Nov 26, 2012

Un©ut



Long before being described by Hebraic Canadian film producer Robert Lantos (eXistenZ, Barney's Version) as, to paraphrase, a “fascist, stormtrooper, apartheid supporter, homophobic anti-Semitic terrorist regime supporter” and as someone, “whose fascist agenda is to impose their views on others” due to his withdrawing his documentary short Covered (2009) from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) festival to protest the festival's preliminary City-to-City Spotlight on the city of Tel Aviv, Israel because of the Gaza War and the expansion of settlements, Toronto-based John Greyson was already proving to be a bad goy with the release of his feature-length film Un©ut (1997); a gentle agitprop piece of positively perverse cinema that makes its case against circumcision, censorship, and copyright laws, as well as pointing at the political impotence of cuckold and closet-queen Pierre Trudeau (the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, and again from March 3, 1980 to June 30, 1984) with a bit of goofy yet grotesque Michael Jackson-mania thrown in for good measure. Part-documentary, part-docudrama, part-cinema-essay, part-sardonic-surrealist-satire and all flamingly gay with a superficially sordid subplot featuring a bizarre buggerer love triangle to boot, Un©ut is an outlandish odyssey of the obscenely unclassifiable sort that makes for one of the most ambitious, if not afflicting, independent pomo homo sociopolitical projects ever assembled. Like a distinctly disconcerting marriage of misfits between Nickelodeon SNICK shows and PBS’ Reading Rainbow episodes from the early-1990s with the films of sweet-and-sour Sapphic mischling auteress Ulrike Ottinger (Freak Orlando, Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia) and Byzantine British buttboy Derek Jarman (Sebastiane, The Last of England), Un©ut is a seemingly unexpurgated expression of Canadian auteur John Greyson’s grating gray matter that – much like his previous works Pissoir (1988) aka Urinal and Zero Patience (1993) – forces the viewer to partake in the filmmaker’s ferine yet frolicsomely framed fetishes and oftentimes preposterously yet positively penetrating political propaganda. That being said, what makes Un©ut especially effective, preeminently as a work of filmic art, is that Greyson offers a full-force assault of downright diacritic, if not periodically deluded, vision with a film that spits bittersweet, vehement venom at the viewer. In short, Un©ut reminds the viewer why sanitized sodomite Hollywood films like Far from Heaven (2002) and Brokeback Mountain (2005) are made, because Greyson does not play nice but he certainly plays for keeps. 



 Originally intending to realize Un©ut as a mere 20-minute-length short film and focusing solely on circumcision and Pierre Trudeau, Greyson’s original script was rejected by the Canadian Film centre and he reacted by creating The Making of Monster (1991) – a musical short that was in part inspired by the filmmaker’s reading of works by German marxist poet/playwright Bertolt Brecht and various far-left Frankfurt School theorists, as well as abstaining from creating Norman Jewison-esque “feel-good liberal” works – thereupon leaving his campy cock-cutting flick in limbo for a number of years. To paraphrase, Greyson himself described the original script for Un©ut as “not all that good,” so luckily his temporary misfortune during pre-production worked for the better. A feature-length flick that dabbles in homoerotic ‘anti-Semitism,’ a mixed-medium aesthetic featuring the mangling and mongrelization of Michael Jackson songs/portraits, the taunting and terrorism of technocratic copyright police, and photoshopping of vintage nude photos of Dutch and Mestizo twinks, among various other intensely and insanely idiosyncratic aesthetic and thematic ingredients, Un©ut is an aberrant audio-visual experience that is not soon to be forgotten by the viewer; whether one wants to or not. Centering around three central characters, Peter Cort (Matthew Ferguson) – an extremely effete researcher writing on a book on circumcision tentatively titled The Psychosexual Meanings of Circumcision and The Foreskin, Peter Koosens (Michael Achtman) – Cort’s ½ Jewish typist assistant who has an unhealthy obsession with Pierre Trudeau, and Peter Denham (Damon D'Oliveira) – a hack video artist who directs works featuring deranged Jackson Five song remixes. On top of the petty problems the three perverted Peters face with their rather ridiculous romance, they ultimately encounter aesthetic terrorism from the state after they are arrested by an ogre-like operatic police officer for copyright infringement, brought to trial that is set to an excruciating rendition of La Habanera, and sent to a farm-side bootcamp – no doubt a deeply distressing nightmare for any full-fledged vagitarian – where they are forced to binge eat McDonalds Big Macs and fries, defecate aside one another in barnyard stables, and sleep in open fields like cattle. Somewhat disharmoniously juxtaposed with the narrative melodrama of the three individual peculiar Petes is documentary footage of various real-life artists discussing their problems with copyright issues and stock footage of Trudeau acting like a jolly queen. Needless to say – with its inclusion of an edited photo of MJ with a bushy beaver and bosoms (apparently taken from the 82nd contestant in the 1984 "Miss Nude World" contest) and uncountable images of cut and uncut cocks of all lengths and girths – Un©ut seems to be an unabashedly uncensored work as advertised in the film's pun-ridden title. 



 What makes Un©ut especially diverting and bizarrely controversial is Greyson’s attack on the Talmudic traditions of the Jewish Brisk, most notably in a scene where the character Peter Cort nonchalantly reads the following excerpt from his book-in-progress: “The ritual of the Jewish Brisk is likewise permeated with homoeroticism.” During this matter-of-factually stated yet strikingly side-splitting scene, pedomorphic boy poindexter cites how during the Jewish religious male circumcision ceremony of ‘mezizah,’ the infant-ravaging Rebbe sucks the blood off of the almost-kosher baby cock with his mouth after removing the foreskin. Cort also remarks about how certain seemingly homo Hebrews grab each other’s mangled members and ritualistically recite “take hold of my shaft, my circumcision" in tribute to another bugger-like Brisk tradition. Considering director Greyson’s recent anti-Israeli action in the past couple of years, including his membership in the “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” group, his participation in the Freedom Flotilla II (a peaceful flotilla that was designed to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel by sailing to Gaza on 5 July 2011 that ultimately never took place), and his withdrawing of his own works at film festivals tied with the Jewish state, it is quite doubtful that unlike many artists of his particular pedigree, he is far from a full-fledged Philo-Semite of the gregarious, groveling sort, which is is quite a noble sentiment to have in a nation that has partially criminalized freedom of speech (Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act) especially for certain circumcised Canadians.  As stated in Un©ut, around 85% of American infant boys are circumcised each year at a cost of 1/2 a billion dollars (in 1997) for supposedly hygienic purposes in a nation that has the largest Judaic population in the world (despite only making up 2.2% of the general population as of 2008).  That being said, one would not be far off to argue that the peculiar phenomenon of male genital mutilation in the United States of America makes for a great, if not particularly perturbing, metaphor.


Albeit an acutely awry, at times tawdry and annoying (Greyson's incessant inclusion of bizarre communication between characters via silent finger-tapping on various flat surfaces, as if to mimic typing on a typewriter – a thoroughly beaten-to-death and aggravating feature of the film that appears while the characters are engaging in everything from effeminately flirting to fighting), and fortuitously aesthetically dissonant film, Greyson's Un©ut is also a sophisticated piece of sociopolitically-conscious camp that dares to go where few other filmmakers, especially gay cultural marxist Canadians have the audacity to tread.  A virtual gay Guy Maddin genre-bending homophilic flick, Un©ut makes for an especially significant entry in Greyson's filmography and probably the only quirky queer flick that would be of educational value to heterosexual couples expecting a baby boy.


-Ty E

No comments: