Oct 31, 2012

Hot Love

Assuredly, when it comes to the pre-Nekromantik short films of Teutonic enfant terrible Jörg Buttgereit, his lurid and less than 30-minute-long featurette Hot Love (1985) – a softcore punk rock splatter flick shot on Super 8 with a soothing melodic score and pseudo-melodramatic romanticism – is his best and still fresh amateur effort. Starring and featuring a musical score by Daktari Lorenz, who also provided the same artistic services for Buttgereit’s subsequent film and first feature Nekromantik (1987), Hot Love is a proportionately pleasant prototype for the sort of psychosexual arthouse gore-comedies that would earn the bodacious blond beast director the marginal yet loyal underground cult following he has today, thereupon making the film mandatory viewing for fanatical fans of corpse fucking art. More than anything, Hot Love – like Anger’s Fireworks (1947), Pasolini’s Accattone (1961), Morrissey’s Flesh (1968), Waters' Mondo Trasho (1969), Fassbinder’s Love is Colder than Death (1969), Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975), Solondz’s Fear, Anxiety & Depression (1989), and Noé’s Carne (1991), is an important formative work that acted as an artistic bridge for the Berlin filmmaker, who went from being a budding 'work-in-progress' filmic artist as exemplified in amateur shorts like Captain Berlin (1982) and Blutige Exzesse im Führerbunker (1984) to an auteur with a distinguishable aesthetic signature as exhibited in his mature feature works Der Todesking (1990) and Nekromantik 2 (1991). While it has been nearly two decades since Buttgereit directed his last serious arthouse horror flick Schramm (1994), the filmmaker has gone on to direct live stageplays (one of which – Captain Berlin Versus Hitler (2009) – was shot on digital video and released on DVD) and documentaries on Japanese monster movies (in 2009, he created Monsterland for the French-German TV channel Arte), and a writer of stage and radio plays (Green Frankenstein + Sexmonster) and horror film criticism, yet all of these obsessions and talents were already perceptible in Hot Love. As a sort of “poor man’s Schlingensief” who is aware of culture trends and genre conventions but sort of a ham when it comes to politics, Buttgereit is indubitably a fiendish yet funny renaissance man of sorts and Hot Love is a fine, if less than fine-tuned, example of the sort of honed horror he does best. 

 Aside from the majority of the cinematography and some piddly special-effects, Jörg Buttgereit claims he is responsible for every aspect of the filmmaking process regarding Hot Love, including playing one of the lead characters. That being said, the story of Hot Love is simple yet effective enough, as the film was in part inspired by Buttgereit’s own experience with heartbreak, albeit of the less bloody and brutal sort. Hot Love centers around puny punk protagonist (Daktari Lorenz) who falls madly in love with a girl named Marion (Marion Koob) after meeting her by chance at a alcohol-fueled party. Daktari – a rather homely homeboy whose room is a proletarian punk rock pigsty – experiences unfathomable bliss, but particularly precarious problems arise when Marion finds a new boyfriend – a tall, blond, and handsome bully (played by Buttgereit himself) – who brutalizes both the lovestruck loser’s body and heart. Stricken with a jumbo Judas Kiss from his fleeting flame, Daktari naturally develops acute animosity, overwhelming heartsickness, and a profoundly penetrating and all-consuming lust for revenge that compels him to literally take the heart he was symbolically given by Marion. After Daktari barbarically batters and rapes Marion after stalking her one fine day in the woods, he commits suicide in a final desperate attempt to reach eternal solace, yet unbeknownst to the renegade Romeo, he has impregnated his defiled darling with his sinister seed, thereupon creating a sort of Frankenstein of the flesh that is ripened with rancor.

 Needless to say, German film has come a long way since ill-fated love stories of Veit Harlan’s melodramatic National Socialist propaganda film Jud Süß (1940) aka Jew Süss and the darkly romantic arthouse flick Opfergang (1944).  In traditional German films, including Harlan's, it was always the female that was sacrificed in the name of love and the male protagonist was always honorable, handsome, and heroic, yet Buttgereit turns these film conventions upside down in a fiercely facetious yet seemingly and unconsciously ethno-masochistic manner. What I have always found especially interesting about the films of Jörg Buttgereit – and Hot Love is certainly no exception to this rule – is that despite being a handsome, archetypical Aryan Übermensch of sorts himself, the Berlin-born auteur always casts especially physically loathsome and patently pathetic actors for the protagonists of his films as if he is ‘rooting for the underdog’ untermensch of the distinctly American, Hebraic Hollywood persuasion. Of course, the dark horses of his delightfully demented films are always doomed to a downright deplorable fate, but Buttgereit clearly empathizes with these curious characters all the same. In a tradition more in tune with Judaic Tinseltown films like The Graduate (1967), National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), Revenge of the Nerds (1984), and American Pie (1999), the ‘hero’ of Buttgereit’s Hot Love – like Nekromantik (1987) and Nekromantik 2 (1991) – is not a conquering athletic and aristocratic winner, but a reasonably revolting deadbeat of the most irritatingly impotent kind. That being said, although Hot Love has a determinedly Germanic feel to it, it could not have been made with the crucial influence of classic Hollywood and Japanese B-monster movies, as well as the sort of slave-morality-driven dramas and comedies that have dominated Hollywood for some time now, but I guess that is what one should expect from a nation that is not exactly best known in the international film world for its slasher killers and fart jokes. 

 With its grainy and sometimes scratched Super 8 footage, intentionally and unintentionally laughable acting, stylized but sometimes sterile direction, and sometimes realistic (i.e. a genuine cow heart) but oftentimes strikingly synthetic (i.e. a plastic vagina) special effects, Hot Love – much like his subsequent work Nekromantik – is a merry yet macabre cinematic miscreation of the idiosyncratic kraut quasi-arthouse horror-comedy sort and for that reason alone, it will remain a minor classic in my mind. Similar to Kenneth Anger with Scorpio Rising (1964) and Clu Gulager with A Day with the Boys (1969), Buttgereit wasted no time telling a compelling and aesthetically titillating story in under 30 minutes with his first notable work Hot Love, which is no small accomplishment considering the lack of production values for the work.  In our increasingly turbulent times where true romance has gone rancid and eroticism in movies is more akin to a watching a live hysterectomy on television than oxytocin-driven emotions, Hot Love offers a humorous, if less than sensually heated, portrayal of Aryan amorousness run amok.  Hot Love may not be Fassbinder's I Only Want You to Love Me (1976), but it does remind us that even the dreaded Hun can be somber, if spiteful and swinish, slave of love.

-Ty E

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