Aug 18, 2013

Last Exit to Brooklyn

As a lifelong loather of New York City and everything it stands for, I have always appreciated films that have anti-romantically depicted the superlatively shitty city in all of its glaring degeneracy and multicultural chaos, especially in the historical sense where the aberrant area is portrayed as a place that has always suffered from a certain cultural malignancy, so naturally I have developed an appreciation for Letzte Ausfahrt Brooklyn aka Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989), a film based on the 1964 cult classic novel of the same name written by Hubert Selby, Jr. Directed by German for-hire hack Uli Edel (Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, The Baader Meinhof Complex) and produced by kraut alpha-producer Bernd Eichinger (Hitler: A Film from Germany, Downfall aka Der Untergang), Last Exit to Brooklyn undoubtedly owes a great deal of its idiosyncratic and incendiary depiction of NYC due to being created from a total outsider’s perspective that makes no attempt to glorify the miscreant multicultural metropolis. Featuring hysterical tranny junkies, fag-fucking union men, less than gregarious Guido gangs, lovelorn gangbanged hookers, and an aptly apocalyptic atmosphere that could have only been sired in a so-called American ‘melting pot,’ Last Exit to Brooklyn is a sort of Teutonic tragicomedy that is bound to inspire a certain Schadenfreude in certain viewers, including myself, as a sordid cinematic work with such a hysterical hodgepodge of human depravity scenarios and nauseating NYC ugliness that one can only laugh when everything is said and done. Despite receiving mixed reviews upon its release in the United States, Last Exit to Brooklyn ultimately received the German Film Award for Best Feature Film in 1990 and star Jennifer Jason Leigh won Best Supporting Actress awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and Boston Society of Film Critics, thus making for a major breakthrough for the actress’ career. Filmed mostly in Red Hook, NYC, a multicultural hellhole that inspired American alpha-horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook (1927) and his infamous remark regarding its citizenry, “The organic things -Italo-Semitico-Mongoloid- inhabiting that awful cesspool could not by any stretch of the imagination be call’d human,” Last Exit to Brooklyn ultimately does for 1950s New York City what Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) did for late-1920s Weimar Republic Berlin, albeit to a less remarkable and less personal degree, in its meticulously stylized and sometimes even phantasmagorical depiction of an unflattering and unhinged yet ultimately captivating zeitgeist that is probably best left forgotten, yet makes for curious celluloid tales. 

 It is Brooklyn during the 1950s and a long-term strike in the city has left most of its virtually collectively hapless citizens broke, pissed, and irrationally violent. During the beginning of Last Exit to Brooklyn, a gang of petty philistine criminals, including Vinnie (Peter Dobson), Boyce (Jerry Orbach), Sal (Stephen Baldwin), Al (Same Rockwell), and Freddy (James Lorinz) beat up a Southern sailor because he calls one of the wild wops a “nigger-loving bastard.” To earn most of their petty dirty money, the degenerate gang uses a hot blonde prostitute with big bosoms named Tralala (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to lure drunk sailors out of bars and rob them by smashing a bottle over their head and emptying their pockets. Meanwhile, a union activist/shop steward named Harry Black (Stephen Lang) is approached by a Greek-American tranny named Georgette (played by real male-to-female transvestite Alexis Arquette) while holding his cock and taking a piss. Clearly turned on by the uniquely ugly chick with a dick, Harry becomes aroused and essentially rapes his wife that same night. Friends with members of the local gang, Harry goes to a Dionysian druggy party with the masculine hoodlums that is hosted by sassy shemale Georgette and her tranny compatriots where he meets and starts a relationship with an extremely effete queen of a less than humble homo named ‘Regina’ (Bernard Zette). After meeting a nice and handsome sailor, the seemingly unlovable streetwalker Tralala also finds temporary solace and love for the first time in his life, but rather unfortunately, loverboy is sailing for the Korean War in a couple days. 

 Meanwhile, a fat and belligerent wop family man named Big Joe (Burt Young) has learned that his obscenely overweight daughter Donna (Ricki Lake) is pregnant and he successfully forces the unlucky man named Tommy (John Costelloe) who got her pregnant to marry her. While everything seems to be getting a little nicer for the urban hoodrats of Brooklyn, all good things must come to an end and when workers are brought in to replace the strikers, all hell breaks loose. After sleeping in with his boi toy Regina, Harry is late for a strike rally that ultimately erupts into a full blown riot and forgets to acknowledge his boss, so he is demoted and forced to pay back all the money he has blown own his high dollar man-whore. Of course, Regina dumps Harry after he no longer pays for her fine wine and hard drugs, so the union activist falls into a morbid melancholy state, attempts to molest a preteen boy, and is ultimately beaten an inch from his life by a group of men for his sick indiscretions with the young man. After Tralala’s saintly sailor leaves for the Korean War, she is snapped back into reality, gets drunk at a bar and announces that she has “The best tits in the Western world” and allows herself to be gangbanged senseless by dozens of degenerate barflies. At unpleasantly plump patriarch Big Joe’s daughter’s wedding, the father of the bride gets in a fist fight with the groom, thus ushering the beginning of a long and painful dysfunctional relationship. Towards the conclusion of Last Exit to Brooklyn, a lovesick teenage boy who is hopelessly in love with Tralala spots the hooker’s seemingly lifeless post-gangbanged body lying on a pier, thus resulting in the loss of the boy’s innocence and marking a fitting end for the film. Before the credits role, the workers on strike finally go back to work and life goes on. 

 A film where virtually every character is both a perpetrator and a victim, Last Exit to Brooklyn is a sort of pre-apocalyptic period piece that never falls into sapless and superficial sentimentalism nor politically correct provocations, but instead depicts a distinctively stylized hell-on-earth in a manner that, to the film's credit, owes much to German expressionism and classic film noir. While I would not call myself a fan of Hubert Selby, Jr.’s novels, I can state with nil hesitation that Last Exit to Brooklyn is innately more interesting and genuine than Darren Aronofsky’s cinematic adaptation of the Selby novel of the same name Requiem for a Dream (2000), as well as Nicolas Winding Refn’s pseudo-Lynchian work Fear X (2003), which was based on a screenplay by Selby, Jr. Interestingly enough, Hubert Selby, Jr. has a cameo in Last Exit to Brooklyn as a taxi-driver who unintentionally runs over and kills tranny Georgette while s/he is looking for he/r lover in a hopeless heroin haze as if the nihilistic novelist himself were the grim reaper himself come to collect lost souls and save them for their deleterious dead-end lives of lifeless lecherousness and monumental misery. While penned by an American, shot in America, and featuring an all-American cast, Last Exit to Brooklyn would most certainly not have been as nearly a brutal film had it been directed by some random Hollywood hack, even if director Uli Edel is no Fassbinder nor even a Roland Klick. Essentially, while Last Exit to Brooklyn is drenched in black humor, which some American filmgoers can appreciate, Edel’s film is the celluloid antithesis of what most Hollywood films stand for due to its lack of clear-cut villains and heroes, as well as its lack of a happy ending, and less than flattering and far from romantic depiction of America and American urban history. Despite all the incessant mainstream media, Hollywood, and government propaganda to the contrary, so-called ‘multiculturalism’ is not America’s strength but its unnatural and nefarious curse and will ultimately lead to its irrevocable ruin and Last Exit to Brooklyn—a work depicting ‘eclectically ethnic’ NYC before the arrival of every dark shade from the third world as a result of the insidious Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965—features nothing short of a cultural and biological sewer where everywhere everyone is metaphysically cursed and trapped in some sort of figurative hell. 

-Ty E

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