Mar 20, 2013

Via Appia

If serving a lengthy prison sentence is a ‘rite of passage’ for black gangbangers and barbarian neo-viking bikers, it would seem that receiving HIV would be somewhat the approximate equivalent for sadomasochistic sodomites or so it seems in the curious kraut cocksucker flicker Via Appia (1989) directed by homo-auteur Jochen Hick (Sex/Life in L.A., No One Sleeps) – an aberrant Aryan whose obsession with AIDS and the men who intentionally spread it is only rivaled by his particularly perverse proclivity for feverishly fawning over perverse poofters, especially of the Germanic persuasion, traveling abroad for anonymous tearoom and steamroom sex. Described by Robert Ellsworth of Edge Magazine in what is a patent piece of journalistic puffery as, “a sexy, exciting film…that is both stimulating and suspenseful, an interesting combination of Hitchcock and Jodorowsky,” Via Appia is an unrepentantly homosexualist work that can hardly be described as a contrived and theatric 'Freudian thriller' in the sense of Rope (1948), nor a surrealist acid western full of naked women with marvelous mammary glands and occultnik religious iconography like El Topo (1970), but it does feature a smutty smorgasbord of psychosexual tension and fag fetishism in a certain sin-ridden Sodom of South America. Centering around a Teutonic twink airplane steward in what wakes up one morning to see that a random Brazilian boi he just had a steamy semen-swapping one-night stand with has just written, “Welcome to the AIDS-Club” on his bathroom mirror as if the joke of a very real gay urban legend, Via Appia is a pseudo-documentary-within-a-film about a HIV positive homo who travels to Brazil in search of the ‘gift-giving’ gay hustler who, following in the rather rich S&M semen demon tradition of Canadian flight attendant Gaëtan “Patient Zero” Dugas (the sanitized subject of queer Canadian auteur John Greyson's 1993 AIDs-themed musical Zero Patience) and French philosopher Michel Foucault, deliberately gave the young German man the priceless gift of gay cancer at a time when treatment for such an internecine illness was mostly futile. A softcore gay porn flick featuring countless brown dicks of the racially dubious sort, Via Appia is undoubtedly gay fantasy in a cinéma vérité style that seems like an exotic m(isc)arriage between the wanton wild boys of the Third World as depicted in the novels of alpha-Beat writer William S. Burroughs (notice the xenophiliac original cover of his 1983 novel The Place of Dead Roads) and the gritty ‘poverty porn’ and gutter libertinism of Jewish-Brazilian auteur Héctor Babenco’s Pixote (1981), thereupon making it an exceedingly exploitative, minor kraut cult classic of deranged and deleterious celluloid Dorian Love that only further confirms the unflattering stereotype that fags are the foremost spreaders of one of the world's mostly deadly diseases.

A lot of dirty and dastardly things can happen when you’re a sexually promiscuous Lufthansa German Airlines steward who engages in unprotected sodomy with Third World conmen of the calculating, conniving, and callous cocksucking variety when not helping bourgeois boobs to get nice and comfy on their trips abroad or such is the impression one gets while watching Via Appia. Like real-life fag flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas, flaming Frank (played by Peter Senner in his first and only feature-length film role) learned the hard way that STDs spread quick and come from the most curious of places when one has a cosmopolitan career that involves traveling the world. Now taking routine trips to the hospital to treat the debilitating symptoms of HIV, fucked Frank is quite obsessed with finding the malicious man-eater Mario, who gave the flight attendant a literal kiss of death during an ominous yet orgasmic one-night stand from homo Hades, yet he does not want to seek revenge, but instead seems to feel that confronting his figurative gay Grim Reaper would give him the courage to look death straight in the eyes in an audacious act of unfleeting stoicism. Ignoring the sound advice of his doctor not to travel abroad, especially to a Third World sewer of sin and sexual savagery, Frank and a documentary filmmaker (Yves Jansen) fly to Brazil and soon hire a professional conman and hunk hustler named José (played by real-life criminal Guilherme de Pádua, who, with the help of his wife, killed an actress on the same Brazilian soap opera he starred in). An amateur photographer who takes pictures of strangers’ pricks, as well as his own, Frank finds the ultimate guide of Brazilian buggery in José, who takes him to the most sinfully steamy bathhouses and hustler hotspots in Rio, thereupon resulting in a wealth of rather risqué portraits and many mischievous memories with many miscegenated men, yet maniac mud-packer Mario seems nowhere to be found. Obviously someone who has learned from a master, Frank decides he will be like super sodomite Mario and refrain from telling people about his pandemic sexual sickness, even rhetorically remarking to his filmmaker friend, “Why should I run and tell everybody I’m sick? You don’t live according to what some sauna Joe says,” and “You think I want to be known as a walking virus bomb?” With so many more than men and so little time to live in the most literal sense, Frank has to be less than frank about his bad blood if he wants to have the time of his short life in the sanguinary Sodom and Gomorrah of South America – a place where Nordic sodomite stewards like the protagonist have been known to be maliciously murdered in the past when patronizing the wrong penis-peddler. With creepy and exceedingly emaciated hustlers literally masturbating in the street and an overflowing ocean of studs and twinks in sordid saunas of sacrilege, Frankie certainly has no need to worry about people catching on to the fact that he is a poz-cock giftgiver.  Indeed, to borrow a cynical phrase from the film, Via Appia is not your typical celluloid "the world is full of whores" routine as the homo harlots very much feel at home in their figurative hell of fagdom and biologically kaput kraut protagonist Frank is more than willing to join them.

If Via Appia has an underlying (and, in this case, unhinged) 'message' at all, it is that poof protagonist Frank seemed rather liberated by the fact that he was infected with HIV in a most insidious manner, even if his life is inevitably cut short by this inauspicious and ultimately irrevocable situation. Instead of arguing that having sex with random men at bathhouses while being HIV positive is a bad and, dare I say, particularly pernicious, deplorable, and absurdly dishonest thing to do, Via Appia makes it seem like the ‘cool’ and liberating thing to do as if giving the protagonist all the more reasons to be a pathological powder puff on the prowl. During the beginning of the film, Frank makes it seem as if his planned, would-be-fateful meeting with Mario will make accepting death all the more easy to deal with, but it is ultimately the sort of unsavory behavior that led him to contracting the terminal illness in the first place that gives him a seemingly ‘sick,’ quasi-spiritual sort of solace. Even the filmmaker that follows him along notices Frank’s deleterious behavior, stating, “I don’t want to film someone’s self-destruction.” Aside from stoically accepting death like a ‘real man,’ Frank makes for a rather unsympathetic protagonist, but, to his credit, he does not damn nor seek sympathy, thereupon acting in stark contrast to the sort of sanitized sodomites portrayed in Hollywood movies and the media today, who arrogantly and, quite fag fascistically, demand not only acceptance of their aberration, but also the glorification of it, as if the entire world is one big gay bar. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that Frank uses his morbid search for Mario as a pathetic and perverse pretense for engaging in voyeurism, exhibitionism, and promiscuous homo sex in an exceedingly exotic land as if he was acting out a lifelong fantasy he developed after listening to Duran Duran’s album Rio (1982) one too many times, because he is “hungry like the wolf” and seems like he is taking his one, “Last Chance on the Stairway” of self-sanctified sodomy. With its audaciously unapologetic message and in its attempt to turn a personal journey for nirvana and harmony into aberrant avant-garde pornography, Via Appia, for better or worse, has more honesty in a mere 5 minutes than a propagandistic poofer melodrama like Brokeback Mountain (2005) directed by Ang Lee has in its entirety.  With an erotic and exotic existentialist ending on a beach that makes for the queer cinema equivalent of the conclusion of François Truffaut's The 400 Blows, Via Appia reminds one that life is a bitch, so you might as well have fun in the meantime, even if you contract AIDS in the process.

-Ty E

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