Sep 17, 2013

A Virus Knows No Morals

Jokes about AIDS, especially in regard to gay men, have basically become a favorite pastime among American youth, at least when I was growing up, yet leave it to kraut queer auteur and annoying gay activist Rosa von Praunheim (Neurosia: 50 Years of Perversity, Your Heart in My Head) to have been the first person to dare to make a black comedy musical about gay cancer in all its society decaying glory. Created at a time when HIV positive homos were dropping like flies from the decidedly deleterious disease, A Virus Knows No Morals (1986) aka Ein Virus kennt keine is a compulsively campy and morally diseased renegade romp about the AIDS epidemic, its self-destructive victims, and those professional individuals who profited in some sort of way, be they yellow journalists, demented doctors, or gay fag-exploiting sauna owners. A Virus Knows No Morals was ultimately the first and only redeeming chapter in an unusually uneven tetralogy of AIDS themed films directed by von Praunheim, which was followed by an intolerably serious and sentimental documentary trilogy that includes, Silence = Death (1990), Positive (1990), and Fire Under Your Ass (1990), the former two of which focus on AIDS activism in NYC and the latter of which, which was never completed/released, centers on AIDS in the director’s hometown of Berlin. Without question, A Virus Knows No Morals is the most aesthetically idiosyncratic and idiotic, enthralling, and least preachy/prissy of the von Praunheim AIDS flicks as a somewhat neglected kraut cult exploitation masterpiece that makes an unwaveringly sardonic and scathing indictment regarding everything related to what was once described as “Gay Related Immune Deficiency”(GRID). An aesthetically putrid assault on idiotically idealistic far-left revolutionaries, pernicious penny-pinching physicians, ‘bug-chasers’ and ‘gift-givers’, hack journalists, fag-bashing moms, and homos and homo-haters of all stripes and colors, A Virus Knows No Morals is fag self-exploitation at its most flagrantly loony and just plain weird, even starring director Rosa von Praunheim as a sodomite sauna owner who makes tons of money off homos catching STDs at his own business. A morally and aesthetically reckless work that proves that the abberosexual agitator actually has a self-denigrating sense of humor that does not involve licking the taint of the pansy p.c. police, A Virus Knows No Morals is depraved celluloid camp at its most aesthetically criminally contagious as a sort of cinematic equivalent to AIDS that breaks down cinema themes and conventions until the spectator cannot back down and is forced to wallow in filmic filth. 

 As Rosa von Praunheim’s character states at the beginning of A Virus Knows No Morals, “I’m Rudiger Kakinski, sauna owner. I earn plenty on the gays, who spend long nights of pleasure in my sex club. My lover is Christian. He studies church music. He loves me very much, but I must always remind him that I can’t love just one. Sex means to me freedom with many,” but unfortunately he has AIDS, which his wimpy Christ-bothering boy toy seems to tolerate rather well given the fact that the disease was pretty much a death sentence in 1985. Also featured in the absurdist HIV positive celluloid hell that is A Virus Knows No Morals is a certain “Prof. Dr. Blood” (Maria Hasenäcker), a seemingly sociopathic virologist and plague expert, who rather enjoys giving nonsensical safe-sex demonstrations using dildos and contaminated semen, saliva, urine, and blood. Itching to catch the latest contaminated cocksucker story is Carola Shurksh (Eva-Maria Kurz), a superlatively shameless and sleazy reporter for a tabloid called the ‘Purple Pages’ who is rather adamant about taking photos of babies with AIDS for the latest headline of her newspaper.  No less insane than Shurksh is Ms. Tomalik-Samenkorn (Ina Blum), a perverted psychotherapist who “believes AIDS, her specialty, is psychosomatic” and who “loves sex. There, her specialty is bisexual men.” Her bisexual male nurse boyfriend Karl Kolle (Thilo von Trotha) is a “revolutionary of the old school” (i.e. 1968 German student movement) who, after sabotaging an AIDS educational video screening, declares, “This is an action of the ASI! The Army of the Sick and Impotent. Down with the reactionary medical asses. We demand humane treatment and psychological care for AIDS victims. The AIDS revolt will destroy the fascist medical regime.” Quite the odd couple, Tomalik-Samenkorn declares to her bent boy toy Karl Kolle, “I want a child from a gay before they die out” and then literally proceeds to jump his bi-bones. Clearly deranged, comrade Kolle declares, “The AIDS victims are the proletariat of tomorrow. The world revolution of bodies and viruses will spell the definitive doom of capitalism,” while in mid-coitus with his lunatic lover. Rejected by his mother due to his HIV positive status and denied sex by his Christian lover, bourgeois bitch boy businessman Rudiger Kakinski begins to lose his sanity, though he couldn't care less about helping to make his semen-drenched sauna STD-proof as he will not even put a condom vending machine in as it is bad for business because, after all, it is a well known fact that safe sex is not cool among hip homos. In the hope of coming to terms with his disease, Kakinski goes to psychotherapist Tomalik-Samenkorn, who wears an absurd blond wig for whatever reason while working (yet maintaining her long brunette hair while fucking), and she waves a mini coffin around him and tells the HIV positive sauna victim to essentially accept death like a man as a gift from God. Meanwhile, while rather stoic and even seemingly happy about his boyfriend’s HIV positive status, Kakinski’s Christian boyfriend Christian is totally devastated upon learning he is positive, but luckily nurse Karl Kolle takes him aside and teaches him the far-left political virtues of being a positive poofter. Not letting a little thing like AIDS let him down, Rudiger gets into anonymous tearoom sex in a semi-surreal scenario that resembles a parody of a bad horror flick as one would expect to have been directed by the late, great celluloid scat-meister Herr Schlingensief. 

 Meanwhile, deranged journalist Carola Shurksh goes incognito as a poorly disguised homosexual male and invades a fag-frequented pissoir while sporting a large veiny strap-on dildo and runs into her prodigal poof son, who is cruising for anonymous sex, thus ushering in the end of their seemingly macabre mother-son relationship. Meanwhile, Dr. Blood and an associate named Dr. Hablesword head to Central Africa where dandy negroes eat fried chicken with fancy white gloves to study the origin of AIDS and the natives’ apparent ‘sex problems’, which makes for an interesting journey because, after all, as the demented doc states, “One hears thrilling things about these savages. There are even whispers of cannibalism. At any rate, the natives supposedly ingest the long-tailed monkey, and thereby infect themselves.” While immersed in her study of AIDS monkeys, Dr. Blood does not realize she is being banged from behind by a tranny-like African tribesman and before she knows it, a HIV positive primate has infected her with gay cancer. Meanwhile, cracked commie revolutionary Karl Kolle shows up at Kakinski’s Sodom-like sauna in a Grim Reaper costume, accusing the owner of being a “rotten exploiter of gays. Getting rich while the people here get AIDS” and that his “filthy shop is a kind of extermination camp!” and proceeds to rob all these queer queens of their precious jewelry as a sort of radical red Robin Hood of the Red Plague. Meanwhile a couple nurses at the local AIDS clinic get bored and one confesses, “I can’t get over that Rock Hudson was gay. I was such a fan.” To exterminate their boredom, the nasty nurses bet which AIDS patient will drop during the night, with one stating, “Let’s roll the dice. Who’ll kick the bucket first. The jigaboo on 2, the needle freak on 4, or the fat assfucker on 6. I bet a bottle of champagne” and another nurse complaining, “If the Lord doesn’t take at least three in the night, I’m underworked.” Meanwhile, Kainski somewhat comes to terms with his HIV positive status, even though his friends are dropping dead like flies, while strolling all by his lonesome in a graveyard where the diseased-ridden corpses of his comrades lay buried, confessing, “Maybe only the weak die from it, and the strong live on. I want to live. I’ll beat the disease. Tomorrow they’ll find a cure. The disease still makes me horny. I fuck now only with positives. The doctors try to forbid us that, too, claiming we always risk new infection. But sex is life, and I believe in life.” Rather unfortunately, Kakinski’s boyfriend Christian is not nearly doing as well as he is on his death bed and cocksucker karma reaches jaded journalist Shurksh at the hospital after a delirious and half-deranged AIDS patient with a death wish infects her with AIDS by sadistically stabbing her in the derriere with a tainted needle. Psycho psychotherapist Tomalik-Samenkorn also contracts AIDS from her gay nurse boyfriend Kolle and attempts to spread the deadly disease by pawning her positive puss on the streets for free. In the end, every character in A Virus Knows No Morals contracts AIDS and the film takes on a vague Night of the Living Dead-esque tone as all of Deutschland is ravaged with the deleterious disease that was just once thought of as ‘gay cancer’ and the HIV positive populous is shipped to a quarantine island called ‘Hell Gay Land.’ Luckily, Bolshevik neo-bolshevik nurse Karl Kolle sort of saves the day, at least for a small period of time. 

 Rosa von Praunheim’s audacious attempt to satirically turn the AIDS epidemic into a exaggerated “Deutscher Herbst”-like scenario where the Fatherland is on the verge of civil war and turning into a neo-fascist police state and utilizing horror, sci-fi, and exploitation conventions to do so, A Virus Knows No Morals ultimately makes for one of the director’s most accessible yet paradoxically most iconoclastic works. Indeed, unlike most of von Praunheim’s films, A Virus Knows No Morals has a distinct aesthetic and thematic essence similar to kraut arthouse cult flicks of the late-1980s/early-1990s directed by underground auteur filmmakers like Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik, Schramm) and Christoph Schlingensief (United Trash, The 120 Days of Bottrop). In fact, A Virus Knows No Morals ‘star’ Eva-Maria Kurz would later appear in Buttgereit’s Der Todesking (1990) and Nekromantik 2 (1991), as well as Schlingensief’s Das deutsche Kettensägen Massaker (1990) aka The German Chainsaw Massacre and Terror 2000 - Intensivstation Deutschland (1994), thus adding to von Praunheim’s seemingly unlikely kraut cinema cult cred as born agitpropagandist who is one of the most, if not the most, well known gay activist filmmaker who has ever lived. Although rather jadedly jovial throughout, A Virus Knows No Morals also makes for a just plain bizarre cinematic work that will make even the most debauched of viewers cringe in disgust at the film’s lunatic libertinage and bodacious bad taste, as if von Praunheim was attempting to make his most patently offensive work ever, which he indubitably accomplished. After all, Rosa von Praunheim is even hated by his fellow gays for his flagrant fear-mongering regarding safe sex and AIDS activism and A Virus Knows No Morals is certainly a far cry from the sickeningly serious ‘scared straight’ style agitprop that plagues his subsequent AIDS-themed documentaries Silence = Death (1990) and Positive (1990). Filmed utilizing non-actors in a guerilla-style of filmmaking that would ultimately influence homocore auteur Bruce LaBruce, among countless others, A Virus Knows No Morals also has the peculair distinction of featuring the curiously amateurish cockeyed camera angles, unhinged urban grit, white trash camp, and horrific depictions of heterosexual sex that were the signature style of AIDs-addled exploitation auteur Andy Milligan (The Body Beneath, Fleshpot on 42nd Street), thereupon making it a worthy and rather unsung masterpiece of exploitation cinema that gives rare artistic merit to the mostly negated niche 'genre.' Of course, A Virus Knows No Morals would inspire other AIDS-themed black comedy musicals, the best of which being Zero Patience (1993), though Canadian auteur John Greyson’s sodomite sermonizing, which transcends that of von Praunheim’s, is rather off putting to say the least.  Indisputable proof that Rosa von Praunheim knows no morals even if he has spent entire lifetime tell other people and organization, especially of the poof persuasion, what to do, A Virus Knows No Morals is a window into a diseased soul that, although ridiculously entertaining, is probably not good for one's health.

-Ty E

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