Nov 6, 2012


In my humble opinion, experimental filmmakers, especially the sort involved with extreme manipulation of celluloid via scratching and painting directly onto it, spastic speedy editing, and working almost exclusively on short, nonlinear films (cine-magickian Kenneth Anger excluded) like Stan Brakhage (Dog Star Man series, Sartre's Nausea) and to a lesser extent Marie Menken (Eye Music in Red Major, Go Go Go) are somewhat akin to modern guitar virtuosos like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai in that although they have mastered their respective artistic mediums in a technical and highly sophisticated sense, thereupon entering creative territories explored by so very few, it seems nearly impossible for them to create a lasting and aesthetically gratifying work that would appeal to or impress anyone aside from people in the same field. Admittedly, I have had some minor enjoyment engaging in works created by technically revolutionary experimental filmmakers like Dziga Vertov (Man with a Movie Camera, Three Songs About Lenin) and Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation), but I typically rather watch the latest low-kitsch production from Aryan untermensch auteur Uwe Boll (Rampage, Auschwitz) or Ulli Lommel (Absolute Evil - Final Exit, D.C. Sniper) than endure 90-minutes of enervating and seemingly endless exercises in egotistical experimental excrement. That being said, I was quite reluctant about watching the innately impenetrable cinematic works of experimental German auteur Werner Nekes (Amalgam I-IV, Johnny Flash) – an avid collector of everything relating to pre/early film history who describes his approach to filmmaking as "light-theatre" – but I eventually gave in as the filmmaker would act as a mentor to fellow German filmmaker-turned-prestigious-polymath Christoph Schlingensief (Mutters Maske, The German Chainsaw-Massacre), who worked as his assistant for a number of years, thereupon rationalizing to myself that the elder’s filmmakers films can’t be all that bad. After watching a number of Nekes’ informative yet emotionally vacant, documentaries on pre-cinema technology like Film Before Film (1986) aka Was geschah wirklich zwischen den Bildern? and Media Magica I-V (1996), I figured it was about time that I watch one of his more experimental and ambitious works, eventually viewing Uliissee (1982); a sophisticatedly stylized but seeming schizophrenic nonlinear, quasi-Homeric odyssey through the 'history of film' that takes elements from James Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s The Odyssey and somewhat oddly, psychedelic poet/playwright Neil Oram's The Warp

 Part experimental film extravaganza, part ultra-vulgar neo-vaudevillian comedy, part slick skinflick, part kraut post-hippie hysterics, part particularly peculiar philo-semitic romp, and part fanatic fan-boy exposé of Neke’s big boy pre-film toys, I would be lying if I did not admit that Uliissee (apparently a pun on 'it's Uli', Uli the photographer from the Ruhr, supposed grandson to protagonist Leopold Bloom of Joyce’s Ulysses) was a work of cinematic genius, albeit of the ‘mad scientist auteur’ on LSD-addled masturbatory sort. All but totally incoherent in structure, one is best off looking at Uliissee as a collection of loosely and – in many cases – loonily related "petites vignettes" that ultimately make an “oddball odyssey” (or more like a torrid trip) dealing with quasi-counter-culture ideas relating to philosophy, religion, and social matters, albeit of the patently ‘progressive’ aka retrogressive sort that was oftentimes satirized by Paul Morrissey (Trash, Madame Wang’s). That being said, it should be noted that Werner Nekes had the gall to describe his protégé Christoph Schlingensief’s early feature-length work Menu Total (1986) aka Meat, Your Parents – a surreal scatological work featuring less than glamorous Nazis engaged in rape and murder, among other deplorable yet droll behavior – as “fascistic” despite every innate indication that expresses the counter to that positively preposterous perspective. In Uliissee, Nekes takes scornful and satirical blows at authority figures (a group of cops invade the genitals of a hostile hippie chick), Turkish Muslims (a religious Turk in full towel-head regalia is portrayed as an anti-Semitic baboon who states, “newspapers are run by Jews…very bad people”), and Hindi gurus (a guru with what seems to be fuming feces on his face is described as a “psychic fascist”), among various others, with most of these sardonic scenarios being corresponding postmodern interpretations of Homeric adventures. Thankfully, Werner Nekes saves the best for last with various spasmodic collages and montages of lavish lipstick lesbian Tabea Blumenschein (as Penelope/Molly) – Sapphic surrealist auteur Ulrike Ottinger’s onetime lover/collaborator (Madame X: An Absolute Ruler, Ticket of No Return) and punk prostitute character featured in the kraut cocksucker classic Taxi zum Klo (1981) directed by Frank Ripploh – featured in various garmentless and somewhat compromising scenarios. The concluding scenes with voluptuous bimbo (or at least that’s how she seems to be portayed) Blumenschein are indubitably the most brilliant and bewitching scenes in Uliissee, as Nekes managed to incorporate images of the lovely lezzy with some of most aesthetically enchanting yet eccentric experimental editing sequences in a lecherous ‘Lighterature' (a word for the filmmaker’s signature style of filmmaking) climax.

Although Christoph Schlingensief would later credit Nekes for helping to catch the "experimental bug," the Terror 2000 director would later parody his former mentor’s eccentric experimental cine-mania in Tunguska - The Crates are delivered (1984); the final film in the late, great filmmaker’s "Trilogy of Film Criticism - Film as Neurosis" (Phantasus Go Home and What happened to Magdalena Jung? being the first two films) about three decidedly deranged ‘avant-garde researchers’ (all of whom apparently being cryptic and not-so-cryptic stand-ins for Nekes) on the road to the North Pole to expose Eskimos to their films. Schlingensief once remarked regarding the inspiration behind Tunguska, “I thought, why should I become Nekes? What’s with all this crap?...I wanted to separate myself (from him) and then I made the film… Tunguska - The Crates are delivered." If one would have to choose any certain Nekes film that encompasses the sort of cinematically-deranged mindset exhibited in the characters of Tunguska, Uliissee would undoubtedly be the most obvious work. As expressed in his farcical filmography, Schlingensief would eventually cite the Germans films of Herbert Achternbusch (Das Gespenst, Wohin?), Werner Herzog (Heart of Glass, Stroszek), and Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Fox and His Friends, Satan’s Brew), as well as the independent American films of Kenneth Anger (Fireworks, Scorpio Rising) and John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living), as being a greater influence on him than his experience with Nekes. Indeed, the experimental cinematic works of Werner Nekes, most notably Uliissee, are certainly worth seeing, especially for committed cinephiles, as the aggressively avant-garde filmmaker is certainly a master of manipulation when it comes to the celluloid medium, yet his work only offers an inkling of the endless entertainment and replay value, wonderfully wretched wit, curious ‘carnal’ charm, and reflexively and conscious “German” persuasion, of his former protégé Schlingensief; a one-man revolutionary filmmaker who not only eclipsed his former master, but also the entire medium of film itself. As for Werner Nekes, since Uliissee, he has almost exclusively stayed in the rather redundant realm of creating TV-documentaries about his proto-cinema toys. 

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

The Teletubbies are British garbage and dirty faggots, the bloody disgusting filth.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

August 11th 1970, Tabea Blum-girl-scheins 18th birthday, i bet the bird was truly stunning on that day, it would have been THE perfect day to bugger the sexpot senseless.

jimmie t. murakami said...

Ty E, theres an interesting interveiw with Werner Nekes on YouTube from 1990, it runs 6:23, i just wondered if you`d watched it ?.