Dec 12, 2012

We Were One Man

The French (as well as the Dutch, British, etc.) typically hate Germans, which one can only assume is in part due to the fact that the frogs are a decidedly effete and cosmopolitan group of people who love to engage in puffery regarding their so-called “open-mindedness” while the krauts have always (or at least used to) put a premium on manliness, honor (hence why they effortlessly fucked up the rifle-droppers during the Second World War), and actually producing thoughtful and practical philosophers (as well as science, technology, music, etc.), so naturally a homosexual love story between males from each respective nation would make for an explosive and inevitably inauspicious affair. Indeed, such is the case in regard to queer fur licker Philippe Vallois’ – director of such Euro-homo classics as Johan – Mon été 75 (1976) and Haltéroflic (1983) aka Rainbow Serpent – intrinsically cockeyed cinematic tale of discordant gay love gone awry Nous étions un seul homme (1979) aka We Were One Man; a severely sordid and sometimes inexplicably sentimental melodrama where sodomite sadomasochism and German vs. French wartime hatred meet head on for the most shocking and sickening of consequences. The plot of We Were One Man is simple enough: Set during the final days of the Second World War, a half-retarded French farm boy with severe social and emotional problems and masochist tendencies discovers a blood-soaked blond beast not far from his homestead and seizes the opportunity to take the marred Aryan man home, thereupon resulting in the development of decisively deranged companionship between racial enemies that eventually devolves into barnyard butt-darting of the bellicose variety. As a sort of Brokeback Mountain (2005) meets François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962) meets John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972), We Were One Man is not exactly the sort of fag flick that would be popular with modern gay audiences, but instead the sort of sadistic leather-fags of the 1970s that boxhead queen auteur Rosa von Praunheim warned the world about in his unintentionally side-splitting docudrama It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives (1971). In other words, We Were One Man deserves recognition with such positively putrid and perverse celluloid cocksucker classics as Querelle (1982) directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Agustín Villaronga’s In a Glass Cage (1987) and The Sea (2000), Michael Stock’s Prinz in Hölleland (1993) aka Prince in Hell, and Frisk (1995) directed by Todd Verow. 

 One thing I noticed almost immediately about We Were One Man is it’s striking similarities with the audaciously aberrant Belgian arthouse flick Vase de Noces (1974) aka Wedding Trough aka The Pig Fucking Movie directed by Thierry Zéno. Aside from featuring a swarthy and scrawny anti-hero that spends his days and nights on the farm mentally degenerating into a vile creature who knows no restraint like Vase de Noces, We Were One Man also has a strange, foreboding, and ominous nightmarish quality to it that – despite being set largely during the sunny daylight hours – is all its own, which would also predominate in the more recent Walloon horror flick Calvaire (2004) aka The Ordeal directed by Fabrice Du Welz. French farm boi Guy Rouveron (Serge Avedikian) has some serious problems, the majority of which are the result of his brain-damaged mind and little does he realize when he discovers the Aryan ‘apple of his eye’ – a handsome soldier of Breker-esque strength and beauty – lying in the woods that his inner-turmoil will seem to triple. Rolf (played by Polish-born porn star Piotr Stanislas) is a stoic, strong, and restrained fellow whose father is a German officer and whose only male-to-male bonding experience was in the Hitler Youth and Wehrmacht – despite his apathy for the Third Reich – thus his by-chance acquaintance with Guy opens his eyes to the fact that not all men are secure in their masculinity and sense of self. Indeed, Guy battles with seeming schizophrenic illusions, memories of an unpleasant stay in a mental institution, and sexually servicing a girl that he does not love just so that she likes him and he can say he has a friend. Shortly after Guy rescues Rolf and nurses him back to health, the stoic German soldier attempts to leave, but his feeble-minded French admirer follows him like a scared puppy dog. Going so far as to chase the German soldier and declare that he is stronger than Rolf, Guy eventually gets the Nordic ‘deserter’ to cease to his demands, thereupon ushering in their tragic and ultimately brutal romance. As a seemingly paranoid schizzo who delusionaly remarks to Rolf that, “I saw in your eyes that you hate me. I feel when people don’t like me. It doesn’t change, I’ve always been alone,” it is only a matter of time before Guy cracks, it is just a matter of how, when, and to what extent. 

 We Were One Man – although featuring a couple sentimental, if not quirky and queer, moments and a dimly lit expressionistic erotic scene – is fundamentally an unconventional character study about a severely demented and dangerous individual whose lack of sanity is never up for question. The title “We Were One Man” ultimately sums up the fact that Rolf – a real and confident man – enables Guy to feel like a “real man” by living vicariously through his masculinity. Needless to say, wacko gay boi Guy wants to keep Rolf all for his own and will do anything, including slaughtering a dog out of jealousy, to get want he wants.  In his overall cock-sucking creepiness, grotesque gay guy Guy borders on a Dahmer-esque level of depravity as a lonely individual who will stop at nothing 'keep' his buff beefcake; the man he always wish he could be.  Indeed, We Were One Man is surely deserving of a cult audience and certainly comparable to the best works of Rosa von Praunheim, Todd Verow, Bruce LaBruce, and Marco Kreuzpaintner, and a work that totally transcends the 'homosexual' label in it's inordinate and irksome idiosyncrasy.  Naturally, We Were One Man does not make the case for gay equality, but then again director Philippe Vallois was not doing more humble homos any favors with his previous work Johan (1976) aka Johan – Mon été 75; a work featuring images of leder schwule sadomasochists adorned in swastika armbands and gestapo hats beating and mutilating one another, as well as twink twin-on-twin incest, on top of an unhealthy dose of outlandish and campy pornographic imagery.  If you ever wondered how The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) might have turned out had it been a morbid melodrama set in rural France during the Second World War with a flaky, fruity, and feverish fag frog instead of cannibalistic inbred Texans as the playful predators, We Were One Man is probably your best bet.

-Ty E

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