Jul 26, 2012


Forget the revolutionary films of Senegalese auteur Ousmane Sembène (Mandabi, Xala) and mainstream Hollywood philistinic liberal swill like The Constant Gardener (2005) and The Last King of Scotland (2006), criminally neglected Italian auteur Alberto Cavallone’s Afrika (1973) is the ultimate dark romance flick set on the dark continent. Influenced by reading Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon’s unintentionally hilarious and preposterously overrated pseudo-Freudian/Marxist political diatribe The Wretched of the Earth (1961) and having previously directed the relatively successful work Le salamandre (1969) – a politically and racially-charged post-colonial work disguised as an erotic tale about an interracial lesbian love affair – artistically courageous Cavallone was more than prepared to direct one of the most downright peculiar and hopelessly repellant works set in the horn of Africa. As the director stated himself, the world of Cavallone’s Afrika is a contemporary Little Big Horn where white men act as General Custer’s soldiers. Of course, one would barely notice this if it were not for the film’s brutal opening scene featuring sexual mutilation and coldblooded murder against two suspect rebel women, as Afrika is essentially an often exploitative tale about a pitiable homosexual Italian boy named Frank (Andrea Traglia) who travels to Ethiopia to reunite with his fleeing gray-haired truelove; a self-loathing (and married) homo professor named Philip Stone (Ivano Staccioli) who has failed as both a painter and as a lover. To prove his undying devotion to Philip, Frank has undergone a drastic sex-change and has changed his/her name to Eva so as to be a 'proper woman' and thus (in his mind) legitimize their relationship in the eyes of sneering homo-haters, but the elder man is not impressed, henceforth culminating into the heartbroken lady-lad’s violent bedside suicide. Afrika was edited in a nonlinear fashion that is as spasmodic and unorthodox as the film's story and features a series of flashbacks from various character’s (Frank, Philip, and Frank's sister Jeanne) perspectives that tell the histrionic story that led up to Frank’s impending suicide. Although the socio-political themes featured in the film might seem strikingly modern upon reading a superficial synopsis of Afrika, the film is certainly on par with Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s mondo classic Africa Addio (1966) aka Africa Blood and Guts or Farewell Africa in terms of being ‘culturally sensitive’ or lack thereof.

 During Afrika, it is revealed that Frank and Philip first bumped into each other as both were searching for a copy of French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud’s work Illuminations (1874); an uncompleted collection of prose poems. Like Rimbaud himself and many other decadent European degenerates, Philip would also travel to the third world in a futile attempt to escape the existential crisis that consumes his soul. Not unlike decolonized Africa, Frank and Philip are going through big changes in their lives and the final outcome is quite questionable to say the least. Somewhat oddly, Tom Ford’s A Single Man (2009) often feels like an extremely loose, polished remake of Cavallone’s Afrika. Like Cavallone's earlier work, A Single Man follows a gay professor as he recollects over the past couple years about his deceased lover. Also, like A Single Man, Afrika depicts the professor’s failed past relationship with a female lover, but unlike the former film, Cavallone’s work does not hold back in showing the fairer sex’s absolute and utter detestation for male-on-male buggery. Even Frank’s seemingly sympathetic sister Jeanne is revealed to be completely revolted with her brother’s unconquerable vice as revealed in Afrika’s forthright ‘surprise’ ending. To cure his brother-in-law of his ingrained apathy towards woman, Jeanne’s husband contracts a group of teenagers to rape Frank (by a male and a female) in a scene that predates but is notably less effective than a similar scenario featured in Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven's Spetters (1980). In the end, Frank – a self-eunuchized freak – has more testicular fortitude than his miserable, middle-aged and emotionally-broken boy toy. Like most of Cavallone’s films, Afrika is an unflinchingly nihilistic, pessimistic, and misanthropic work that leaves no group spared and that includes many of the nameless Africans in the film who merely act as militant Uncle Tom’s that are willing to kill their own kinfolk just so they can have a larger bowl of rice to eat at night. 

 If you’re like me and find yourself tantalized by the prospect of “Fassbinder meets meets exploitation" (or in this case, Afroexploitation), Afrika – as well as most of Alberto Cavallone’s filmography – makes for an uniquely enthralling cinematic affair. Admittedly, you won’t learn much about the continent of Africa by watching the film nor discover the solution to hostile race relations, but you will find yourself laughing ecstatically at some of the most absurdly melodramatic scenarios ever shot on celluloid. Of course, Afrika – like virtually of Cavallone’s work – is an acquired taste that, as a rule, generally leaves most viewers divided. If the spectator learns anything by watching Afrika it is that the white man should stay out of Africa and should have never entered the dark continent in the first place just as married professors should refrain from invading the murky nether-regions of flaky young men. 

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, i liked the last 2 lines of the reveiw, it was such a relief to realise that you are as murderously homo-phobic and rampagingly heterosexual as me, well done my old mate.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"sneering homo-haters", reading those 3 words was pure magic ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

A couple of other lines in your reveiw verified something else i`ve always been suspicious about, birds (w-HEATHER straight or dyke) hate pansy queer bastards just as much as straight geezers do, more evidence that faggots really are the lowest of the low and they must somehow be completely eradicated.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The bounty hunters, they came in search of freshly excreted faecal material, and they found it, its name is "HOLLYWOOD" ! ! !.