like a rabid dog that is begging to be put down, Frankie's somewhat predictable yet nonetheless delicious demise ultimately acts as a source of solace for the viewer.  In short, Frankie is a sick animal and his great suffering finally ends when he is put down.

 Although Frankie would certainly agree with Baron’s racial kinsman Heinrich Heine words, “Sleep is good, death is better but of course, the best thing would to have never been born at all,” his boastful street philosophy of misanthropy and self-isolation are clearly the defensive psychological tools of a forsaken literal and figurative bastard that has no good reason to be happy about life as a poorly socialized lapsed orphan that is ill-equipped to deal with life, hence why he has dedicated his career to taking the lives of others as if he is unwittingly offering his victims the sweet sort of death that his sick self-destructive subconscious is driving him towards. Before executing his murder contracts, Frankie likes to channel all of his internalized hatred into these forsaken fellows. Indeed, when first mentioning his target Troiano (Peter Clune), Frankie states while practically dripping vile, “You know the type. Second-string syndicate boss with too much ambition…and a mustache to hide the fact he has lips like a woman…the kind of race you hate.” While stalking Troiano, Frankie also rationalizes the murder he is about to carryout by hatefully stating of his target, “He runs the girls and the dope and the books and the numbers. There’s a guy you could really learn to hate.” Although not his initial intention, Troiano is not the first scumbag that Frankie wastes as he impulsively yet still rather sneakily brutally beats and strangles to death an ‘old friend’ named ‘Big Ralph (Larry Tucker)—a fiercely foul and seemingly fecally unsound fat fuck that owns multiple pet street rats—that dares to attempt rip him off for a “thirty-eight with a silencer” after already agreeing to a contract. Indeed, while being a contract killer is technically Frankie’s job, one certainly gets the sense that he simply chose the career as an opportunistic outlet for his overwhelming bloodlust. Needless to say, a woman also helps inspire Frankie’s homicidal rage after temporarily softening his cold black heart during a moment of weakness that clearly contributes to his demise. 

 While incessantly complaining about his need for solitude, Frankie somewhat changes his tune upon being reunited with an old female friend named Lori (Molly McCarthy)—a hot dame that is able to have a rare ataraxic effect on the seemingly impenetrable antihero—and instantly falls for her. When Lori invites Frankie over for Christmas out of what seems to be nothing more than an altruistic sense of pity, he more or less attempts to rape her, but not before going on an insane rant that exposes him as a perturbingly pathetic whack-job that cannot even hold a conversation with a woman without it ending in disaster of the mutually embarrassing sort. Undoubtedly, Lori is right when she recommends that Frankie get a girlfriend as it would at least warm his seemingly half-rotten heart and give him a temporary relief from his hate-ridden psychosis, but he seems to be too hopelessly socially alienated and emotionally retarded to maintain any sort of sane love interest. Aside from killing Big Ralph, Frankie also makes the mistake of attempting to renege on his contract and is immediately threatened by the guy that hired him with the carefully expressed words, “All right. Now listen careful, Cleveland. Item one: For just thinkin’ what you just said…you’re in real trouble…and they’re gonna hear about this call. Item two: You made a contract with us, so you’ll do the job and you’ll do it right. Then we’ll listen to your problems. You’ve got till New Year’s Eve. And remember, you’re in trouble now.” While Frankie manages to commit the contract hit on Troiano with a certain savagely sadistic gusto that involves shooting the mobster while he is carrying a plush panda for his mistress and then kicking over his corpse while on the way out the door, he does not manage to escape from NYC alive as the men that hired him decide to assumedly cover their tracks by executing him. Indeed, despite being clearly threatened over the phone by the mobster that hired him, Frankie does not think twice about meeting him at a secluded pier outside the city where he is jumped by two hoods that, rather fittingly, look just like him. After being shot by the two doppelgängers and failing from a pier into the sea, Frankie tries in vain to climb out of the water by grasping for mud as the two killers continue to blast him into silence, or as the now-dead-narrator states at the very end of the film, “’God moves in mysterious ways,’ they said. Maybe he is on your side, the way it all worked out. Remembering other Christmases…wishing for something, something important, something special. And this is it, baby boy Frankie Bono. You’re alone now. All alone. The scream is dead. There’s no pain. You’re home again. Back in the cold, black silence.” 

 For whatever reason, I recently decided to re-watch Dan Gilroy’s somewhat overrated Nightcrawler (2014)—a film that seems to have made with the objective of petrifying tech industry dorks and other spiritually neutered types—and was amazed at how much more unlikable Jake Gyllenhaal’s exceedingly effete sociopathic ‘gutter capitalist’ character is compared to the crazed contract killer of Blast of Silence. Indeed, while Allen Baron’s film is a singularly dark and nihilistic neo-noir that ends in a fittingly dejecting fashion, there’s at least a certain underlying humanity to the proceedings whereas good goy Gilroy’s film is almost as sterilely cynical as its sociopathic antihero as if it is a (pseudo)arthouse film made specifically to remind long-suffering office bureaucrats that they might not actually be autistic automatons after all despite all evidence to the contrary. In short, Baron’s film is sympathetic towards its aberrant antihero to the extent that, unlike Gyllenhaal’s stone cold yet sapless character, he wants to love and fuck just like anyone else despite his comments to the contrary.  Additionally, Hebraic hack Ariel Vromen’s superlatively shallow hitman flick The Iceman (2012) seems like an insipidly stylized piece of shit by comparison despite feeble attempts at pathos and poignancy. In short, most contemporary film villains, especially in neo-noir, are unsympathetic garbage that are rarely worthy of even being described as caricatures as they lack more substance than a Looney Tunes cartoon character and Baron’s film—where an exceedingly erratic ex-orphan expounds on his perturbing primitive prole philosophy in a manner worthy of Panzram—arguably underscores this better than any films of its era.  While English auteur John Boorman's masterful Point Blank (1967) is certainly the superior tragic hitman flick in almost every regard, Baron’s dementedly daring directorial debut is certainly on another level in terms of tapping into the almost-evil essence of a damned dude that lives for death and personifies the Christian phrase: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

 Despite being an irreligious film with an anti-Christmas spirit as directed by a racially conscious Jew, Blast of Silence ultimately has a certain strange spiritual dimension if we listen to Emil Cioran, or as the Franco-Romanian philosopher once wrote in a piece entitled ‘Annihilation by Deliverance’ featured in his classic book A Short History of Decay (1949): “A doctrine of salvation has meaning only if we start from the equation ‘existence equals suffering.’ It is neither a sudden realization, nor a series of reasonings which lead us to this equation, but the unconscious elaboration of our every moment, the contribution of all our experiences, minute or crucial. When we carry germs of disappointments and a kind of thirst to see them develop, the desire that the world should undermine our hopes at each step multiplies the voluptuous verifications of the disease. The arguments come later; the doctrine is constructed: there still remains only the danger of ‘wisdom.’ But, supposed we do not want to be free of suffering nor to conquer our contradictions and conflicts—what if we prefer the nuances of the incomplete and an affective dialectic to the evenness of sublime impasse? Salvation ends everything; and ends us. Who, once saved, dares still call himself alive? We really live only by the temptation of irreligiosity. Salvation haunts only assassins and saints, those who have killed or transcended the creature; the rest wallow—dead drunk—in imperfection.” Indeed, in his own sick sad way, Baby boy Frankie Bono—the most lonely of god’s losers and a virtual spiritual brother to Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver (1975) fame—achieves salvation and, in turn, total transcendence in the end. Speaking of Scorsese, the famous guido filmmaker apparently once described Blast of Silence as, “my favorite New York City movie,” which says a lot considering the filmmaker once directed a cocaine-fueled musical entitled New York, New York (1977) and later a slightly better film entitled Gangs of New York (2002).  Additionally, the camera operator for Baron’s film, Erich Kollmar, acted as the cinematographer of Scorsese’s mentor John Cassavetes’ jazzy debut feature Shadows (1958). 

 As a film that makes the grittiest of Sam Fuller flicks seem about as hardcore as a transman's neo-penis and features a fiercely foreboding fatalism that might inspire suicide in less psychologically sound viewers, Blast of Silence—a minor masterpiece of misery and misanthropy where hate manages to effortlessly metastasize as the film progresses—is probably the ultimate anti-Xmas trip and a fittingly aesthetically abrasive testament to the soul-sucking power of solitude, especially when you are a lonely individual during what is supposedly the happiest time of the year. In short, Black Christmas (1974) seems like director Bob Clark’s later Fellini-esque classic A Christmas Story (1983) when compared to the stark and dark spiritual decrepitude that engulfs Baron’s virtual cinematic bomb. Considering that Baron spent the rest of his career being a for-hire hack that only managed to direct a couple mostly worthless films, including the uncharacteristically anti-cosmopolitan Foxfire Light (1982) where a rich city slut is tamed by a Southern rancher, one can only assume that Blast of Silence is the filmmaker’s sole auteur work and a true reflection of his seemingly twisted soul.  Aside from apparently bragging about various dubious sexual conquests, including scamming his way into then-Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett’s panties, the July 2018 lawsuit filed against him by his ex-assistant alleges that, “Baron also claimed to have forced numerous Cuban women to have sexual intercourse with him in exchange for roles in the 1959 movie CUBAN REBEL GIRLS.”  Needless to say, for better or worse, the recent allegations against Baron only add to the creep factor of Blast of Silence where the completely socially sick antihero seems to absurdly believe that dancing with a girl somehow immediately leads to aggressively trying to fuck them.

 While I don’t really believe in New Year's resolutions and can never deny the raw aesthetic power of Blast of Silence, I think my goal for next year is to make sure that I have no desire to watch the film ever again, at least not during the Christmas season. Indeed, I am perfectly fine with making Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) my reliable Christmastime favorite lest I succumb to a ‘schism of the heart,’ or as Cioran once so pitilessly described, “We are doomed to perdition each time life does not reveal itself as a miracle, each time the moment no longer moans in a supernatural shudder […] And it is not the miracle which determines tradition and our substance, but the void of a universe frustrated of its flames, engulfed in its own absences, exclusive object of our rumination: a lonely universe before a lonely heart, each predestined to disjoin and to exasperate each other in the antithesis. When the solitude is intensified to the point of constituting not so much our datum as our sole faith, we cease to be integral with the whole: heretics of existence, we are banished from the community of the living, whose sole virtue is to wait, gasping, for something which is not death. But we, emancipated from the fascination of such waiting, rejected from the ecumenicity of illusion—we are the most heretical sect of all, for our soul itself is born in heresy.” In fact, I think I am going to spend Christmas day re-watching Ronald Neame’s classic Charles Dickens adaptation Scrooge (1970) starring British screen legends Albert Finney and Alec Guinness and just try be grateful that my ancestors derive from the Western European countryside instead of dreary Eastern European shtetls which clearly provided a sort of atavistic spiritual influence on a film like Blast of Silence where man is completely deracinated and an abstracted slave that is no longer in tune with nature.

Needless to say, re-watching Carroll Ballard's Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986)—a near-masterpiece of sight and sound that is like the 1980s Christmas equivalent of classic Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger productions like The Red Shoes (1948) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)—helped to cleanse my soul after watching Baron's gleefully seedy celluloid bomb and it also reminded that the right film can help even the most Scrooge-esque of individuals find some small glimmer of the yuletide spirit.  Indeed, despite the virtually malefic message a film like Blast of Silence might communicate, it is important to remember that the world is not a shtetl and that Christmas can even be enjoyed be spiritually and/or seasonally sick niggas that, despite hating Hollywood in general, can still enjoy Clive Donner's Dickens adaptation A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott without succumbing to the figurative wizard of poz that is hollyweird.  Still, I have more faith in someone that prefers Baron's film to fiercely phony crypto-kosher Christmas crap like mischling hack Jon Favreau's Elf (2003)—a radically retarded film that was written, directed, and largely starring members of the tribe—where Santa Claus is portrayed by Ed Asner who, not coincidentally, could easily pass for Baron's brother.  After all, there is something innately sinister about a world where Will Ferrell is considered funny and Blast of Silence—an inordinately metaphysically aggressive film that acts like acid on the psyche in terms of completely wiping away what might have previously been on your mind—acts a sort of ideally corrosive antidote to such mesmerizingly moronic crypto-anti-Xmas insipidity.  After all, better a Christmastide cynic than a buffoonish shabbos goy fairy like Ferrell.

-Ty E