Sep 5, 2012

Loft




Aside from possibly his charmingly callous hero-worship-gone-homicidal cult flick Der Fan (1982) and his superficially-stylized Americanized action-romance-drama flick Alpha City (1985), German auteur Eckhart Schmidt is a relatively forgotten, if somewhat deservedly so, filmmaker who has many more cinematic misses than hits, but he has created a couple works that deserve critical reevaluation and even a serious cult following, most specifically his rather bizarre and thoroughly engrossing cross-genre pseudo-arthouse work Loft (1985). Like a merry mongrel mix between the visual and audio aesthetic of Slava Tsukerman's iconic new wave sci-fi flick Liquid Sky (1982) and the visceral and psychotically playful brutality of Wes Craven’s popular exploitation flick The Last House on the Left (1972) and its Italian-clone The House on the Edge of the Park (1980) directed by Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), Loft is a curious cinematic work that is every bit as idiosyncratic, entertaining, and controversial (at least for its time) as it sounds, but it is also packed with ostentatious artistic pretensions and a glaring (non)socio-political message that has not aged gracefully, although these sometimes repelling cinematic flaws do add a secondary and wholly unintentional layer of character to the film that make it all the more noteworthy. Despite its blemishes, Loft is easily the most enthralling and unintentionally uproarious ‘horror’ film that I had the random pleasure of viewing this summer.  Also, like Tsukerman's Liquid Sky, Loft features a primitive and unhealthily addictive electronic score created by the director that further accentuates agitating ambiance of the film. If the Baader-Meinhof Group were anarchic punks with more of a proclivity towards creating gigantic sinister cock paintings, gently raping bourgeois bitches, and reciting pretentious poetry than being suicidal media whores, they might resemble the villainous art collective featured in Loft; a sensational and sassy celluloid shock piece that has the prestigious distinction of provoking much controversy in supposedly "artistically free" Germany upon its original release.

 

Set sometime in the not-so-distant future, Loft begins with narration from an unnamed individual about a neurotic and nihilistic era where – much like our present post-postmodern world – the Occident is on the break of total civil war and hedonism makes for a totally chic weltanschauung. At first, we are introduced to a bourgeois couple as they visit an avant-garde art exhibition located in a loft in some post-industrial wasteland. Raoul (Andreas Sportelli), a rich, cocky, and awfully pompous PBF (pretty boy fag) in his early-20s, lets his muse Raphaela (Rebecca Winter), a Mediterranean-like bitch with an emotional twitch, know that he is only attending the seemingly amateur art show so he can finally unbury the fleshly, earthly pleasure that is between her legs. Little do the two banal bougies realize that Furio (Karl-Heinz von Liebezeit), the lead ‘curator’ and Führer of the art collective – a debauched and nasty Nordic sadist who looks like he just walked off the set of William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980) – is watching the couple’s every move and he doesn’t take kindly to their apathy towards his would-be-audacious art. With topless girls chained to poles and phallocentric paintings adorning the walls, furious Furio has indeed set up quite the spectacle for his inhospitable guests and they repay him by frantically fornicating in a darkened room away from the art. After the art exhibition, Furio and his collective imprison the couple in the loft and treat them accordingly. In defense of his impassioned brutality, Furio vehemently states, "You attended our exhibition, but not one of you paid any attention to our pictures. We are our pictures, and they strike back when they're insulted." To be fair, before her boyfriend starting putting his hands up her dress, Raphaela seemed somewhat intrigued by the art, but she doesn’t feel the full force of Furio’s creative fury until he is forcibly plundering her panties while Raoul watches on defenselessly while imprisoned in a nearby bathroom. For the rest of Loft, the film resembles a cross between kitsch performance art à la Viennese Actionism-meets-New Romanticism and the puckish malice of the local yokels in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Ending somewhat abruptly in a quasi-supernatural and inexplicably phantasmagoric fashion, Loft always thrills even after all of the kills.



Undoubtedly, Loft is my favorite effort from the anti-arthouse auteur Eckhart Schmidt who once had the audacity to state,"I would rather film a naked girl than a discussion of problems," in a country where kultur and artistic prudishness have always reigned. Indeed, Loft may not compare with a R.W. Fassbinder nor Werner Schroeter film in terms of artistic refinement, but it is indubitably one of the greatest and most innovatory dystopian rape-revenge flicks ever made and thus worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Mark L. Lester’s Class of 1984 (1982), Liquid Sky (1982), and even James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984). In short, Loft is pulp cinema at its best; terribly trashy, morally ambiguous, infinitely quotable, succulently stylized, and – above all us – wickedly and utterly entertaining, but with a peculiar tinge of artistic merit.  That being said, it is interesting to note that Eckhart Schmidt seems to mock the artistic sternness and fanaticism of the villains of Loft, as if he made the film in part as a celluloid anti-love letter to Fassbinder and the rest of the overly genteel auteur filmmakers of the German New Wave.  If Loft makes any sort of political message, it is an 'apolitical' one expressing Schmidt's staunch disdain for all things politics, be it socio-political, realpolitik, or otherwise.  In the end, the upper-class is still at the top, and the anarchist artists and their art have literally faded into history, henceforth acting as Schmidt's final political statement on the futility of filmmakers and other artists in their vainglorious attempts to change the world.  Needless to say, Schmidt went on to direct films about voluptuous, bare-breasted mermaids (Undine) and softcore skinflicks (Motel Girls), but Loft provides copious, if crude and cryptic, evidence that the German auteur has more than just beautiful brunettes with marvelous mammary glands on his mind.


-Ty E

3 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Just with regards to Schmidts State-girl-t: "I would rather film a naked girl than a discussion of problems", why is that a supposedly audacious state-girl-t to make ? (irrespective of who actually said it, or where, or at what point in the 20th century is was said), i think its one of the greatest state-girl-ts in the history of cinema ! ! !. Actually, when you think about it, its also a sign that Schmidt is just as bitter and angry as i am about the fact that he was born into "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The last line of the reveiw reminded me of Pauline Hickey circa 1985 (the same year this movie was made) at the age of 17, wouldn`t it have been incredible if Pauline could have appeared in this movie when the bird was at her absolute peak, arguably THE greatest pair of tits of all-time gracing Schmidts best film, a perfect combination ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Over on Soiled Sinemas facebook page it says you`ve been watching a lot of "Kraut" movies lately, thats completely OK by me, you can go on watching "Kraut" movies until the cows come home as far as i`m concerned, as long as you NEVER EVER waste your time watching anymore British made dog-shit. In fact i`d go as far as to say that if this site exists for another 40 years you could reveiw a "Kraut" movie every day during that period and i`d be completely OK with it, at least that would provide me with a 100% guarantee that no more British made garbage was ever going to besmirch or pollute this superb site ever again, and as you know, for me, that would represent total and utter perfection.