May 2, 2014

I, a Man

In compensation for the fact that he had lost a screenplay that had been lent to him with the rather tasteful Warhol-esque title Up Your Ass, pansy pop-artist Andy Warhol cast the would-be-screenwriter in his latest film I, a Man (1967). The writer of the screenplay was a deranged bull-dyke named Valerie Solanas—a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and all-around feminist whack-job who urged women to overthrow the government and exterminate all men in her hyper hysterical self-published polemic, the SCUM Manifesto (the acronym meaning “Society For Cutting Up Men”)—and by early 1968 she would try but ultimately fail to assassinate the man who gave her only two acting roles (Solanas would also have a very small cameo in the Warhol production Bike Boy the same year). As for her excuse for wanting to kill the alpha-con-artist, Solanas made two seemingly contradictory statements on two different ocassions: “I just wanted him to pay attention to me. Talking to him was like talking to a chair” and “He had too much control of my life,” probably not realizing that, as Paul Morrissey has mentioned in various interviews, that Warhol was socially retarded, if not downright autistic. Ironically, Solanas botched assassination attempt would contribute to the end of Warhol’s directing career because, aside from the fact that Paul Morrissey was already ghost-directing most of his films by that time, the beloved soup can fetishist would be too afraid to get involved with active art and working hands-on with superstars after his near-death experience, so he focused on more entrepreneurial matters. Indeed, Morrissey began collaborating with Warhol on films in 1965 at the youthful age of 27 by taking creative control over My Hustler (1965) and would secure his place in cinema history a year later by (co)directing the cult classic Chelsea Girls (1966) where he introduced a psychedelic split-screen technique, even though his real directing career had yet to begin. Of course, as a work that, according to Morrissey himself, was apparently shot in one day (mainly at night), I, a Man is not exactly one of Morrissey’s most innovative and remarkable works, but it would act as a prototype of sorts for his iconic anti-counter-culture trilogy (Flesh, Trash, Heat) starring Joe Dallesandro and is thus mandatory viewing for fan’s of the vehemently rightwing auteur’s subversive oeuvre. Apparently, the film was originally supposed to star Jim ‘The Lizard King’ Morrison in the lead role but The Doors singer’s manager was against the idea, so his friend, Hollywood actor Tom Baker (who would later appear in the Italian-French film anthology Love and Anger (1969) aka Amore e rabbia and Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie (1971), among various other obscure art films) took over the job as the leading man and would ultimately have the honor of being verbally berated by meat-beating Sapphic psycho Solanas in a dark stairwell. Like Bike Boy, I, a Man, which is a parody of the prosaic piece of now-forgotten Danish-Swedish erotica I, a Woman (1965) starring Essy Persson, is a work of quasi-anti-sexploitation that follows a handsome but hopelessly dumb and superficial stud as he gets with a bunch of equally vapid chicks and they spend more time insulting one another than doing anything even remotely sexually appealing. An early cockeyed vision of Morrissey’s mockery of ‘toilet culture’, the film features, among other things, lesbo lunatics talking about beating their meat, burnout bohemian babes call their breasts fried eggs, young impotent men proudly proclaiming their love of TV and hatred of literature, and a spontaneous séance given in honor of the late great John Wilkes Booth. Indeed, I, a Man features a cast of pretty vacant characters who talk, talk, talk, yet have nothing to say, thus acting as a sort of movie microcosm for what the whole Warhol Factory was about. 

As can be expected from virtually all of the Morrissey/Warhol collaborations of the mid-to-late-1960s, I, a Man begins just abruptly as it concludes with male bimbo bro Tom Baker sleeping in bed with an annoying chick (Cynthia May) who tells him that he has to leave ASAP as her old fashioned parents are arriving soon, but before he actually leaves, the two mentally/erotically challenged love birds decide to play footsies under the bed. A mundane male whore, Tom begs for everything that he can get for free from the hysterical young lady, including cigarettes, coffee, and a shower. By the end of their little love fest, the girl tells Tom that he should, “Jump out of the window before my parents come.” When Tom, who is now naked and standing in the chick’s kitchen, asks her for some sugar for his coffee, she says “you don’t deserve it” in a rather nasty fashion and throws a cup of java in his face.  Needless to say, Tom leaves after that and goes looking for another dumb dame to exploit with his imaginary charms. On top of the roof a penthouse, Tom proves to the next girl (Stephanie Graves) that he tries in vain to swoon that he cannot even remember the most rudimentary characteristics of her appearance, stating when she puts him on the spot by remaking that he does not even know the color of her eyes, “Yes I do, they're…the same color they were when I met you.” When Tom asks the girl, who lives off the generosity of an older man, if she is a hooker, she simply states, “Well, not really […] I don’t go around and walk the streets,” thus revealing that she realizes that she is a whore of sorts, if not a rather successful one with a loyal sugar-daddy. On his next dull date, Tom hooks up with a feisty fire-crotch (Ingrid Superstar aka Ingrid von Schoffen), who shows him her fairly decent tits (which she calls “fried eggs”), to which he responds, “You should take better care of yourself,” as if he is the living embodiment of god's gift to women. After grabbing one of Ingrid’s breasts and further insulting her appearance, the two attempt to conjure up the spirit of John Wilkes Booth (of course, an infamous real-life assassin will appear later in the film, but no one knew that at the time it was made) during a séance to ask him why he killed Lincoln while the little lady lies on a table with a candle sitting between her legs, but naturally no apparition appears as they clearly have no clue what they are doing. 

The next chick Tom hooks up with is tragic German diva Nico (who only originally agreed to be in the film because she thought her then-crush Jim Morrison would star in it, so she demanded Tom Baker star in the film when the Lizard King opted out), who is undoubtedly the most mild mannered and elegant chick in the entire film (though, it should be noted that, unlike all the chicks who used speed, heroin was Nico’s drug of choice, hence her calm presence). Despite his innate superficiality and unwarranted arrogance, Tom seems to make a true romantic connection with Nico, who treats him with unwarranted warmth and affection, as if she is desperate for true love yet a bit shy at the same time. The next chick Tom visits is a sweet French babe (played by Ultra Violet aka Isabelle Collin Dufresne, who was Salvador Dalí's muse during the mid-1950s until the surrealist introduced her to Warhol in 1963 and she decided to move into the Factory not long after) who tells him to, “blow hot air on my feet.” Tom and Ultra Violet have a short but sweet sensual time that mostly involves them messing around like little children on the latter’s apartment floor. Unfortunately for him, the next young lecherous lady Tom hooks up with, Ivy Nicholson aka ‘Ms. Tigress’ (as she calls herself during the scene), is a bit crazed and proclaims to be strong because she has “Mongol blood” and then proceeds to babble about how Alice in Wonderland is a “funny” and “romantic” novel. Of course, Tom seems no more intelligent, confessing, “I don’t like to read much…I watch a lot of television…which is more exciting.” It should be noted that Ivy was apparently no less emotionally troubled in real-life because, as Tom would later reveal in an interview regarding working with her, “The first time I sensed impending danger was during a scene with Ivy Nicholson. She had stipulated that she would not appear on camera with me in the nude. Shortly after the scene began I walked out of the frame and removed the towel I was wearing in order to put on my pants. Clad only in unlaundered bikini underwear, Ivy exploded in an emotional fury and stormed out of the room in tears, claiming she had been betrayed. I was talking with Warhol, who was very much perplexed by Ivy's behaviour since, as he casually pointed out, 'Ivy'll cut her wrists for me…’.” 

 In the next and arguably most important scene of I, a Man, Tom briefly hooks up with demented dyke Valerie Solanas, yet rather ironically, the actor admitted he had a somewhat nice experience working with the fiercely frigid feminist on the film, stating in an interview, “My third scene was with Valerie Solanas. I felt no personal threat from Valerie. Just the opposite. I found her intelligent, funny, almost charming, and very, very frightened.” Of course, anyone who has actually seen the scene will notice that Solanas seems like anything but frightened as she tries with all her man-woman might to emasculate poor Tom boy. Tom and Solanas have their fleeting encounter in a shadowy stairway (which was apparently shot at the Warhol Factory) and the lethal lesbo proceeds to call the man-whore a “fink” and adds, “You know, you’ve got the most squishiest male ass I’ve ever seen.” Indeed, with her vulgar objectifying remarks and aggressive behavior, Solanas seems like a living parody of the sort of misogynist men she proclaimed to want to exterminate in her manifesto. After Solanas reveals, “It all started in the elevator when I grabbed your [Tom’s] ass,” she confesses “You got me at a weak moment…I’m a pushover for a squishy ass,” but she ultimately proves to be all talk as she abandons Tom because, as she states herself, “I gotta go beat my meat.” While Warhol/Morrissey should have probably ended I, a Man with the Solanas scene, Tom goes to see one more chick, Bettina Coffin, in a brazenly banal scenario that unfortunately takes up the entire final 1/3 of the film. For those viewers looking for fag porn, Tom’s uneventful erotic encounter with Bettina is the only scene where he exposes his cock and balls. Of course, instead of getting an erection and boning babe Bettina, he bitches at the chick for killing cockroaches and her unborn baby (she says she had an abortion because she did not want to marry the father of the child). Shockingly, Tom’s seemingly unending dialogue with Bettina is the only point in the entire film where he makes any sense and gives evidence that his moral compass is not as busted as one initially suspected. In the end, Bettina attempts to call her brother, who she was supposed to meet for dinner but Tom screwed that up, and the film cuts off abruptly. 

 A mind-numbingly mundane window into counter-culture-victimized human crud who unwaveringly support ‘free love’ yet cannot even consummate coitus in a work starring a future rock 'n' roll casualty who would drop dead just like his good bud Jim Morrison via a heroin overdose 15 years after proudly revealing to the entire world that he was an arrogant moron by becoming a one-time Warhol superstar, I, a Man is nothing short of static semi-eccentric celluloid excrement that demonstrates why Paul Morrissey would become one of the most important American cultural critics of his generation. As for murderously gynocentric ‘lone wolf lesbo’ Valerie Solanas, she was apparently embarrassed by her role in the film and would send Warhol a postcard dated August 25, 1967 making the following complaint: “Dear Andy, I’ve been noticing gross misspellings of my name in articles & reviews connected with ‘I, A Man.’ Please note correct spelling.” Of course, after she cowardly shot Warhol (as well as art critic Mario Amaya) on June 3, 1968 in a stereotypically passive-aggressive female manner while the pop-artist was turned around and talking on the phone, Solanas would not have to worry about people misspelling her name, as she was inevitably immortalized with the sympathetic biopic I Shot Andy Warhol (1996) directed by Canadian feminist Mary Harron (who later demonstrated her hatred of white Nordic men with American Psycho (2000)) and starring the equally sub-homely Lili Taylor in the lead role. In fact, Solanas’ performance in I, a Man was reenacted in Harron's horrendous film, with Bill Sage portraying Tom Baker. After serving a mere three-year prison sentence (had she been a man, she would have most certainly had a longer and more agonizing prison stay), Solanas was released in 1971 and would continue to stalk Warhol via telephone, thus she was arrested again in November 1971 and spent the rest of her pathetic life drifting between mental institutions and homelessness. In a classicallly female fashion, Solanas would later express no remorse for her crimes, stating regarding her botched assassination attempt against Warhol, “I consider that a moral act. And I consider it immoral that I missed. I should have done target practice.” As for Warhol, he would fittingly relate the attempt against his life to cinema, stating, “Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there—I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it's the way things happen in life that's unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it's like watching television—you don't feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it's all television.”  Of course, I, a Man, as well as most of the pre-Flesh (1968) films, make real genuine emotions seem like a thing of the past, with the actors being strung-out on speed and always sedentary, and the direction being so innately inept, that the viewer almost suspects they're trapped in some sort of bohemian purgatory of perennial banality. Indeed, if Warhol and Solanas are now in hell together as some might conclude, I would not be surprised if their punishment was to watch unending screenings of I, a Man while listening to the pansy pontificating of poof poet/woman-beater/sod superstar Ondine.

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, whats this films ONLY redeeming quality ?...thats guessed it...first depicts normal heterosexual lust and activity rather than loathsome and odious faggotry.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

This film must`ve already seemed ludicrously out-moded and murderously embarrassing to veiwers in 1967 ! ! !, goodness knows what it would seem like to people today, perhaps like some absurdly anachronistic and appallingly unwatchable celluloid relic from a [thankfully] by-gone era of idiotic nonsense.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Essy Pers-daughter (as the bird was in 1959 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The great thing about "Pauline Hickey - Vintage Erotic Forums" is that they do add new pictures from time to time, if you look through the pages theres some great new ones of her showing her arse-hole, pure magic.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, that new "Mall Hours Cut" of "Dawn of the Dead" on YouTube really would be the ideal version to go for when you reveiw that classic, it`ll also save you another $10 on an unneccessary DVD ! ! !.