Nov 21, 2013

Necropolis (1970)

After reading various warnings to avoid the film like the experimental LSD-ridden celluloid plague, I decided it was about time I get around to seeing the lost psychedelic-drug-inspired Gudio avant-garde epic Necropolis (1970) directed by obscure Italian auteur Franco Brocani (Clodia – Fragmenta, Schifanosaurus Rex). Starring Italian avant-garde auteur Carmelo Bene (Our Lady of the Turks, Capricci) as a very authentically drunk leather-jacket-adorned Kenneth Anger fan, Warhol Superstar Viva (Bike Boy, Lonesome Cowboys) as a repressed housewife who shoves coke cans up her pussy, and French junky arthouse superstar Pierre Clémenti as a rather gay and naked Attila the Hun, as well as gigantic penises, a dandy-like melancholy Frankenstein monster, a human-size King Kong, Satan himself, and a number of other famous cinema/literary/historical fantastic figures in less than fantastic yet highly stylized settings, Necropolis—a hippie fantasy-horror work with an international cast featuring dialogue in Italian, English, German, and French—is a sort of postmodern psychedelic psychobabble fest where the various actors, whose chemical-fueled inebriation is certainly not in question, deliver mostly mundane and madly meandering monologues about a bunch of unintentionally corny and even sometimes funny crackpot counter-culture subjects. A sometimes strangely charming celluloid endurance test that will only be of interest to diehard cinephiles, wannabe-hippies and people who think they are more intelligent while they are high, Necropolis in many way epitomizes everything that was wrong and degenerate about the late-1960s/early-1970s as a convoluted work of counter-culture craziness and drug-addled debauchery masquerading as cultivated celluloid art of the highly intellectual and transcendental sort. Yet for all of its nauseating nonsensicalness, pseudo-philosophical meanderings, and inane and uninventive iconoclasm, I somewhat enjoyed Necropolis, even laughing out loud a number of times at the film’s vivacious vulgarity. Starring Viva as a brazenly bitchy and sexually repressed housewife who rather regrets her marriage to a pussy of a poet, Necropolis features many great and highly memorable quotes from the Warhol superstar like, “Bring me a Coca Cola so I can fuck myself,” “I knew he’d always end up in bed with a boy,” and “If it weren’t for vibrators, I’d be in a sorry state,” among countless others. Like an early Warhol production on steroids meets Kenneth Anger and Carmelo Bene as directed by someone who knows a thing or two about set-design, shot composition, and general filmmaking techniques, Necropolis apparently purports to be a distinctly deep ‘statement about life’ and, judging the film, it must be a life less than worthy of living. A collection of petite vignettes featuring distinctly stylized yet mostly minimalistic tableaux, Necropolis is a playful celluloid counter-culture pandemonium of pretentiousness, perversion, and bawdy blasphemy that reminds the viewer that not all things ‘beatnik retrograde’ are totally worthless, if not always retarded. 

 Before viewing Necropolis, I decided to watch an experimental black-and-white dystopian sci-fi short entitled Segnale da un pianeta in via di estinzione (1972) aka Signal from a Planet on the Way to Extinction directed by auteur Franco Brocani. Indeed, if I learned anything about Brocani as a filmmaker whilst watching his rather lecherous and loony science fiction short, it is that he is a cultural pessimist of the far-left who, despite bemoaning the spiritual and moral degeneration of the left, is certainly a byproduct of said degeneration and Necropolis certainly confirms this, albeit in a rather confused, campy, and chaotic manner that makes one wonder whether or not the filmmaker fried his brain on too much mescaline, cocaine, and LSD. As mumbled by the effete Frankenstein monster in the film, Brocani seems to believe that in some form or another that “The universe is in my head” and Necropolis must be seen as a celluloid expression of the auteur’s unhinged universe of eccentrically eroticized film references, hippie hysterics, anti-bourgeois baloney, and decidedly demented anti-capitalist/anti-fascist diatribes. Featuring no real beginning nor end, let alone a linear storyline, Necropolis is a discernibly discombobulated nightmare from a warped wop mind that wanted to concoct a work as intimate and idiosyncratic as a masterpiece like David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) would prove to be, but was too high on LSD and cinema history to discern between celluloid genius and total trash art, thus ultimately siring something somewhere in between. Opening with an off-screen narrator stating, “You look upwards, because you want to exalt yourselves. You want to exalt yourselves. I look downwards, because I am exalted,” Necropolis immediately gives the viewer the feel that the film was directed by a proud narcissist who believes he and only he knows the truth. Of course, what the ‘truth’ is is rather dubious, but it seems director Brocani is a proud proponent of individualism as demonstrated by a character’s remark,“Everyone must live according to his own PERSONAL law.”   Of course, all the characters of Necropolis have innately different life philosophies.

 Indeed, Necropolis is certainly a celluloid work inhabited by diacritic, if not demented and damaged, individualistic characters of counter-culture who play by their own warped tune, which is a large part of the film’s appeal today. For one, one once again gets to see famed frog fag Pierre Clémenti, in the role of Attila the Hun, riding a horse naked in a scene that anticipates his mostly unclad performance in Philippe Garrel’s The Inner Scar (1972) aka La cicatrice intérieure. One also gets to see absurdist Italian auteur Carmelo Bene, who is as drunk as a Sicilian skunk, bickering with Viva about Satan and magic. When Viva asks him, “What about the devil?”, Bene hilariously responds “Anger, Kenneth Anger,” but the Warhol superstar rejects the art of cinema being a true reflection of life, stating, “It’s not in films you find magic, it’s in life…It’s not in Kenneth Anger’s films. It’s in real life.” Of course, Bene is not the main victim of Viva’s lapsed bourgeois bitchiness, as she saves most of her hatred for her filmic husband Louis Waldon, who she previously had unsimulated sex with the year before in Warhol’s Blue Movie (1969). Unfortunately, it seems their romance has fizzled since the Warhol flick as Viva spends the entire scene berating her onscreen husband, describing him as an impotent pansy of sorts, ultimately declaring of her ostensibly homosexual hubby, “I knew he’d always end up in bed with a boy.” Other standout quotes from Viva to her sad cuckold of a spouse include, “If it weren’t for vibrators, I’d be in a sorry state” and “If I wanted a purring pussy, I would have married a girl.” Of course, as a superlatively spoiled yet miserable woman who less than proudly admits, “I always get everything but what I want,” it seems nothing will satisfy Viva, impotent hubby or not. Undoubtedly, one of the most standout scenes in Necropolis is of Paul Jabara of Hair fame, who was a pioneering member of the disco ‘culture’ and who died of complications relating to AIDS in 1992, giving a monologue next to a gigantic six-foot-tall phallus, but not before his decapitated head is somehow magically reattached to his emasculated body. In what is easily the most technically innovative scene, Jabara delivers a monologue to ‘himself’ in the same scene as he is dressed in drag as ‘Countess Viva Bathory’ (indeed, the swarthy hippie-like homo somehow pulls off pretending to be a spoiled blonde NYC debutante). Not surprisingly, Necropolis concludes just as abruptly and nonsensically as it begins. 

 With a Wilde-esque Nordic dandy Frankenstein monster (as depicted by Spaghetti Western/giallo star Bruno Corazzari, who worked with Lucio Fulci, among various others) in a green velvet two-piece suit (with ‘black power’ sound clips being played in the background) suffering from major melancholy, a rather impotent and naked Attila the Hun as depicted by Clémenti riding a horse on a phantasmagoric pop-art set, Louis Waldon as an angst-ridden American tourist looking for the (apparently missing) Mona Lisa, Viva giving what is arguably one of her greatest and most vivacious (and tolerable) screen performances, mad Mesoamerica Aztec/Tenochtitlan ruler Moctezuma II as a mellow hippie-like blue-eyed lover of birds, and French-Jewish-Dominican-American hipster Tina Aumont (Modesty Blaise, Fellini's Casanova) as a mostly mute and childlike cradler of babydolls, Necropolis is certainly a majorly mixed-up cinematic work with some sometimes palatable counter-culture meat on it that surely becomes more interesting on subsequent viewings, at least for those cinephiles stoic enough to brave through the entire film. Of course, Necropolis will be totally inaccessible and intolerable for most filmgoers, especially those unfamiliar with the counter-culture characters featured in the film, thus it will undoubtedly stay in the celluloid dustbin of history where it has essentially been since its original release over four decades ago. Featuring a sort of half-coherent dialectic between the cine-magic of Kenneth Anger/Jean Cocteau versus the gritty realism of Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey, Necropolis is ultimately like a celluloid/LSD-addled counter-culture cinematic psychosis created at a time when experimental film was at its height, so the fact that Pierre Clémenti, Viva, and Carmelo Bene star in it make it an all the more worthwhile endeavor for adventurous cinephiles.  A sort of Guido Chelsea Girls from cinema history hell, Necropolis is a zany and artistically overzealous product of its deluded zeitgeist that reminds the viewer that hipsters may have always sucked, but at least in the past they were somewhat more original and genuine in their degeneracy and longing for revolution.

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Viva (as the bird was in 1956 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Are you preparing your reveiw of JFK ?, after all it is 50 years to the day since Lee Harvey Oswald became the biggest patsy in history.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Films made in 1970 become cult movies specifically BECAUSE they were made in 1970, that year seems to be a real favourite for cult movie freaks for some reason, its not the movie its the year.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Viva was 32 in this, 14 years past her peak already ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I bet that geezer dressed in green whos sitting in the brown armchair is thinking to himself: "I desperately want to bugger and tit-fuck the 17 year-old version of Pauline Hickey from 1985".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

If shit rots for long enough it starts to smell like aniseed, yet another reason never to clean your toilet.