Oct 22, 2014

The Little Green Man

Unquestionably, Roland Lethem (La Fée sanguinaire aka The Bloodthirsty Fairy, Les Souffrances d'un oeuf meurtri aka The Sufferings of a Ravaged Egg) is one of the most anarchistic and hopelessly ill-restrained auteur filmmakers that Belgium has ever produced, which is saying a lot considering he is from the same country that spawned the curiously coprophagia-crusted celluloid nightmare Vase de Noces (1974) aka Wedding Through aka The Pig Fucking Movie. Indeed, from the cutesy cock-castrating pixie bitch of The Bloodthirsty Fairy to the anti-Catholic Cocteau-esque approach to maggots in rotting cunts in The Sufferings of a Ravaged Egg, Lethem is certainly a wonderfully mad mensch who knows how to get a subversive cinephile’s attention and luckily, despite being an old geezer in his 70s, he still manages to direct iconoclastic and totally original films featuring beauteous young babes being sexually brutalized. Indeed, for his latest film, Le petit bonhomme vert (2013) aka The Little Green Man—an absurdly fucked and fiercely fetishistic yet farcical 11-minute short about a cute chick’s daunting date with a rather romantic cacti—Lethem demonstrates that he has not gone soft over the past couple of decades, even if the film lacks the graphic depictions of bloody cunts and castrated cocks that inspired foremost American cineaste Amos Vogel to pay tribute to auteur in his classic text Film as a Subversive Art (1974). Dedicated to the memory of Japanese ‘pinku eiga’ auteur Kōji Wakamatsu (Go, Go, Second Time Virgin, Ecstasy of the Angels)—another aberrant-garde filmmaker who liked to make films about nubile little girls being used and abused in a variety of highly imaginative and eclectic ways—Lethem’s little slice of celluloid lunacy is a short but sweet piece of playfully pernicious perversity that somehow manages to be simultaneously humorous, erotic, and exceedingly absurd. It also happens to be probably the only film where a woman performs coitus with a talking cactus. 

 Valérie (Vanja Maria Godée) is a crypto-horny French-speaking Belgian babe in her 30s who seems to like plants more than people and one would guess from her flagrant bitchiness that she might be more than a little bit sexually starved. While at a plant nursery, Valérie is asked by an employee if she needs help but she says nothing and looks at the well meaning fellow as if he is the world’s single biggest asshole. When Valérie spots a beautiful bouquet of flowers, she becomes so enamored with the sight and smell of the plants that she rubs her face into them as if it is a nice and savory crotch. Of course, Valérie naturally becomes especially intrigued when she spots a small white phallic-like cactus. When Valérie picks up a cactus and hears some unseen person say “you’re so beautiful,” she becomes so startled that she pricks her finger on one of the plant’s thorns. When she hears the same seemingly invisible fellow say “you smell so good,” Valérie looks around and eventually realizes that the small white phallic-like cactus is actually talking to her. After the cactus introduces himself as “the little green man” and proceeds to hit on Valérie, she gets quite bitchy and makes the following heartless threat to the rather charming cacti, “it looks like you want me to mash you like a dirty little crap. All it takes is a good squashing with my heel.” Of course, the ‘Little Great Man’ is a sort of Don Juan of cactuses and he eventually coerces Valérie into dropping her panties and sitting on top of his thorny head. While Valérie cries like a little girl while riding the cactus, complete ecstasy is written all over her face. Valérie is also fed bullshit by the cactus about how they are going to have a baby together like, “It’s gonna be a wonderful baby” and “our great child.” As it turns out, the Little Green Man is more interested in stealing Valérie’s panties than having a mongrelized human-cactus hybrid baby with her. 

 Aside from its cute, if not unflattering, depiction of the innate passive-aggressiveness of the ‘fairer sex’ and the tendency of women to say “no” when they really mean “yes,” The Little Green Man features no great revelations or insights about mankind, but it is quite eccentrically erotic and manically mirthful as a work that is certainly in the spirit of auteur Roland Lethem’s earlier works, albeit more lavishly directed. In terms of a cinematic equivalent to some sort of salacious activity, the film is like a ‘blow and go’ as a short but sweet and highly sensual affair that lasts about 10 minutes. While I was somewhat disappointed that Lethem did not opt to show the Aryaness lead’s post-cactus-coitus meat curtain (after all, he showed the eponymous ‘red cunt’ in Le Sexe Enragé aka The Red Cunt), the film is ultimately more potent due to the fact that it does not show anything aside from the sadomasochistic delight on protagonist Valérie’s face as she moves in and out of the prickly plant pecker. For Belgian cinephiles, it should be noted that veteran actor Jean-Louis Sbille (Wait Until Spring, Bandini, A Promise) makes a somewhat cryptic cameo in the film. Ultimately, The Little Green Man owes a large part of its potency to Vanja Maria Godée’s performance. Despite the fact that she had only appeared in one other short film before appearing in The Little Green Man, Godée demonstrates in Lethem's film that she is an unrivaled master at simulating mounting a cactus and certainly more believable than 99% of the top female porn stars when pretending to derive pleasure from the seemingly unpleasurable. After watching Lethem’s work, I will certainly never look at cacti the same again. For those couples that use ultra ribbed condoms, The Little Green Man is probably a film you might want to steer clear of, but then again, I am sure that the short will inspire some debauched little dame to stick something sharp and prickly inside herself that might leave scars (or worse). 

-Ty E

Oct 20, 2014

Buster and Billie

Although it would probably not surprise anyone that knows me, I have to admit that I absolutely loathe virtually all romance flicks, be they retarded rom-coms featuring some radically repulsive Hebrew turd like Ben Stiller lusting over some lecherous blonde Aryan Shiksa; phony James Cameron's blockbuster celluloid barf Titanic (1997), would-be-quirky frog mucus like Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie (2001), hipster hemorrhoids like Spike Jonze's Her (2013), or classic screwball swill like It Happened One Night (1934). In short, I tend to stay completely clear of any romance-themed film unless I receive a special recommendation from a friend whose taste in cinema I respect and/or if I do enough research about a film beforehand that leads me to believe that I would appreciate such a work. As far as I am concerned, German Expressionist auteur F.W. Murnau's Hollywood era debut Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) is unequivocally the most poetically romantic film ever made. While not exactly a film in league with Murnau's masterwork, the truly unsung cult item Buster and Billie (1974) aka Buster & Billie—a sort of post-Rebel Without a Cause teen rebel flick with hixploitation elements set in late-1940s Georgia about a teenage alpha-male high school senior who falls in love with the local town whore and who takes violent revenge against his comrades after they defile his beloved—is another one of those oh-so rare romance themed flicks that somehow got my blood moving. Co-directed by quasi-hack Daniel Petrie (A Raisin in the Sun, Sybil) and screenwriter/sometimes director Sidney Sheldon (The Buster Keaton Story, Dream Wife), this darkly romantic revenge flick is notable for being, among other things, one of the first mainstream movies to feature full-nudity (e.g. cocks and bushes) as well as Robert ‘Freddy Krueger’ Englund in a pre-A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) role and a pre-Airwolf Jan-Michael Vincent as the lethally lovelorn ‘lone ranger’ lead. Unquestionably the sort of film one should watch with knowing as little as possible beforehand, Buster and Billie is a hardcore country fried heartbreaker that reminds one not to take their beloved for granted. Like the Deliverance of tearjerkers, albeit featuring hetero hick rape as opposed to hillbilly homo forced bum-buggery, the film truly brings new meaning to the age old phrase ‘love conquers all.’ A borderline southern Gothic work somewhat in the spirit of Ode to Billy Joe (1976), albeit slightly more disturbing, Buster and Billie does the seemingly impossible by being a work that is certainly exploitative in parts, yet somehow manages to be genuinely emotionally penetrating in a classic love story fashion. Never released on DVD and fetching a fair amount of money in its out-of-print VHS form, Buster and Billie is unfortunately a work that is destined to remain in obscurity.

The year is 1948 and despite being the most popular senior at his rural Georgian High School, Buster (Jan-Michael Vincent) is a born individualist and confident rebel-rouser who does not care about what anyone thinks, including his friends and family.  Buster is engaged to marry his high school sweetheart Margie Hooks (Pamela Sue Martin), though he hates her friends (he hilariously calls one of them a, “hoot-owl-looking bitch”) and resents the fact that she does not put out (as he pleads to her after she denies him carnal pleasure, “If a man doesn't reach climax every time that he gets excited, he's liable to get kidney trouble and die young”). Buster's best friend is a goofy dullard boy named Whitey, who seems to worship his much more confident and handsome friend. Like the rest of Buster's friends, Whitey regularly sexually takes advantage of a beauteous yet somewhat intellectually challenged young lady named Billie Jo Truluck (Joan Goodfellow), who has moronic untermensch hillbilly parents and thinks the only way she can get people to like her is by letting them do whatever they want with her voluptuous young body. Although Whitey and the rest of his friends offer Buster the opportunity to tag along with them during one of their gang-bangs of Billie, Buster opts out, but later decides to ask her out on a date after becoming quite sexually frustrated due to his girlfriend's incessant cock-blocking. When Billie sees Buster beat-up a big fat belligerent school bus driver, she virtually falls in love with him at first sight, so she does not think twice about taking up his offer to take her on a date. Needless to say, the two soon fall in love and are both happy for the first time in their short lives, but their happiness is short-lived as jealous friends, annoying busybodies, and morally righteous morons get in their way.

 After one particularly heated date with Billie that makes him realize that he truly loves her, Buster decides to drive to his girlfriend Margie's house at 1 a.m. while drunk and tell her that their relationship is over, which she does not take well and even goes so far as lying to her friends and telling them she broke up with him.  Of course, when Buster reveals his love for Billie by taking her to church with him, he turns a number of the congregants against him, including his pigheaded friends, who are mad they can no longer take advantage of the girl and cannot stomach the fact that their cool friend would rather hangout with a poor whore than them.  Naturally, a number of people berate Buster due to his new relationship, including his parents, who feel disgraced that their son broke it off with 'good girl' Margie for a poor slut, as well as the local bartender Jake (Clifton James of Cool Hand Luke), who the high school senior threatens to beat up for bad mouthing his girlfriend.  As a self-proclaimed “lone ranger" who “rides alone,” Buster truly couldn't care less about what other people say and only falls all the more in love with Billie, engaging in skinny dippy, sentimental gift-giving, and whatnot.  When Billie gives Buster a poorly made necklace, he loves it simply because it was given to him by his beloved, who is so unwaveringly in love with her boyfriend that she loves to write his name in the dirt with a stick like a little girl with a crush. When Buster gets sick, Billie reads a Captain Marvel comic to him in bed.  At a local hoedown of sorts, the two almost cement their unadulterated pure love for one another in front of everyone in the town, which  leaves a lot of people jealous.  One day, Buster's friends go for some alcohol-fueled joyriding and when they spot Billie, they decide to have a little fun with her, but she runs away and when they catch her, she refuses to submit to their sensual savagery, so they knock her out and proceed to take turns raping her.  When Billie regains consciousness while being raped by a boyish bitch boy named 'Mole' (Mark Pendergraft), she claws at the teenage rapist's face, which infuriates him so much that he starts beating her head in, thus resulting in her accidental death.  Hoping to blame the murder on a mythical killer with a hook-hand, Buster's friend leave Billie's half-naked body in the woods with a couple branches barely covering it.  Meanwhile, Buster goes looking for Billie and when he does not find her, he goes to the local bar where his friends hangout and is surprised to not find them there.  Despite it being a rainy night, Buster eventually finds Billie's brutalized body in the woods and cries hysterically.  When Buster goes back to the bar, he finds all his friends playing pool and can immediately see the guilt on their faces despite the fact that they try their darnedest to act cool and normal.  After calmly agreeing to play pool with his friends, Buster randomly explodes and brutally beats all his friends, killing two of them with more or less with his bare hands (though he does use a pool stick and a billiard ball) and even slamming his best pal into a pool table.  While Buster is temporarily jailed, he is let out of prison the day after Billie's funeral, which is not even attended by her parents, and he honors his belated beloved by stealing every single flower in town and putting it on her grave.

Despite being more or less a hixploitation on steroids, Buster and Billie is reasonably believable in its shockingly nuanced depiction of true love, with such seemingly benign things as simple glances between the two leads saying much more than words ever could about the genuineness of their pure passion for one another.  The film is also one of those rare works that enables the viewer to empathize with the killer.  Indeed, for any man to watch Buster and Billie and not feel totally satisfied with the male protagonist's actions at the end is not a man.  In other words, if there is no context where you could see yourself killing for your beloved, you either don't love her or you're a ball-less pussy with no integrity.  While women have a habit of destroying relationships between friends, I have noticed that jealous beta-males also tend to get quite irked when their alpha-male friend falls in love with a woman and in no other film is this depicted more potently and even perniciously than Buster and Billie, which is a work that is rather romantic in a sort primitive redneck fashion.  Unquestionably, the film just had too much testicular fortitude and not enough senseless sentimentalism and contrived lovey dovey appeal to become popular with the American bourgeois, but it is certainly the romantic masterpiece that not enough working-class and rural-based Americans—the true audience of the film—have seen, because otherwise it would be considered an indisputable classic of 1970s American cinema.  Obviously, it should be no surprise that a weasel-like weakling like Leonard Maltin would trash the film, as he lacks the lifeblood and background to adequately appreciate it.  The work is like a A Walk to Remember (2002) that is somehow good as directed by a talented exploitation auteur, as well as a Southern Gothic directed by a sort of lowbrow rampantly heterosexual Tennessee Williams.  One must certainly have a heart of stone to deny the rough and rugged romantic majesty of Buster and Billie.

-Ty E

Chetan, Indian Boy

While not that well known, a number of German New Cinema alpha auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder's actors also tried their lot at being filmmakers with mostly disastrous results. Indeed, from Fassbinder's musical composer Peer Raben (Adele Spitzeder, Heute spielen wir den Boß) to producer Michael Fengler (Output, Petty Thieves) to leading man Ulli Lommel (Haytabo, Adolf Marlene), many of the filmmaker's collaborators seemed to think they could build a film making career due to connections with R.W., but of course, most of them more or less failed. Probably one of the more bizarre and somewhat disturbing examples of this is character actor Hark Bohm who starred in a number of Fassbinder flicks as an annoying nerd, effeminate bureaucrat, and even a cowardly cuckold, starting with Der amerikanische Soldat (1970) aka The American Soldier and concluding with the director's 40th and antepenultimate film Lola (1981); what is little known, however, is that he was also directing films of his own throughout this entire period with his directorial debut being the minimalistic ‘Bavarian western’ Chetan, Indian Boy (1972) aka Tschetan, der Indianerjunge starring the director's much cooler and more famous brother Marquard Bohm (Deadlock, Beware of a Holy Whore) as a lone cowboy who saves and raises a young Indian boy from the Lakota Indian tribe, as well as the filmmaker's Mongolian foster son Dschingis Bowakow, who starred in a number of his foster father's films before going on to be a producer and production manager for various films, including Leos Carax's early New French Extremity work Pola X (1999) and Sandra Nettelbeck's popular German-Italian-Austrian-Swiss romantic comedy Mostly Martha (2001) aka Bella Martha. If Bohm's weirdo western Chetan, Indian Boy has anything in common with the films that Bohm would later director aside from starring Bowakow, it is the director's dubious obsession with preteen boys. Indeed, for better or worse, Bohm was the foremost German filmmaker of coming-of-age films starring sexually ambiguous bad boys with long hair that are somewhat in the spirit of William S. Burroughs' pederastic cut-up novel The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (1971), albeit more bourgeois. While I hate to jump to conclusions on such a revoltingly taboo subject, Chetan, Indian Boy and the director's various other films have led me to speculate that Bohm may have pedophilic predelictions and be a potential boy buggerer. Unquestionably, in Bohm's quasi-revisionist western, like many of his films, gratuitous shots of exotic prepubescent shirtless boys are quite prominent and, probably to most viewers, quite strange and unsavory. Of course, Chetan, Indian Boy is not just what appears to potentially be a playful pedo-fantasy but a work that illustrates the more positive view of American Indians that Germans have held in comparison to their American counterparts. Dating back to the adventure novels of Karl May, which were later used by the National Socialists for anti-American propaganda purposes during the Second World War to demonstrate the savagery of Americans against the Indians, and even during the Third Reich era in films like Luis Trenker's Der Kaiser von Kalifornien aka The Emperor of California—the sole western made during the Nazi period—the krauts have always been more sympathetic to the plight of Injuns than, say, the plots of John Ford films. In a work predating Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012) by four decades, a brave kraut comes to the aid of a young redskin boy who has been by caught stealing by a proto-redneck farmer/Indian exterminator in a work where auteur Bohm demonstrates his seeming fondness for Mongol boys in thongs. 

 The time and place is Montana in 1880 and a brave, young hippie-like kraut boy named Jacob ‘Alaska’ Precht (Marquard Bohm) has just landed in the area with his herd of sheep and beloved mutt Hector because he plans to stay in the region until the winter passes.  One of the reasons the area is so safe is that virtually all of the Indians have been exterminated, especially those of the Lakota tribe.  After killing and cooking a cute bunny rabbit, Alaska is approached by a rugged redneck farmer named Ben Johnson (Willy Schultes), who has two young preteen blond beast sons, Erick (Erich Dolz) and Edy (Edy Endorfer), and brags about liquidating all the local Indians, even showing off his latest prey, a Lakota boy named Chetan aka ‘The Falcon’—the last surviving member of his tribe—and describing the little savage lad, who is tied to a horse, as a “rustler.”  Although demonstrating his hospitality by providing big Ben with some hot coffee, Alaska soon finds himself a new enemy after revealing he plans to stay in the area for the rest of the winter.  Despite the fact that he does not own the land, Ben thinks it is his and resents the fact that Alaska wants to stay in the same area where he plans to have his cattle stay, complaining, “I risk my scalp clearing the neighborhood of the Indians...and there comes a shepherd...who wants to steal the winter pasture from me!”  Of course, Alaska makes things worse when he decides to trespass on Ben's property at night and free Chetan, who does not exactly trust the young white man.  Indeed, despite the fact that Alaska freed him and ultimately saved his life, Chetan attempts to kill his savior with a machete and escape.  Chetan injures Alaska's hand so severely that the cut reaches all the way to the bone, thus leaving him incapable of using it for the rest of the winter.  After Alaska has his dog Hector watch Chetan so that he does not escape, the Indian boy, who called the canine “white man's dog,” develops a bond with the animal.  A true wild child, Chetan immediately strips out of the white man's clothes that Alaska has given him to wear and prefers to sport his Injun thong.  Needless to say, Alaska has a hell of a time attempting to train the savage boy how to work, as Chetan only seems interested in playing with animals, attacking white men, and attempting to kill his master's sheep by having them drink poisonous water.

Despite Chetan's inability to learn how to work and violent rascal-like behavior, Alaska continues to provide shelter for the boy, which ultimately proves to be mighty dangerous from the lone cowboy.  Indeed, eventually, Ben Johnson's sons, Erick and Eddy, accuse Alaska of harboring Chetan and threaten him by shooting one of his sheep if he does not return the boy.  Meanwhile, Chetan finds the corpses of his parents, who somehow have not begun to rot,  and he gives his mother a proper Lakota burial.  When Alaska finds Chetan at the Indian settlement with his his deceased parents, the boy attempts to shoot the kraut cowboy in a cute but pathetic attempt to protect his dead family.  Eventually, Chetan warms up to Alaska enough to reveal to him that he knows English because he and his family were put on reservations where many of them starved to death after being promised food and shelter by lying whitey.  Chetan also reveals that the white man not only slaughtered his entire tribe, but also the bison population, the Lakotas' primary source of food.  In terms of spiritual values, the Lakota believe that all livings things, including plants, have souls and one must beg for forgiveness after killing them, though some animals, like eels, have ‘bad souls.’  Although he never outright says it, one gets the feeling that Chetan believes the white man might also have a bad soul, though Alaska will ultimately prove him wrong.  Eventually, evil Aryans Erick and Edy spot Chetan tending to Alaska's flock of sheep and attempt to hunt the young Injun down, but being a magical Indian, he seems to disappear into thin air.  Of course, Ben Johnson and his two sons eventually show up at Alaska's cabin for a showdown, so Chetan dresses in traditional Indian garb and pulls out his trusty bow-and-arrow with which he shoots Edy Johnson while he is attempting to set fire to a shack containing Lakota horses.  Ultimately, Alaska and Chetan win their battle against the Johnsons, but Ben Johnson threatens that he is coming back for revenge, so the cowboy and his Indian head for the mountains.  With Alaska now a ‘horse thief’ (which is apparently a honorable status among the Lakota, especially in regard to stealing an enemy's horse) for taking the Johnsons' horses during the stand-off, the two have even more of an incentive to leave.  While in the mountains, Alaska is ambushed by two Ogalala Indians, which is a sub-tribe of the Lakota, who steal the cowboy's rifles.  Luckily, Chetan arrives just in the nick of time to save Alaska, though the Indian boy opts for leaving with the Ogalala, stating, “I go with my brothers...to the land of the great mother.”  Chetan offers Alaska the opportunity to go with him and the Indians, but he decides to stay behind, though he changes his mind at the last second and heads with the three Injuns to Canada.

Personally, the western is one of my least favorite film genres and the idea of a kraut western, especially from German New Cinema era, is just absurd to me, thus Chetan, Indian Boy ultimately proved to be an innately unnerving experience which was only heightened by auteur Hark Bohm's seeming pederastic predilections.  Still, I liked that the film featured a real Mongolian boy as a Lakota Indian because American Indians are essentially archaic Mongols after all (despite the politically correct left-wing phrase ‘Native American,’ which has only been relatively recently adopted by younger Indians and the mainstream media/academia, as no race is indigenous to America, with their even being proof that the white European Solutrean man was in America long before the Indians ever arrived via the Bering strait).  Bohm's film also takes a more realistic, even anti-Ford approach to the western genre, as a work that features real animal births and what seems to be unsimualted animals deaths, including the shooting of a rabbit.  While more sympathetic to the plight of the American Indian than Golden Age westerns, Chetan, Indian Boy certainly does not resort to the exceedingly ethno-masochistic lows of Kevin Costner's putrid piece of xenophiliac celluloid excrement Dances with Wolves (1990), even if it does feature a white protagonist who fights members of his own race to help a savage Indian boy that attempted to kill him. Aside from possibly Mongol or Indian boys, it is dubious as to whether Bohm's film would make for an enthralling coming-of-age flick for young boys. Undoubtedly, with his subsequent, more subversive efforts Moritz, Nordsee ist Mordsee (1976) aka North Sea Is Dead Sea and lieber Moritz (1978) aka Moritz, Dear Moritz, Bohm improved his craft as the unofficial meister of kraut coming-of-age flicks. Whether actually a pederast or not, Bohm seems to have a genuine interest in youth as a sort of Aryan Spielberg, albeit slightly less Asperger-addled.  If you are looking to see the best German westerns of the 1970s, Roland Klick's Deadlock (1970) starring Bohm's bro Marquard and Fassbinder's Whity (1971) certainly beat the boy-based battles of Bohm's Chetan, Indian Boy.  While Bohm's western might be tame for a work associated with German New Cinema, I can cannot help but feel it features a darker meta-secret subtext that is not unlike Spielberg's Hook (1991).  Indeed, I don't know about other people, but I always find it rather dubious when an extra geeky guy like Bohm or Spielberg takes a special interest in young boys and dedicates their career to making films about them. Certainly a NAMBLA-worthy work, Chetan, Indian Boy is ultimately only one small step away from being a ‘Boysploitation’ flick in the sickly sensual spirit of Ralph C. Bluemke's Robby (1968) and Anthony Aikman's The Genesis Children (1972).  For those looking for a more tasteful boy-based German New Cinema work that can be enjoyed by the entire family, Das goldene Ding (1972) aka The Golden Thing—a reworking of the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts co-directed by Alf Brustellin, Nicos Perakis, Edgar Reitz, and Ula Stöckl and featuring children in most of the lead roles—is certainly your best bet.  Needless to say, Bohm's Chetan, Indian Boy demonstrates that kraut westerns have come a long way since the days of Karl May.

-Ty E

Oct 18, 2014

Requiem for a Village

While the Germans have paid great tribute to their rural traditions and cultures with the once-popular but now largely ridiculed Heimatfilm genre, their Germanic brothers, the English, who have always had a larger disparity between the classes, have done very little to cinematically honor their ancestors and seem more interested in making intolerable hagiographies about banal monarchs and whatnot. Recently, I had the good fortune of happening upon an avant-garde Anglo-Saxon Heimat film that is surely a hidden gem among the seemingly bottomless pit of banality that is the British film industry. Directed by relatively unknown auteur David Gladwell—a man better known for editing Lindsay Anderson classics like If.... (1968) and O Lucky Man! (1973) than his own films—Requiem for a Village (1975) is a lucid, lyrical, operatic, and totally unclassifiable celluloid poem about a church and cemetery caretaker from an east Anglian village who feels dejected by modernity and urbanization and who prefers to reminisce over his dead friends, neighbors, and family members while cleaning their tombstones. Of course, as one can expect from an experimental work, Gladwell’s film is not merely mindlessly nostalgic sentimentalist twaddle like most Teutonic Heimat flicks, though it is by no means a pretentious masturbatory dilettante piece that was made by the director with the intent of proving how ‘avant-garde’ he is. Part living postcard, part ethnographic meta-documentary (Gladwell cast real people from the Suffolk villages where he filmed for the acting roles), part metaphysical zombie flick, part love letter to an ancient village and a dying way of life, part T.S. Eliot-esque cine-poem, and part critique of technology and the rise of the suburbs, Requiem for a Village—a split-narrative work that seamlessly connects the past and present as depicted from the perspective of an old man who literally and figuratively lives in the past and is ready to take his last gasp so as to be reunited with his deceased wife—is one of those rare films that seems almost completely original in its essence, as a film that establishes its own distinct cinematic language. Indeed, Lindsay Anderson probably said it best when he stated of the work: “David Gladwell's film is an authentic, lyrical pastoral work of absolute and obstinate originality - the work of a unique artist... Requiem for a Village is one of that handful of works which prove that the English poetic genius is fully capable - given the right, rare circumstances - of expressing itself in cinema, as it always has in literature and painting.” Not unlike Fred Halsted’s avant-garde homo hardcore flick LA Plays Itself (1972)—another film that contrasts the organic beauty and serenity of the country with noise, human nastiness, and abstract man made concrete jungles of the city—Gladwell's film depicts the bulldozer as a ruthless symbol for the destruction of pastoral perfection and history, as well as man as a pernicious god-given plague with a propensity for committing forced entry in regard to both nature and the nether-regions of other human beings (luckily, Gladwell's film does not feature any brutal fisting scenes, though it does feature a savage yet strangely beauteous rape montage that is arguably the most poetic depiction of sexual ravaging ever committed to celluloid).  Somewhat of a ‘folk horror’ work in part that is more authentic in its essence than Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973) in organically depicting the ancient culture it centers around, Requiem for a Village features the unrelenting cultural pessimism of Oswald Spengler, the lyrical love of landscapes (but also people) of Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1982), the nuanced appreciation of the Volk and Volksgeist of Edgar Reitz's magnum opus Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany (1984), the playful acknowledgement of England's pagan roots in David Rudkin's Penda's Fen (1974) directed by Alan Clarke, and the sensitive yet highly sensual approach to sexuality of the best works of Polish auteur Walerian Borowczyk, as a folkish filmic fever dream that demonstrates that the purest and most magical forms of pulchritude arise from the blood and soil of the peasantry, which has been more or less murdered by man himself.

 Requiem for a Village centers around an elderly church caretaker who belongs to a zeitgeist long gone and who longs for death, whether he knows it or not.  While now living in the suburbs like most of the surviving members of his quaint East Anglian village, the Old Man still spends most of his days working at the village, mainly in and around the old church in which he was married.  Completely out of touch with the living, the Old Man only talks to himself, with most of his conversations revolving around attempting to remember the death dates of his former neighbors while looking at their ruined tombstones at the church graveyard.  In fact, the Old Man spends so much time obsessing over his dead neighbors and loved ones that these individuals somehow manage to come back to life and rise from the grave, though they are not rotten.  Indeed, Gladwell's film probably features the most benign and warmly welcomed ‘zombies’ in all of cinema history. After watching in astonishment as the dead rise from the grave in a most jubilant fashion and barely acknowledge him, the Old Man enters the church and magically transform into his younger self on his wedding day.  From there, the film unearths fragments from the most memorable and sometimes even goofy (in one scene, a man brags how he tied a rope around a horse's testicles so it would not kick him) moments of the Old Man's life.  As was not uncommon at the time, the Old Man lacked experience on his wedding night and awkwardly got to "know" his beloved in a most naive fashion, which is in stark contrast to the sexual degeneracy of today where virgin teenage boys get addicted to pornography at an early age and ruin much of the magic associated with discovering the opposite sex.  The birth of the Old Man's daughter, who is now a somewhat grouchy middle-age spinster with a dyke-like haircut, is depicted in rather graphic detail, thus underscoring the traumatic and dangerous yet visceral beauty of human reproduction. The birthing scene certainly reminded me that it was not uncommon not too long ago for a mother to sacrifice her life to create more life whereas women today are pampered all the way through pregnancy and hardly have to worry about dying before bringing their children into this world.

 In Requiem for a Village, a gang of young leather-clad bikers become a symbol of the rapid proliferation of technology and urbanization, as well as a symbolic representation of how the present unsympathetically kills and buries the past, especially in regard to culture, customs, art, and religion.  Ultimately, the Old Man who lives in the past is killed after one of the crotch-rocket-riding whippersnappers runs him over, which proves to be a truly divine experience for the dejected geezer, who is reunited with his deceased spouse and the rest of the villagers who succumbed to fate long ago. The Old Man's death is important as with his demise comes the burying of all the customs, traditions, and memories of the village, which is scheduled to be bulldozed to make way for a new chic suburb development.  Before dying, the Old Man demonstrates his disgust for the modern world in a variety of ways, which is most apparent in a montage where the old disgruntled fart flings soil at a monstrous mechanized gold dirt digger, which cuts to a flashback scene of a ploughman tending to his horse, thus reflecting the increasingly cold and abstract relationship man has to nature.  In arguably the most potent segment of the film towards the end, the Old Man recalls being a young boy watching his father quasi-rape his mother in a delightfully disturbed montage which is inter-spliced with a flashback sequence of two scythe-wielding young men gang-raping a young girl, as well as a present-day sequence of the bikers raping a girl, in a darkly erotic segment highlighting the historically violent nature of regeneration and the cycle of life.  Indeed, it is hinted that the Old Man was spawned from an act of such sexual savagery, thus reflecting the ironic nature of nature, as a paradoxical system that creates life out of destruction, harmony out of chaos, and beauty out of abject ugliness.  After all, if Alejandro Jodorowsky's father did not rape his mother in Chile some 80+ years ago (as the auteur has claimed in various interviews), the world would be deprived of such cinematic surrealist masterpieces as El Topo (1970) and Santa Sangre (1989). Of course, if one thing is for sure, it is that the Old Man, like every human being, left this world the same way he entered it—as nothing, or as one of the characters wisely states during one of the many flashback scenes:  “We all come from dust and we go back to dust.”

 A fleeting glimpse of an extinct kultur from rustic rural England before the age of culturally schizophrenic phenomena like chavs and wiggers, the deluge of third worlders from the ex-colonies, the great national shame of Islamic South Asian white slavery rings, American cultural colonization, and the rise of the suburbs, among various other modern social plagues that make the once-great British empire seem like an inexplicable memory, if not absurdist fantasy, Requiem for a Village is not only a lost arthouse masterpiece of sorts, but an invaluable historical document that gives you a better feeling and understanding of a now extinct culture and way of life than any graduate degree ever could. In terms of major themes in the film, Oswald Spengler, himself a die hard critic of the British and their influence on the world, probably said it best when he wrote: “Long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.” Indeed, aside from the old church and cemetery, which are both in discernibly bad shape, the country is depicted as raped and plundered in Gladwell's film. Going back to Spengler, he once stated: “When the Englishman speaks of national wealth he means the number of millionaires in the country.” Of course, England's real wealth is depicted in Requiem for a Village, but the English do not seem to know that, hence why the film is truly one of a kind, as a rare rendering of the real English people and not effete monarchs with bad teeth, swarthy untermenschen from the third world, and chav scum.  Featuring an immaculately complementary haunting choral musical score by David Fanshawe (Seven Years in Tibet, Gangs of New York), an exeedingly ethereal depiction of the Suffolk countryside, and a rare authentic expression of the Anglian Volksgeist, Gladwell's is a film that unequivocally proves that not all English people are either sniveling, pretentious, tea-drinking twats or brain dead, tattooed, and illiterate white trash scum.

-Ty E

Oct 17, 2014


Long before dirty commie dago Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris, Last Emperor) demonstrated with The Dreamers (2003) that he has a fixation with Michael Pitt’s pecker and has yet to get over his fetishism for the 1968 student movement, a fellow forgotten Guido auteur named Sergio Capogna (The Consequences aka Le conseguenze, Diary of an Italian aka Diario di un italiano) directed a somewhat unique and captivating, if not somewhat stereotypically histrionically acted, movie, Plagio (1969), about a melancholy and forlorn bizarre love triangle turned ménage à trios starring blond Anglo-Guido stud Ray Lovelock (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man) as a strange rich ‘student protester’ who finds himself infatuated with a young couple and begins a tragic threesome that ultimately leaves all three of them broken, albeit in considerably different ways. Unlike other Italians films made in the spirit of 1968 like Bernardo Bertolucci’s Partner (1968), Liliana Cavani’s The Year of the Cannibals (1970) aka I cannibali, and Lucio Marcaccini’s Hallucination Strip (1975) aka Roma drogata: la polizia non può intervenire, Capogna’s unjustly forgotten work, not unlike maestro Luchino Visconti’s Conversation Piece (1974) aka Gruppo di famiglia in un interno, has aged relatively gracefully over the nearly half a century since its initial release, which largely has to do with the fact that it is not an avant-garde agitprop piece but a mid-high drama that merely uses the far-left student protests as a backdrop for an undeniably unforgettable darkly tragic romance about an unloved and somewhat unhinged rich boy who develops a rather dangerous admiration for his two new friends’ love for one another. In fact, in its depiction of a semi-deranged young man whose mental illness is, at least partially, the fault of his belated ‘modern’ feminist mother, Capogna’s film would probably be considered ‘counter-revolutionary’ by certain less sophisticated viewers. Although completely unknown in the United States and hardly a success in its native Italy, Plagio was such a huge hit in Japan that star Ray Lovelock, whose performance is nothing short of hauntingly penetrating, became a teen icon among horny Jap teens and even had a fan club dedicated to him. Ultimately, Plagio is a sort of shockingly entertaining proto-Emo-fag melodrama of the vaguely bisexual sort where the two boys are ‘prettier’ than the girl and sleazy drama is more satisfying than sex. Featuring a soundtrack including Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler, a hit single by Peppino Gagliardi, and songs by surprisingly unknown Guido rocker Johnny Davil (whose songs “Morning” and “I’ve Lost You” are just as important ingredients to the film as Ennio Morricone’s were to Cavani’s The Year of the Cannibals), Plagio is a distinctly aesthetically pleasing work with a highly complementary soundtrack that paints the pleasantly melancholy portrait of a decadent generation that thought “free love” was free, not realizing bizarre triangles are called ‘bizarre love triangles’ for reason.

Plagio opens in fall with a somber young lady named Angela (played by Mita Medici, who later became a popular Italian TV host) walking down a park path and saying to herself: “Already a pale sun warms this morning. Soon leaves will cover the branches of these dry trees. But none of this…will help us to forget the bad things…that against our will we were forced to live through…and for which we were not responsible. Of course, our poor dramas have no use but it is our awareness that helps us…that gives us the strength to fight…to continue. And even your memory will help me…because nothing is more pure in this world…than the love of a child.” The “child” Angela speaks of is a tragic young man named ‘Guido’ (played by Ray Lovelock in a standout role where he bears a striking resemblance to Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro) who she and her boyfriend Massimo (played by French actor Alain Noury, who is probably best known for his roles in Alfred Vohrer's post-Edgar Wallace works and Just Jaeckin’s 1975 The Story of O adaptation starring Udo Kier)—a sort of Mediterranean post-black-male Michael Jackson look-alike—will get to know very well after the two befriend and eventually fall in love with the young man. Flashback a couple months and Massimo, who is driving in a car with Angela that was borrowed from his friend Roberto, saves a young protestor who is getting beaten by three fascist MSI members. The young protestor is a Nordic-like goombah Guido and despite the fact that Massimo and Angela have helped save his life, he ends up stealing the car that they borrowed from Roberto (Dino Mele). Roberto’s father sues Massimo, but luckily Guido shows up out of the blue with a brand new car to give to Roberto. Indeed, Guido is the heir to a paper mill dynasty and he is quite generous when it comes to money, even buying his new friends Massimo and Angela an apartment to stay at when they are in Bologna (they two are originally from Rimini and Massimo travels there quite often). Guido is a somewhat perturbed young man who seems consumed with the memory of his deceased parents. While describing his belated father as a “good guy,” Guido is less generous towards his mommy, stating that she was, “young, modern, open-minded…Hardly a mother at all, in fact. She was madly in love with her husband.” Like many gay men, Guido seems to suffer from an inverse Oedipal complex which has damaged his ability to start and maintain friendships and romantic relationships, but with Massimo and Angela he seems to have found the best of both worlds, or so he initially believes.

Ultimately, Guido seems to see Massimo and Angela as sort of surrogate parents whose love for one another he deeply admires to disturbing degrees to the point where he actively attempts to become a part of it. After failing to be aroused by a prostitute named Edera (Cosetta Greco) that Massimo is a friend/patron of, virgin Guido decides to seduce Angela when her boyfriend is away in Rimini studying for an exam. When Angela learns that Guido is a virgin, she is the one that ends up doing the seducing. While she enjoys having sex with Guido, she also confesses to him, “I don’t understand why I can’t love you and want him. Because I love him as before, even more. Is that wrong?,” hence why she never even considers breaking up with her boyfriend.  Ultimately, Guido plots to have Massimo walk in on him and Angela together in bed, as he wants them to form a ménage à trios, but knows that his friend is far too ‘bourgeois’ to accept such a thing were he to ask him about it. Of course, Massimo freaks out and runs away upon seeing his best friend and girlfriend in bed together. While Guido attempts to convince his hurt friend that the three can live together as a threesome, Massimo agrees that he is a “banal bourgeois” who cannot stomach such things and decides to take the next train back to Rimini.

After talking to his prostitute friend Edera and having some time to cool down, Massimo eventually agrees to join Angela and Guido at the latter’s luxurious country villa where the three ultimately consummate a threesome. While Massimo basks in the majesty of the large villa, Guido tells him he is “naïve” because he had such an unhappy childhood that no amount of comforts or riches could make up for. Guido also reveals to both Massimo and Angela hints that he killed both of his parents, as they died in a car accident as a result of a busted tire, even though the tires were brand new (in an earlier part of the film, Guido pops one of his own tires). Guido is still resentful about his parents, stating of them, “I told you, they loved each other. I always came second. And they managed to die together. They even excluded me from that.” Of course, Guido will die alone. Indeed, after engaging in a passionate threesome with his two friends, Guido wakes up and tries to sneak out of the villa, but Massimo catches him and asks him what he is doing. Guido claims that he is going to buy cigarettes even though the store is not open and when Massimo asks if he can join him, he says no. Ultimately, like his parents, Guido dies in a dubious car accident, albeit alone. After Guido’s funeral, Massimo cuts off all contact with Angela. When Massimo finally attempts to talk to Angela, she infuriates her (ex)boyfriend by insinuating that Guido committed suicide due to his gay love for him. After revealing his love for both her and Guido, Massimo states of the latter that he was, “perhaps, better than me. He was like you.” In the end, Plagio concludes with Massimo shedding a tear for Guido as Angela walks away all by her lonesome.

Unlike a lot of the largely trashy exploitation films that he later starred in, Plagio was a sort of ‘labor of love’ for star Ray Lovelock, who later stated of the film that it, “really was a very special film: in fact I almost regret having made it so early in my career, perhaps I was a bit too immature for the character, which really was a great creation.  Maybe if I'd had a bit more experience I would have been better equipped to do it justice.” Of course, Lovelock is selling himself short, as his performance in the film is arguably the best of his career and certainly one of the strongest attributes of the film, though auteur Sergio Capogna’s direction is also nothing less than striking and certainly better than the famous Italian auteur filmmakers from the same era like Bertolucci and Cavani. In fact, Lovelock credits the director’s passion for the film’s aesthetic majesty, stating, “I was completely guided by the director, Sergio Capogna, who had also written the story. At a certain point, the money ran out and most of the crew left rather than work for nothing. Only 12 of us stayed on so for a week we made the film ‘on the road' with just the director, the cameraman and the actors. I even had to operate the clapperboard!” Despite its sometimes histrionic overacting, Plagio is certainly a lost classic of Italian cinema that is dying to obtain cult status. While researching the film online, the only thing I could find were Japanese fan sites. Considering the strangely ‘immaculate’ and almost plastic-like beauty of the leads to the point where they somewhat resemble anime characters, I can see why Japs would swoon over such a film. Like a bisexual Guido Jules and Jim (1962) from the counter-culture generation, Plagio, unlike old perv Bertolucci’s botched jerk-off piece The Dreamers, almost makes the rather repugnant zeitgeist that it depicts seem almost exciting and romantic, which is certainly not something I can say of many films. Arguably a so-called ‘counter-revolutionary’ work where the two most ‘sexually liberated’ characters, Guido and Angela, are depicted as coming from broken homes (whereas “banal bourgeois” Massimo comes from a highly supportive family and only becomes a mental mess after being coerced into taking part in a ménage à trios), Capogna's startlingly overlooked film more or less depicts the protests of 1968 as being a latent reaction to poor parenting and lack of familial cohesion, which only makes sense considering the fascists love of the Father(land).  If one thing is for sure, it is that the student revolutionaries of '68, who are now members and leaders of the very ‘system’ that they once rivaled against, have turned the Occident into a degenerate dystopia plagued by broken families, gender disharmony, nihilistic sexual perversions, multicultural chaos, childless female careerists, authoritarian political correctness, cultural vacancy, and a dying indigenous population that is being replaced with largely hostile aliens from the third world.  With that in mind, Plagio absurdly seems like a sentimental depiction of the good old days.

-Ty E

Oct 16, 2014

An American Hippie in Israel

Personally, I cannot think of many film titles that are more humorous and simultaneously intriguing yet repulsive than An American Hippie in Israel (1972) directed by one-time Israeli auteur Amos Sefer. While I would not exactly call myself a connoisseur of Israeli cinema and I have done little in the way of attempting to study the Hebrew nation’s rather unremarkable film history, Sefer’s strikingly hypnotic hippiexploitation flick certainly has to be one of the strangest, silliest, and unintentionally amusing films ever (mis)begotten in the so-called ‘holy land.’ The schlocky and ultimately somewhat shocking tale of a NYC-bred Vietnam War vet/idealistic hippie who travels to Israel to recruit a bunch of Hebraic hippies and create an ostensibly flower child utopia in the middle of the desert, An American Hippie in Israel aka Ha-Trempist aka The Hitch Hiker is notable in that, unlike the always phony and soulless celluloid swill directed by the culture-distorting Hebrew Zionists in Hollywood who tend to depict the counter-culture zeitgeist as some sort of meta-holy Golden Age that ‘liberated’ the evil racist goyim from their innate authoritarianism and Christian morals, it has a rather nihilistic and pessimistic ending and depicts ideas like “world peace” and “harmony” as an intangible idealistic joke dreamed up by decidedly deluded and debauched dreamers who are attempting to run away from the problems in their own loser lives. Make no mistake about it, Sefer’s celluloid affair is a B(ad)-movie of the obscenely outmoded and unintentionally humorous sort, but it has a sort of idiosyncratic character about it that is hard to ignore, even if the prospect of being around hippies, heebs, and/or the holy land makes you cringe, as it does me. While certainly nowhere near “the most psychedelic movie ever made” as advertised on the poster art released by Grindhouse Releasing, An American Hippie in Israel is most certainly the “most psychedelic Jewish movie ever made,” which may not say much, but certainly has a bizarre ring to it, no matter which way you look at it. Featuring a deadly duo of phantom-like mimes with hippie-exterminating machineguns and technocratic machine-men, Sefer’s cinematic hybrid is part sci-fi, part horror, part adventure, part action, and part unintentional comedy but all kosher kookiness. A film that makes Israel seem like a paradisiacal ghost town inhabited by the spirit of Hebraic gangsters like Meyer Lansky that is quite hostile to naïve American hippies who think they can find peace in a place ravaged by perennial hatred and war, An American Hippie in Israel certainly somehow makes the holy land way more entrancing than those rather repellant pictures of various culturally-cuckolded shabbos goy celebrities and politicians pretending to wail at the Wailing Wall. 

 Beginning with title scenes featuring flowers being crushed by a steamroller juxtaposed with sounds of gunfire and warfare in a somewhat eerie scenario reminiscent of the bulldozing of Palestinians homes by Israelis carrying out Zio-style ‘Lebensraum,’ An American Hippie in Israel then introduces the bearded ‘American Hippie’ Mike (Asher Tzarfati), who is flying into the holy land in the hopes of establishing a hippie utopia. With not a dime to his name, Mike immediately begins hitchhiking when he lands in Israel and he is soon picked up by a beautiful actress named Elizabeth (Lily Avidan), who asks him if he is a hippie, to which he stereotypically replies, “You might say so. Right on.” While on the road, Mike is followed by two deathly pale mystery men sporting gangster-like zoot suit outfits and top-hats and wielding menacing machineguns, who he calls “scum buckets” and “shitheads” and yells at for following him everywhere around the world, though he does not really know why. As Mike explains to Elizabeth, he was born and bred in New York City, but has spent the last two years or so floating around Europe. A disillusioned Vietnam War veteran, Mike also explains to Elizabeth that he resents the fact that he was turned into a “murdering machine” by the U.S. military and killed some anonymous gook at age 19, which was before he even lost his virginity, hence his new found delusional love for ‘free love’ and unconscious attempt to atone for his sins via promoting peace and selfless communal living.  After demonstrating flower power to Elizabeth by pounding her flesh flower, Mike explains his ultimate dream as follows: “I’m looking for a place faraway from everything. A place where I can live with a bunch of people that think like me without anyone telling us what to do.” Indeed, before they know it, Mike and Elizabeth have established a kosher commune of sorts full of dozens of Hebrew hippies engaging in dope-smoking and free love, but that is cut short when the mysterious mime duo shows up and kills every single person present aside from Mike, Elizabeth, and an Israeli hippie couple (played by Tzila Karney and Shmuel Wolf, the latter of whom only speaks Hebrew) that was responsible for introducing the now-dead deadheads to the protagonist. 

 Although all their hip hippie homeboys were exterminated in a storm of bullets, that does not stop Mike, Elizabeth, Tzila, and Shmuel from carrying on their glorious utopian dreams of a simpler world without technology and war. After Mike declares, “from now on, we're one family” and that they are “free,” the four peaceniks make their way out to the desert in Elizabeth’s rather bourgeois convertible in search of their own little hippie Heimat. After Mike awakens from a couple nightmares involving battling machines with human legs (indeed, Mike literally ‘rages against the machine’!!!) and seeing Palestinians imprisoned in surreal mirage-like desert-based jail cells and execution squads, among other things, the four flower children buy some hippie gear, including a little goat, from some Arab vendors and make their way further into the desert where they find a serenely surreal island comprised entirely of jagged rocks and a couple pieces of ancient ruined buildings, which the self-appointed flower power Führer declares their new home, stating, “Man, this is really fantastic…really out-of-sight” and to which his automaton-like followers jubilantly declare, “Finally, we’re free!,” as if they are excited grade school children who have found the perfect spot to build a tree fort. That night, the less than fierce foursome huddle together during a bonfire where Mike self-righteously proclaims to his comrades like the corny charlatan that he is, “I want this place to serve as a living symbol for the whole world. We’ll show the world that it is possible to live without war…without violence…without machines with buttons…the only sounds that will be coming out of this place will be those of song, joy, and laughter.” 

 Despite his initial positive attitude, Mike then proceeds to go on a rather juvenile nihilistic beatnik rant, hatefully stating in the most pansy way possible: “Let’s say something to the whole world! World, you’re so full of shit…you’re so badly contaminated that it is impossible to find a corner free of smell, especially the stench of dead bodies…that’s why I hate you. There are millions that hate you…millions that want to escape to another place…a place in which they can breathe air, pure and clean, but you find them, kill them, torture them…the day of reckoning will come. You will be doomed. You will destroy yourself with your own hands...you stinking world.” Elizabeth reveals how brainwashed she is by Mike by responding to his speech with the following mindless gibberish: “I love Mike and believe in him…and if he says you’re doomed, you’d better watch out!,” not realizing that her new beatnik boy toy will be the one that is ultimately responsible for her and the rest of the group's doom. While Shmuel does not really say anything since he only speaks Hebrew, Tzila also expresses her slavish mentality by declaring: “You’re a meek world […] good riddance to bad rubbish.” After they all give their poorly articulated little ‘anti-world’ spiels, the four friends engage in an orgy to usher in the beginning of their new utopia, but little do they realize that they have reached the beginning of the end of their vapid existences as people who yearn for simpler lives yet can barely tie their shoes. Indeed, these big-nosed beatniks are in store for both a literal and figurative rude awakening that will conclude in their own Lord of the Flies-esque demise. 

 Upon awakening the next morning after the first night at their island utopia, the hymie hippies notice that the small shitty boat that they used to get to their micro-homeland has disappeared, thus cutting them off not only from the land, but also from food and fresh water. To prove his prowess as a leader and dedication to self-sacrifice, Mike volunteers to swim back to the homeland to get supplies for his fellow Dead Sea pedestrians, but he ultimately pansies out while swimming across after bumping into two ominous sharks that may or not be the mystery mime men in anthropomorphized form. After complaining to his comrades, “Bummer. If it wasn’t for those damn sharks, everything would be ok” and absurdly berating the deadly fish by shouting at them, “Blasted creeps…Get out of here, you bastards!,” Mike begins acting like the sort of authoritarian dictators he claims to hate and forces his meek followers to scavenge for food. Ultimately, only Mike finds food in the form of measly limpets, which the others refuse to eat, with Elizabeth pompously proclaiming, “You’ll never get me to eat one of those. Those disgust me.” Indeed, due to their sheltered and pampered upbringings, the ‘bobos’ (bourgeois bohemians) would rather starve to death than eat something that might gross them out. After Tzila accuses Mike of using “smooth talk” to con them into coming to the island, a pathetic fight breaks out between the two couples that results in each set of lovers occupying one side of the island. Rather absurdly, a four person civil war breaks out between the two couples, with Mike and Shmuel threatening to kill one another if they dare to set foot on the other’s side of the island. After each couple sharpens some jagged rocks, there is a showdown between the two couples to kill the little goat for food. In the end, all four of the hippies end up killing each other, with Mike screaming like a wounded animal before he perishes. After the deadly micro-civil war that ends with all four hippies and the goat lying in a holocaust-esque heap of untermensch death, the two mysterious gangster mimes show up and steal Elizabeth’s convertible. The film concludes with a giant “END” appearing on the island of lost hippie souls. 

Rather ironically, the only other counter-culture-themed films I know of aside from An American Hippie in Israel that are set in Israel are both German and nowhere as kitschy as Sefer’s truly awe-inspiring celluloid oddity. Indeed, aside from kraut cult auteur Roland Klick’s underrated ‘acid western’ Deadlock (1970) featuring a great score by Can and starring perennial screen villain Mario Adorf and West German counter-culture figures Marquard Bohm and Mascha Rabben, Veit Relin’s Chamsin (1972)—a psychedelic reworking of German poet/playwright Friedrich Schiller’s tragedy Die Braut von Messina aka The Bride of Messina (1803) starring Maria Schell (whose then-husband directed the film) and featuring a score by pioneering krautrockers Amon Düül II—was also filmed in Israel. Unquestionably, the major difference between the two German films and Sefer’s work is that while Deadlock and Chamsin are authentic works of counter-culture cinema made by counter-culture types for counter-culture types, An American Hippie in Israel is an innately anti-hippie celluloid affair that not only makes a major mockery of hippiedom, but also attempts to condemn the whole hippie Weltanschauung as an idiotically idealistic pipedream that is totally incompatible with the innate nature of mankind. Ironically, National Socialism, Zionism, and the American and European counter-culture movements were all in part inspired by the Weltanschauung and aesthetics of the German Wandervogel movement—a youth movement promoting a ‘back-to-nature’ ideology that became popular in 1896 and lasted until 1933 when the Nazis had the groups banned and replaced with the Hitler Youth—thus all three films make for interesting viewing when watched back-to-back. 

 While all three films feature a certain apocalyptic nihilism where neo-paganism reigns and music has more or less replaced religion as the opiate of the masses, only An American Hippie in Israel goes as far as primarily focusing on the counter-culture movement and its failure to make any real difference in the world, albeit in a slightly esoteric and allegorical sort of way. In that sense, Israel—the virtual epicenter for racial, religious, and cultural hatred and warfare in the world—is probably the best setting for a (anti)hippie cinematic parable about the failing of humanity and the naivety of those that believe there can be peace on earth and everlasting good will among men. In its unflattering depiction of Americans as unworldly morons who think that they have the god given right to go to foreign lands and change them however they see fit, as well as its darkly humorous portrayal of the hippie way life as an oftentimes deadly road to nowhere, Sefer's film also makes for the perfect double feature with the somewhat superior and surely underrated Spanish surrealist quasi-giallo Bloodbath (1979) aka Las flores del vicio aka The Sky Is Falling directed by Italian-Canadian auteur Silvio Narizzano, which depicts the bizarre demise of a middle-aged American hippie (played by Dennis Hopper) and a couple American expatriates who arrogantly defile a Spanish island with their spiritual and sexual degeneracy.  Sefer's hallucinatory hippiexploitation nightmare is also notable for being a work that will appeal to both would-be-hippies and hippie-haters alike, as a glaringly flawed yet undeniably unforgettable filmic fever dream set in a figurative hippie Hades where ‘The Man’ takes on ghostly, robotic, and even anthropomorphic forms.  Indeed, if you enjoy truly idiosyncratic exploitation flicks and/or seeing hippies having an apocalyptic ‘bummer’ during an existential pilgrimage, An American Hippie in Israel is certainly worth your time.

-Ty E