Sep 6, 2012
If there is anything more repellant and repulsive to me than Serge Gainsbourg’s bistered, apish face and Franco-Semitic hyper-aberrosexuality, it is his overblown and over-esteemed creative output, so I was not exactly delighted when I realized that I made the unconscious commitment to watch one of his cinematic auteur pieces. This month, I decided that it would be quite regaling challenge to view every single one of Joe Dallesandro's post-Warhol European period flicks (mid-1970s to early-1980s), so naturally I caved in and decided to view Gainsbourg’s directorial debut Je t'aime moi non plus (1976) aka I Love You, I Don't; a work starring the Italian-American junky hunk as a perverted Polak who decides to give women a try after a lifetime of unadulterated blue-collar male buggery. Undoubtedly, Dallesandro gave some of his greatest and most prestigious performances during his stay in Europa because, as he has stated in various interviews that unlike while working with Warhol and his mostly untalented weirdos – who saw him as nothing more than a beautiful brutish bohunk and unofficial factory bouncer – European directors treated him as a serious actor, hence his eclectic performances in such notable works as Vittorio Salerno’s Savage Three (1975) aka Fango bollente, Louis Malle’s Black Moon (1975), Walerian Borowczyk’s La marge (1976), Fernando Di Leo’s Madness (1980) and Jacques Rivette’s Merry-Go-Round (1981). Out of all of his European films, I Love You, I Don't quite arguably features Dallesandro at his most intimate, vulnerable and yet decidedly brutal. Also featuring Gainsbourg’s then-wife Jane Birkin in an unflattering yet notable performance that would get her nominated for a Best Actress César Award, I Love You, I Don't is a work of Arcadian libertinage where the conventions of sex and sexuality are mixed in a blender for a most potent, if slightly poisonous, ultra-erotic cinematic cock-in-tail. Originally banned in the UK in its uncut form upon its initial 1976 release, I Love You, I Don't is a cinematic work that is not so much infamous for its graphic nudity as it is for depraved sexual scenarios, recalcitrant relationships, and deluging lack of sentimentality. Unsurprisingly, featuring an unremarkable score and songs composed by Serge Gainsbourg himself, which proves to be one of the weaker points of the film, I Love You, I Don't – much like Godard’s Contempt (1963) – is one of those rare films where I was able to put aside my unwavering antipathy for the artist and judge the film somewhat objectively on its own merits.
Over two decades before rather rotund fanboy Kevin Smith directed what is arguably his most serious film, Chasing Amy (1997) – a reasonably ridiculous and infantile quasi-fantasy work about a lipstick lesbo who temporarily switches to smoking poles instead of licking labias – Serge Gainsbourg released I Love You, I Don't; a more-bitter-than-sweet love story about a sad-eyed Slavic sodomite named Krassky (Joe Dallesandro) who experiments with heterosexuality after he meets a girl that seems to be man-enough for his sexual druthers; or so s/he seems. Johnny (Jane Birkin) may not have a cock, but she does have a tight pink hole and that proves to be good enough for Krassky's knob, at least for brief period of time. In I Love You, I Don't, Polish Garbage truck driver Krassy and his beau boi Padovan (Hugues Quester) – a hysterical queen who is the absolute female in the relationship – make a pit-stop at a rural French diner where the two meet androgynous Johnny; a boyish-girl that seems intrigued by the mysterious muscular Slav. Johnny is warned by her coarse yet upright boss that the two Poles are bona fide poofers, but that doesn’t stop her from hopelessly crushing over the stoic yet swaggering homophile. Despite all the terrible biological odds against them, sassy Krassy and jejune Johnny eventually ‘hook-up’, but not in the conventional way as the homo Pole is unable to extend his pole when confronted with his lady friend’s wet womanhood. Instead, the couple gets entangled in a steamy liaison of debauched scatology which – to her credit – Johnny takes like a the man, even if her cries of extreme discomfort during anal sex stir outrage from various neighbors as neither of the two lovers have enough foresight to utilize the lubricating wonders of spit like the gay cowboys in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005). Heartbroken, hysterical, and horny due to his lover’s absence, prissy prima donna Padovan tries to find a rebound stud in the form of a well-endowed bestialist (played by Gérard Depardieu in a hilarious yet bewildering cameo role) with a predilection for penetrating horses. Thoroughly dismayed by his failed sexual conquests and totally humiliated by his lover’s newly found interest in the much more beautiful, fairer sex, pansified punk Padovan decides to take sadistic and spiteful revenge against Johnny with the most surprising of consequences for all three parties involved. Indeed, there are few, if any, more bizarre love triangles in cinema history than the one featured in I Love You, I Don't; a virtual romantic-comedy for fiendish fetishists, ardent anti-romantics, and depraved homophiles. Needless to say, I Love You, I Don't is not the sort of film one should show to a prospective lover on a first date, unless they happen to be someone like Sasha Grey or Genesis P-orridge.
It should be no surprise that swarthy Serge Gainsbourg was a bit startled by iconic hunk and authentic alpha-male Joe Dallesandro’s manly manhandling of his wife as the singer-turned-filmmaker was apparently stricken, “with jealousy during some of …Jane’s sex scenes with Dallesandro” as detailed in Sylvie Simmons’ biography Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes throughout the production of I Love You, I Don't. Aside from fellow French auteur Joël Séria’s dubious uses of his soul-mate Jeanne Goupil in Marie-Poupée (1976) aka Marie, the Doll, I cannot think of another filmmaker who has so scrupulously humiliated and dehumanized his lover for the sake of cinema as Gainsbourg did with Jane Birkin in I Love You, I Don't, and for that alone it makes for an interesting and worthwhile cinematic work, but it is more than just a typically cheap French thrill as the film poses many serious questions; most specifically, compatibility between sexes, especially among those individuals with abnormal sexual tendencies. Although fairly forgotten nowadays due to his contemporarily unpopular ideas regarding the female sex and Judaics, Jewish-Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger proposed in his magnum opus Geschlecht und Charakter (1903) aka Sex and Character that all humans are more or less ‘bisexual’ (having elements of both femininity and masculinity) and that prospective lovers are attracted to individuals with complimentary sexual persuasions (e.g. a male that is 70% male/30% female would be best compatible with a woman that is 30% male/70% female), thus making Gainsbourg’s experiment in I Love You, I Don't seem relatively reasonable all the more provocative on hindsight, especially when compared to similarly themed works like Chasing Amy and Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct (1992). Ultimately, I Love You, I Don't is undoubtedly one of the most serious, valiant, uncompromising and incensing yet titillating looks at transgressive sexuality in cinema history that is bound to affect even the most jaded and perverse of cinephiles; and for that alone, Gainsbourg at least deserves a lengthy footnote in film history. If one can learn anything from I Love You, I Don't, it is that one should never piss of a poof, especially when their manhood comes into question, as few things can compare to the seething wrath of an exceedingly enraged androphile.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 8:56 PM
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