Jan 14, 2013
On April Fools' Day 1998, Rozz Williams (born Roger Alan Painter) – the virtual crowned king of American Deathrock (otherwise known as ‘Goth’ music) and the charmingly creepy and charismatic man behind such musical groups as Christian Death, Shadow Project, Premature Ejaculation, and Daucus Karota, among various others – committed suicide via hanging in his West Hollywood apartment at the mere age of 34. One of the last artistic projects Mr. Williams worked on before his untimely death was the audaciously aberrant avant-garde arthouse short Pig (1999), which he co-wrote/co-directed with Dutch auteur filmmaker Nico B. (Hollywood Babylon, Bettie Page: Dark Angel). Originally intending to make a totally plot-less 10-minute short shot on Super 8 with a procrastinating friend named Iggy, Rozz eventually turned to experienced filmmaker Nico B. for direction with his idea for a sadomasochistic serial killer piece featuring frantically fetishistic themes and imagery, where, in turn, the Dutch auteur proposed they shoot the cinematic work on 16mm, add a discernible storyline (if not a sharply and sadistically surreal one), and make it a featurette at 25 minutes. Throughout the month of December 1996, Nico and Rozz collaborated on notes for a film at a bar-restaurant that the filmmaker would later develop into script pages and storyboards, thereupon conceiving the sublimely salacious story that would be told in the succulently seedy and spiritually sinister cinematic form via the feverishly foreboding film Pig. Hiring the towering yet lanky fellow James “cowboy” Holland to played Rozz’s cock-pierced celluloid victim, the two cultivated cinematic collaborators shot the film in a mere two months utilizing an abandoned house in a desert, Williams' apartment and basement, and some random dungeon as the setting for the film. Rozz’s collage book “Why God Permits Evil” – a hand-designed work featuring images of a skull, snake, swastika, and dollar bill signs on the cover – was also utilized in Pig at the recommendation of Nico (who quite intrigued by Rozz's unholy tome) as a fetishistic guide for the fantasies that the sadistic surrealist killer would carryout cinematically. While Nico immediately went to work on editing the film after principle photography was finished, Rozz had a hard time delivering the ultimately delightfully dispiriting industrial soundtrack that he promised he would assemble for Pig and would only finish recording it a mere week before his tragic death, but he never found the time to fine tune these tracks. With Rozz dead, it was up to Nico to find someone to mix the haunting sound recordings, which was inevitably done by Chuck Collison (Rozz's collaborator from Premature Ejaculation). After battling with a number of film labs who were ostensibly offended by the film's stark S&M imagery and authentic body mutiliation, Nico was eventually able to convince FotoKem located in Burbank, CA to print the first cut of Pig and the film inevitably premiered on January 3, 1999 at Coven 13 in Los Angeles at the El Rey Theatre and soon after played to a sold-out audience at the American Cinematheque in LA, but the Dutch filmmaker was far from finished with his collaboration with the deceased Deathrocker. Over a decade later, Nico began work on a quasi-sequel to Pig entitled 1334 (2012); an uniquely unpropitious and unsettling, as well as intensely intimate, featurette ghost story centering around a very real phantasm from the filmmaker's past.
As Nico B. quite candidly mentioned in an interview Soiled Sinema conducted with him way back in 2008 regarding his collaboration with Rozz Williams and Pig, the dolorous Deathrocker had developed a hopeless romantic infatuation with the married heterosexual Dutch filmmaker during their cinematic collaboration. As Nico explained in the SS interview, “At the end of his life, Rozz told me that he was in love with me. Of course, the sexual part I could not do much with which I had to tell him. I think it hurt him as we were very close in the last year of his life. I know he wanted somebody to love him and have a relationship with, especially a man. He felt guilty about something that happened when he was a teenager and he never really got over it. I think that and the lack of love made him kill himself.” Clearly, Nico was also unable to get over his experience with Rozz and his suicide, thereupon resulting in 1334; a silent yet sinfully seductive black-and-white ghost story about the fiendish forewarning future and the penetrating yet perturbing past that was inspired by calamitous true events, but dramatically and expressionistically fictionalized. Opening with spectral Super 8 film footage Nico shot at Rozz’s actual apartment in 1997 (featuring a sketched portrait of Jeffrey Dahmer and a swastika flag hanging on the wall), thus linking it with the prophetic celluloid past of Pig, 1334 continues thereafter with a startlingly morbid phantasmagorical reconstruction of the Goth icon’s self-slaughter via hanging 12 years earlier (Nico technically finished principal photography for the film over a 7 day period during June 2010) in the very same perverse penthouse. Most of 1334 was shot in Nico’s Los Feliz-based house where the strikingly strange occurrences that pestered the filmmaker really happened. Featuring inter-spliced images of tarot cards, including the “wheel of fortune” and “death” cards, 1334 has an erratic esoteric essence to it that is quite in tune with Pig, albeit with a somewhat less Williams-esque flavor. Of course, considering it features original music (including three unreleased electronic tracks) and art by Rozz Williams, 1334 most certainly carries a post-Christian Death lifeblood to it that is most unmistakable, which becomes all the more terribly tenebrous for those acquainted with the background story behind the film. That being said, I think it is no exaggeration for me to say that 1334 is easily one of the most exquisitely eerie films that I have ever seen, despite the fact that it features none of the real-life body mutilation that pleasantly plagued it's suavely swinish predecessor Pig.
Also utilizing some of the greatest and most ominous landscape paintings ever evoked by Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder, including my personal favorite “The Triumph of Death,” Nico B. pays perversely playful postmodern tribute to the Dutch master of aesthetic destruction that came before him. Utilizing a green-screen, the filmmaker gives new life to Bruegel’s paintings in a most apocalyptic manner, thus eloquently eliciting the wonderfully woebegone world in flames that Rozz Williams would never live to see; the literal and figurative augural incineration of the American dream. It also should be noted that the year “1334” – a number Rozz Williams was most pathologically obsessed with due to its association with the year the Black Death emerged from China and eventually killed 30–60 percent of Europe's population – was also the time frame which Bruegel’s paintings were set. Ironically, featuring actor Bill Oberst Jr. (Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, Excision) – a serious and unabashed Christian true believer (it is worth noting that Rozz was raised in a strict Southern Baptist household and his father was an eccentric minister/dilettante artist of sorts) of German descent (also like Rozz) who typically plays murderous lunatics, including a Nazi zombie – depicting Rozz Williams, I am sure the Deathrocker who committed suicide on All Fools' Day would have appreciated his friend Nico’s soundly sardonic casting decision. American rocker Dante White-Aliano aka Dante Adrian Whit (frontman of the L.A.-based band Dante Vs Zombies) plays the lead role in 1334 as a presumable stand-in for Nico B. as the man who must deal with the unsettling, unholy wraith of Rozz Williams’ lost and downcast soul. The film also features three uncredited female actresses of similar Bettie Page-like (Nico B. directed a biopic based on the famous 1950s pin-up model entitled Bettie Page: Dark Angel in 2004) appearances, one of which apparently acting out a bizarre experience that happened to her a number of years ago. Needless to say, 1334 is far from a sentimental tribute to the decisively damned Deathrocker, but a miserably mournful and misanthropic arthouse memorial for a melancholy musical genius whose self-initiated earthly demise had lead his former collaborator to create an exceedingly esoteric work that is literally at a loss for words.
Shot in the understatedly underground filmmaking spirit of Pig (both films cost roughly $5,000.00 to produce), 1334 – with its heart-piercingly sharp yet soundly gritty b/w film stock, positively penetrant post-deathrock aesthetic, delightfully discordant electronic score, nihilistic negative shots, and heavily hypnotic hopelessness – is indubitably a sensitive yet unsentimental sequel to the enrapturing transgressive film it so closely spawned, sort of like an aborted fetus who has sired an equally sick yet more sophisticated son. Like Jean Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet (1930) aka Le Sang d'un Poète meets the early shorts of Frans Zwartjes (Visual Training, Pentimento) meets the films of Richard Kern (Submit to Me, Fingered) minus the technical incompetency and cheap titillation, 1334 is an innately inordinate and ominously oneiric piece of celluloid obscurity conjured up by an unwholesomely obsessive auteur filmmaker who is more proficient at dwelling on the mystique of death than most filmmakers are at depicting life, but I guess one should not expect anything less from a film director whose filmic depiction of a mutilated corpse was described by Crowleyite cine-magickian Kenneth Anger as being, “the most convincing dead body in a movie of all time” (in reference to Pig). An abhorrently alluring atrocity exhibition with Rozz Williams’ rather emotionally-ravaged unseen ghost as the virtual metaphysical grim-reaper of the approaching apocalypse, 1334 is a soothingly sacrilegious cinematic work that reminds one why a figurative Hades is all the more penetrating than a horrendously humble Hollywood heaven. As a lifelong lover of Rozz William’s music that regards the first Christian Death album Only Theatre of Pain (1982) as one of my favorite musical records of all time, I feel that 1334 makes for a most merry of celluloid maladies.
Luckily, Nico B. made the wise decision in releasing both Pig and 1334 as a set in the form of a BD/DVD via his distribution company Cult Epics. For more info on Pig/1334, checkout http://cultepics.com
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 1:02 AM
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