Nov 13, 2012

Haytabo




Undoubtedly, it says a lot about the state of a filmmaker’s career and overall reputation as an artist when an arthouse dvd company ('Arthaus') releases your first feature-length film – a work that has been rarely seen and pretty much totally inaccessible for about 40 years – with everyone’s name written large on the cover except the auteur himself and such is the case with Ulli Lommel’s avant-garde sci-fi flick Haytabo (1971) aka Falscher Verdacht; undoubtedly a singular and standout work in the German-born director’s rather eclectic yet discordant filmmaking career. Featuring Peter Moland as a 'collaborating' director/writer and Rainer Werner Fassbinder as a peppy poet in a purple shirt, as well as many recycled cast members from the German New Wave alpha-auteur’s semi-autobiographical work that was released the same year Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) including Eddie and Tanja Constantine, Hannes Fuchs, and Katrin Schaake, the exotically titled cinematic work Haytabo is an outlandish celluloid oddity that makes for a must-see work for fans of the Fass-bande. Shot on a virtually nonexistent budget of $5000 over the course of two weeks with only a mere 120 minutes of film stock to utilize, Lommel only had the opportunity to shoot one take for each scene of Haytabo, thereupon making it quite the challenge considering much of the film was improvised, which is most apparent while watching the film. Shot almost entirely in rural Bavaria during the winter season, Haytabo often feels like a postmodern psychedelic German mountain film of sorts and what Arnold Fanck might have assembled had he read some Jean-Paul Sartre, consumed a potent dose of mescaline, lost his shooting script, and become preoccupied with French existentialism as opposed to völkisch mysticism. Featuring late-1960s kraut counter-kultur icons Rainer Langhans – founder of Kommune 1 (an anti-bourgeois commune that inspired the libertine living habits of John Lennon and Yoko Ono) – and his muse Uschi Obermaier (the leftist icon of the so-called “1968 Generation” and fashion model/actress who later became Keith Richard’s muse), and music ranging from Deep Purple and The Moody Blues to Vivaldi, Haytabo is an indubitably “hip” work of Science Fiction and this is coming from someone who wholeheartedly despises hippies and everything they stand for, but I cannot deny that this is a hypnotic and hallucinatory, albeit oftentimes muddled, piece of filmmaking. That being said, I do not think it would be a stretch to state that Haytabo is undoubtedly one of Lommel’s most diacritic and experimental films. 



Haytabo centers around a scientist/biochemist (played by Eddie Constantine – who being the star of Godard’s Alphaville – was no stranger to avant-garde sci-fi) that – using the research of a professor from the 19th century – believes he is on the verge of finding the universally pondered sibylline secret for human immortality, but still is missing important information for the formula. With his wife (played by Katrin Schaake), Constantine’s character “Professor” decides to take a journey to the village where the 19th century professor (played by Rainer Langhans) once did his rather revolutionary research and eventually discovers that the primordial prober is still alive, thereupon culminating into a metaphysical and philosophical ‘trip’ of sorts for the contemporary prof and his fair lady, the ancient sage and his extra-elderly wife, and a couple more preternatural characters that tag along in this quasi-futuristic flower child freakout flick. To make things a bit more offbeat, a space alien (played by Hannes Fuchs) – who just looks like a neo-beatnik bastard typical of that time period – also joins the motley kraut crew and helps assist them in their erratic existential journey and from there on, most of Haytabo involves the folk frolicking around on the bewitching Bavarian landscape like some sort of neoteric (for that time) Fidus-esque painting come to life. An especially notable scene from the film is when Eddie Constantine and his charming consort encounter a spastic and seemingly schizophrenic music teacher who conducts a live orchestra before the couple’s bewildered eyes. Of course, Eddie and his babe have yet to realize the secret to perennial bliss is not in actual immortality, but a feeling that the curious conductor – despite his odd behavior – has already tapped into.  Ultimately, Haytabo is a moral tale where quality of life is portrayed as more meaningful than quantity. Ironically, one inevitably comes to the same epiphany when comparing the lives and cinematic works of Lommel and Fassbinder.



To paraphrase the 19th professor played by white gypsy guru Rainer Langhans in a most fitting role, the ultimate message of Haytabo is: “feeling good and thus enabling everyone to feel good. That’s actually everything.” Of course, such a seemingly shallow and sentimental sentiment is certainly not something I can take seriously, at least in the irrational 'free spirit flower power' context of the film, but that did not stop me from digging the aesthetically-pleasing allure of Ulli Lommel’s lost hippie flick Haytabo; a work that is essentially the Neuer Deutscher Film equivalent of Conrad Rooks' Chappaqua (1966), albeit less phantasmagoric and frantic, but undoubtedly just as innately incoherent. Speaking of Chappaqua, like Rooks, Lommel would also develop a spiritual bond with American Indians after his immigration to the United States, even declaring on his personal facebook page that he was, "reborn December 21, 1984 at the Apache Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico as "Dataa Shigan" meaning "First Hand", since I am the first "Pale Man" to be asked by the Apache Shaman to report from "The Front"."  Of course, considering that Lommel's celluloid magnum opus is the strangely shuddersome and sexually sadistic serial killer film The Tenderness of Wolves (1973) aka Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe, his most commercially successful work is the supernatural slasher flick The Boogeyman (1980), and that he works almost exclusively within the horror genre today (albeit in a notably 'professional' and artistically uncompromising manner), the tall, dark, and handsome Svengali-like figure most certainly has a down-seated darkside, which is only hinted at in Haytabo; a work that would foretell the ambient atmosphere of Cocaine Cowboys (1979) and the heterodox social and storyline structure of Absolute Evil (2008).




-Ty E

7 comments:

otis rampaging heterosexuality said...

I dont know why, but Eddie Constantine always used to really get on my nerves when i used to see him of TV back in the 70`s and 80`s, i respected his rampaging heterosexuality (obviously) but in every other way i used to look upon him as a very irritating and nauseating little fart.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

So Ty E, you hate and despise hippies and everything they stand for, i dont think you`d like me my old mate, i look like a walking pile of horse-shit.

eddie lydecker said...

So he was reborn on December 21st 1984, 28 years to the very day before the Mayan calender says the world is going to end (and only 37 days away, as we speak).

Anonymous said...

This actually looks like an incredibly low budget version of other more well known Hollywood films from around the same period, like: "THX-1138" (1970), "A Girl and Her Dog" (1975), "The Hired Hand" (1970), "Slaughterhouse Five" (1972), and even perhaps just a hint of "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Girl in the Moon Marigolds" (1972).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Katrin Schaake (as the bird was in 1949 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously). I cant believe the bird was already pushing 40 when Haytabo was filmed in March of `71.

eddie lydecker said...

"Alphaville" was pretentious unwatchable dog-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its been estimated by Box Office Mojo that by the end of its theatrical run "Skyfall" will have made $900 million worldwide, which equates to about 90 million idiots and morons around the world paying an average of $10 each to see it, i think literally every one of those stupid bastards should be shot for encouraging unwatchable British made dog-shit.