Apr 13, 2014

Friendship's Death




If some exceedingly effete cosmopolitan leftist art fag attempted to remake Ridley Scott’s culturally pessimistic science fiction masterpiece Blade Runner (1982) as an avant-garde Brechtian chamber piece with video art elements and set it Amman, Jordan during the Jordanian Civil War instead of dystopian Los Angeles, it might resemble the asinine celluloid abortion that is British (anti)sci-fi flick Friendship's Death (1987) penned and directed by English film theorist Peter Wollen (Penthesilea, Crystal Gaze) and starring arthouse diva Tilda Swinton (The Last of England, Only Lovers Left Alive) and Bill Paterson (The Killing Fields, The Witches). Indeed, a film theorist trained in French twaddle like structuralism and critical theory who co-wrote/co-directed a number of films with his postmodern feminist film theorist wife Laura Mulvey—a rather frigid looking chick who utilizes outmoded neo-Freudian hocus pocus to complain about ‘phallocentrism’ and ‘patriarchy’ being supposedly secretly hidden in cinema—Wollen (who is the co-publisher of various journals, including one with the curious name 'New Left Review') certainly seems to have a pathologically passive ‘female touch,’ or so one learns whilst watching the intolerably idealistic slave-morality-laden pomo sci-fi piece Friendship’s Death. The quasi-philosophical tale of an alien robot in archetypically white British female form (quite arguably Tilda Swinton at her physically finest) that somehow develops a quasi-marxist ‘revolutionary’ Weltanschauung and joins the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) after getting mixed up in the events of ‘Black September,’ Friendship’s Death is so ridden with phony bleeding heart idealism of the pedantic armchair revolutionary sort that the eponymous extraterrestrial machine protagonist actually makes the absurd 'post-human' complaint, “I can’t accept subhuman status simply because I’m a machine.” Indeed, if you are hoping to see bold and beauteous blond beast biorobotic androids like the replicants in Blade Runner in Wollen’s noble-savage-saluting arthouse agitprop piece Friendship’s Death, you’re going to be in for a major disappointment as the film mostly wallows in philosophizing about how innately evil humans are, especially of the Occidental sort, as well as the misery of being a person without identity and without home, so as to make the viewer's heart bleed for Palestinians and whatnot. For whatever reason, my girlfriend and I assumed that Friendship’s Death would be similar to an Ulrike Ottinger film, so we were exceedingly disappointed. While my beloved could only handle 10 minutes or so of seeing Tilda Swinton sporting an Arab chādor, spewing insipid intellectual masturbation, and failing to seem like anything resembling an alien robot, I braved through the entirety of Friendship’s Death and must admit that 70-minute work felt much longer than watching Fassbinder’s epic Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) in its entirety. Indeed, if you ever wondered why Swinton finally decided to move out of the arthouse world, Friendship’s Death provides more than enough reasons.



The setting is Amman, Jordan during the ‘Black September’ civil war of 1970 and stereotypical white liberal British journalist Sullivan (Bill Paterson) is sympathetic to the cause of the PLO. Naturally, the Jordanians are hoping to rid the PLO from its city-centers. Sullivan is asked by members of the PLO to help identify a seemingly Anglo-Saxon woman named ‘Friendship’ (Tilda Swinton), who has no papers nor passport and has been captured by the Palestinian ‘freedom-fighters.’ For whatever reason (maybe he thinks he has a chance at bedding her?), Sullivan pretends to know Friendship and brings her to a fancy hotel, where most of Friendship’s Death takes place. Friendship proclaims to be a space robot from the planet of Procryon who was heading to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but experienced a major malfunction during ‘atmospheric entry’ and somehow landed in Amman where within a matter of hours she managed to get lost in the middle of a tank attack and inevitably become captured by the PLO. After hearing Friendship’s story, Sullivan makes the cynical remark, “Spectacular performance! A woman in jeopardy, a reckless act of self-destruction; it all adds up to nonsense, doesn’t it?,” but the literally soulless extraterrestrial super robot is not laughing. Of course, after much plying and prying for information, Sullivan eventually begins to believe Friendship’s spectacular tale. Meanwhile, Friendship, who was quite disturbed to see her Palestinian tour guide taken hostage by the Jordanian army, begins to forget her mission to MIT, starts sporting typical Islamic garb, and begins sympathizing with the PLO, even though she is not human, let alone an Arab Muslim. As a 'spacey, if not severely self-righteous, chick from another planet that says a lot of pretentious things like, “I dream of succulence…the flow of carbon and acid metabolism…hunters and gathers…Hijack victims,” Friendship seems like she was the victim of a liberal arts college lobotomy, but Sullivan still manages to learn things about her home plane Procryon. As Friendship explains to Sullivan, “Where I come from all the biological life-forms are extinct. After the nuclear winter, they died. Only the computer survived. Of course, they were already far more advanced than any computers you have here on earth.”



Naturally, Sullivan asks about the curious creatures that used to inhabit Procryon and invented the technology that sired the femme-robot in the first place, to which Friendship replies that they were, “Genetically programmed organisms like you. I think I’d describe them as kind of giant tree shrews…a bit bigger than you. They hibernated. They had this zoom lens system in their optical vision, too…I think some spiders do here. And these heat-seeking sensors which were like a ray of sunken pods.” While doing some snooping around, Sullivan friends some colorful crystals owned by Friendship in one of the few discernibly sci-fi scenes of Friendship's Death and when the rebel robot walks in on the journalist playing with them, she gives him one as a memento. Obsessed with ancient human ruins, especially those in Jordan and how they relate to events of today, Friendship has little interest in soccer, complaining to Sullivan regarding the sport, “It’s hard for me to see the attraction of it. I think I would prefer if the camera just chose one of the players and followed him. I mean, the players are more interesting than the ball, aren’t they? The ball has to be the most uninteresting item of the game…totally devoid of color or expression….incapable of independent action…it’s just round.” Despite being an exceedingly emasculated left-wing weakling of the proudly cosmopolitan sort, Sullivan is somewhat offended by Friendship’s remark and responds by stating, “What are you talking about? Britain’s greatest contribution to the world; the family of balls […] they're all British made. It makes you proud, doesn’t it?,” as if he were a card-carrying member of the BNP. As the days pass, the hotel the journalist and robot are staying at becomes bombarded with PLO snipers and other militants, thus making their conversations much harder to hear. Overtime, Friendship becomes increasingly misanthropic and develops a sort of Marxist-robot ideology, complaining to Sullivan, “I’m a robot, I’m a machine. Well, what replaced the machines here? Slaves. Unpaid labor. Moral dead matter. You can do what you like to a machine. It has no voice, no rights, no feelings. It’s a new sphere for human cruelty. I know their vengeance and they act out of rage, but I have every reason to identify with the Palestinians,” thus demonstrating her innate slave morality despite being a superior being to that of earthlings. Due to the violence of the civil war, Sullivan opts to leave Jordan and manages to snag two tickets to Damascus, but Friendship has already made up her mind to join the PLO and die in battle, stating why she has decided to abandon her original mission to MIT, “I’ve seen enough of earth to know that if I go to the United States I’ll just be frog-marched off to some safe house somewhere in Virginia for debriefing…then when I’ve been squeezed dry, I’ll be handed over to the engineers and the A.I. people. I’ll be stripped down, cut-up, and be submitted to every kind of sadistic test they can devise.” As a goodbye present, Sullivan gives Friendship a razorblade (she previously showed an interest in shaving) and she returns his kindness by kissing to “seal the gesture.” Of course, Friendship presumably dies, but years later Sullivan remembers her after running into his friend Kubler (Patrick Bauchau), who is a member of the International Red Cross. With the help of his wiz kid teenage daughter, Sullivan is able to decipher the special crystal that Friendship gave to him and he learns that it is a ‘digital storage system’ (aka a sort of memory card) from a futuristic camera. The crystal reveals images of Amman, esoteric information, images of a human fetus, and countless other things that Friendship had recorded on her journey, thus giving Sullivan something to truly remember about Friendship.




A preposterously sanctimonious and unintentionally silly piece of hipster humanist celluloid hogwash that would only appeal to the science fiction fan who thinks Spock of Star Trek is a leftist hero and appreciate his Judaic Vulcan salute, Friendship’s Death is nothing short of an archetypical bad British arthouse film from the 1980s. As someone who rather enjoyed the quasi-feminist dystopian flick Closet Land (1991) directed by Indian auteur Radha Bharadwaj, I can say my disdain for Friendship’s Death was not simply due to its cliché globalist humanistic ‘we-are-the-world’ message but mainly due to its outmoded postmodern Brechtian and conspicuously contrived directing style, grating theatric tableaux, and almost childlike essence, as if the film was specially made for the children of left-wing MPs living abroad at boarding schools as a sort of cinematic therapy for their homesickness. Undoubtedly, director Peter Wollen is probably best known to cinephiles for his first film credit as the co-writer of Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975) aka Professione: Reporter, which also features a deracinated journalist as a protagonist and also deals with themes of rootlessness, loss of identity, and civil war.  In fact, Wollen would once state of Friendship's Death that it is a sort of “a sequel” to The Passenger, albeit more “enclosed and claustrophobic,” which certainly sounds like an unappetizing prospect for a film and the British auteur certainly delivered in that regard. While I am not fan of The Passenger, it demonstrates why Antonioni was a master cinematic craftsman and Wollen is a pedantic professor of plodding pretense who approaches directing films the same way a scientist looks through a microscope, with Friendship’s Death being nothing more than a failed experiment of a film theorist's hypothesis for what might make an interesting ‘avant-garde sci-fi’ flick. In a favorable puffery-ridden review of the film written by German film scholar Thomas Elsaesser, who is a comrade of Wollen’s, he revealed that, “In the early 1990s, at a conference in Vancouver about avant-garde, modernist, anti-narrative and neo-narrative filmmaking, Peter Wollen proposed a new category: films without a passport. What at the time was may be a lassitude with labels seems in retrospect to have been a programmatic announcement. Wollen’s first solo film as a director is literally about existence without a passport, and is much more an exploration of the attendant state of mind, than a psychological study of two characters or of the generic complications resulting from a sci-fi plot in a polit-thriller.” Rather unfortunately, with the dissolution of European film industries and the rise of international co-productions, Wollen’s warped liberal wet dream of ‘films without a passport’ has come true, albeit not in the way he probably imagined. Of course, Wollen has not directed a single film since Friendship’s Death, thus demonstrating you cannot get too far artistically without an ‘artistic passport’ (i.e. serious sense of identity, kultur, and nationality). More banal than bizarre, superficial than sincere, whiny than witty, derivative than diacritic, pedantic than provocative, and cold than charismatic, Friendship’s Death has confirmed that I will never dare to watch any of the other experimental films that Wollen co-directed with his wife. Featuring a pansy cuckold xenophile as a male protagonist (a stand-in for Wollen perhaps?) who cannot even manage to seal the sensual deal with the exotic extraterrestrial, as well as a truly intellectually ‘out-of-this-world’ fem-alien robot that tries to make an argument about the ostensible connection between the big toe and the supposed oppression of the fairer sex, Friendship’s Death is guaranteed to be aesthetic torture for cinephiles and sci-fi nerds alike, which is certainly at least one achievement on Wollen’s part.  Indeed, if the Israelis want to scare the Palestinians out of the holy land for good they should maybe consider screening Wollen's Friendship's Death all around the so-called Israeli West Bank barrier.



-Ty E

9 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Little Tilda was born on Bonfire night, i bet she has a double celebration every year, chocolates and fireworks ! ! !, the cheeky little Limey slut.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its so marvellous when one of THE greatest and MOST truthful film reveiwers and critics in the entire world (your good self Ty E) trashes a British made film and tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about that ludicrously pathetic abomination laughingly known as the British film industry, reading this reveiw made my year, cheers my old mate.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, Tilda was about 26 at the time of filming so not quite at her 'physically finest' as you said, that was 8 years earlier in 1978 when the bird was 18, and thats when i would`ve loved to have shoved my willy up her bum, the bird might be British rubbish but when she was 18 the bird was a right little stunner, of that there is no question.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

This was released in August of `87 (Heather was still alive, HEATHER WAS STILL ALIVE ! ! !) at almost exactly the same time that Robocop and Predator were released in North America, perhaps that compari-daughter will make you see the difference between the breathtaking magnificence of the Hollywood product and the pure unadulterated horse-shit of the British product, the British simply dont know how to make films, for 125 years its been a complete mystery to them, that why literally EVERY film made in Britain since 1889 has been plainly and simply unwatchable ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, its great that you`ve made the excellent decision never to waste your time watching any of Peter Wollens other films, i just wish you`d make the equally important decision never to waste your time watching ANYMORE British made films of any kind ever again, it would certainly put my mind to rest knowing that this superb site was never going to be besmirched or polluted with anymore British made celluloid dog-shit ever again, MAKE THE DECISION NOW MY OLD MATE, NO MORE BRITISH MADE HORSE-SHIT, OK ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

So Ty E, your bird endured 10 minutes of this unwatchable drivel before completely understandably having to leave the room, i dont think the vast majority of people could`ve endured 10 seconds of it without vomiting ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Just putting Tilda Swintons crappy and exceedingly unfortunate British nationality to one side for a mo-girl-t, i was just pondering the fact that the bird looks a bit odd as a middle-aged bird, just as she`ll look even odder as an old bird 30 years from now, the only time she looked 'just right' (as it were) was when she was a young bird in the prime of her life 35 years ago, then she looked like a rather bizarre and mischevious little imp or pixie, what a little darlin` the bird was back in those days, and so ripe for buggery ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Bill Pater-daughter is a Scottish Jock cunt, although i do of course respect his heterosexuality.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Of course something i`ve always disliked about Tilda Swinton is the fact that shes a fag-hag and a fag-enabler, she loves being around odious faggots, the little witch, i think any straight bird (or indeed dyke) who becomes a fag-enabler should be thoroughly ashamed of herself.