Sep 19, 2014

Twice a Man




Although a generalization, it seems to be the common consensus that most homos either have mothers they love a little too dearly or that they love to hate, with the common theme here being that gay boys have unhealthy relationships with their mommies that may have contributed to them developing into gynophobic sexual introverts. Indeed, from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) to more recent works like Tom Kalin’s Savage Grace (2007) and Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother (2009) aka J'ai tué ma mère, hysterical female hormones seem to be  a major source of homo cognitive dissonance and sexual perversion in general in the cinematic realm. Unquestionably, one of the most innately bizarre, pathologically hermetic, unflatteringly vulnerable, and decidedly discombobulating, if not strangely aesthetically delectable, works of anti-Oedipal homo hysteria is the American experimental avant-garde work Twice a Man (1964) directed by rather reclusive Greek-American auteur Gregory J. Markopoulos (Psyche, The Illiac Passion), who, with the help of his disturbingly possessive boy toy Robert Beavers—a filmmaker with a similar, albeit strikingly inferior, 'transcendent' vision—made his entire oeuvre completely unattainable after moving to Greece in the late-1960s. Indeed, one of the most inventive and singular experimental filmmakers associated with the New American Cinema movement who also contributed his original film theories to Film Culture magazine and taught film at Art Institute of Chicago, Markopoulos—a strange and rather introverted fellow who, like many gay men, suffered a terribly debilitating form of paranoia—and his majorly megalomaniacal blowboy Beavers left America in 1967 for permanent relocation in Europa and shortly after that the filmmaker took all of his films out of circulation, refused to talk to the media, and even went so far as insisting that avant-garde film historian P. Adams Sitney remove a chapter on him from the second edition of the classic text Visionary Film. By the early 1970s, Markopoulos fell further and further into a fantasy world of his own making as demonstrated by the increasingly metaphysical nature of his writings and the fact that he would only screen his films in a ritualistic fashion at a special ceremonial theater in Lyssaraia, Greece (the homeland of his parents) in the hope of obtaining his ideal of ‘Temenos.’ Luckily, I managed to find a copy of Twice a Man because it was once screened on German television by the Cologne-based channel WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln) and some gracious kraut had the keen foresight to tape it. A 49-minute work shot on 16mm color film stock by the director with a borrowed camera and with the help of a mere two assistants in and around New York City, Markopoulos’ singular masterpiece is a darkly romantic, terribly haunting, and malignantly melancholy homoerotic reworking of the Phaedra/Hippolytos/Aesclepius myth that centers around an ‘artist/physician’ (supposedly, a stand-in for the director himself) who reminisces over attempting to save a suicidal young man who become his lover from his incestuous homo-hating mother. 



 If there ever was a film that was ridden with the soul-stirring sting of tragic memory and lovelorn regret, it is Twice a Man, which incorporates an incessantly spastic use of montage involving single-frame images to demonstrate in a quasi-subliminal way how the wounds of the past perennially bleed over into the present, or as the director himself described regarding his dream of creating a new cinematic language, he wanted to assemble: “a new narrative form through the fusion of the classic montage technique with a more abstract system.”  Of course, the director's abstract system is surely not for the uninitiated, as it is an arcane cinematic language that demands study.  After the beauteous title sequence featuring what seems to be pagan architecture, a couple minutes of a completely blank pitch black screen is juxtaposed with the sound of heavy rain drops hitting concrete, thus inducing a feeling of dreary monotone melancholy in the viewer. From there, the film cuts to shots of tragic gay boy Paul (played by Paul Kilb, whose sole other film credit is for Paul Morrissey’s classic 1971 Women’s lib satire Women in Revolt) reminiscing over his loneliness while in the company of happy heterosexual couples dancing. After his lonely and less than nostalgic ferry ride, Paul heads to the roof of a building where he contemplates jumping off, but a handsome ‘Artist-Physician’ (Albert Torgesen), who is depicted in a previous scene looking on all forlorn on a ferry, that more or less looks like an older version of himself comforts the world weary twink by placing his hand over his shoulder, so he opts out of suicide, at least for now. 



 As demonstrated by a subsequent scene where he goes to his mother’s home in Staten Island and she asks him, “Why do you keep seeing [him]?,” as well as a montage where he is clearly being penetrated from behind while feeling the metaphysical scorn of his unpleasant progenitor, Paul is carrying on an affair with the ‘Artist-Physician’, whose memory the film seems to be recollecting, even though the work is mainly shot from the perspective of the young man. Essentially, Twice a Man is an archaic pre-Stonewall gay ‘coming-out’ film that viscerally depicts the foreboding angst that young man Paul suffers as a result of his pathologically prying mother’s traumatic influence. Indeed, it is not without reason that the mother is depicted as both a young woman (played by mainstream Greek-American Academy Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis of Moonstruck fame in her first film role) and an old woman (played by English actress Violet Roditi in her first and sole film), as her damaging influence on Paul began during his critical years and lingers today.  Likewise, Paul's subversive sexuality has destroyed his mother and she must live with the internal scars of his actions for the rest of her miserable bourgeois life as a lonely woman who will never be a grandmother.  Unquestionably, the mother is the figurative cock-block in poor Paul’s forsaken fag soul. Indeed, even while being buggering in the woods, Paul cannot get his mother out of his mind, thus she has more or less figuratively killed him as he is incapable of living as the person that he is really is.  While Paul does die at sea, it is not clear as to whether or not he committed suicide or merely was a victim of accidental circumstances.  After dying, Paul is reborn in a scene where his naked classically posed body is illuminated in a golden-white cosmic sphere of sorts, hence the title of the film.  Of course, the viewer will not realize this unless they pay particularly close attention, as the film lacks any sort of discernible chronology and portrays the mind as it really is as a collection of sometimes vivid but largely fading memory fragments.



 No doubt, after watching Twice a Man, one can empathize with Norman Bates to a degree when it comes to the metaphysical disease of mommy-mania.  Indeed, while the mother in the film is largely responsible for the character Paul's aversion to women, she also dares to spite him for the gynophobia and androphilia that she, at least partially, induced in what amounts to a vicious circle of anti-Oedipal obsession among the perturbed protagonist. While largely cryptic, the film is riddled with homoerotic imagery and symbolism, which led me to conclude that the director learned to hide his homosexuality at a young age and found esoteric ways to express his homophilia, hence his mastery of the largely visually symbolic and allegorical medium of film. Unquestionably, one of the more revealing examples of the film's semi-hidden homosexual essence is a shot of Paul holding a copy of the book The Prince of Darkness & Co. (1961) by Canadian poet/translator Daryl Hine who, on top of being an arcane poetic poof of sorts, shared director Gregory J. Markopoulos’ affinity for Greek mythology and classic European literature/poetry as demonstrated by the fact that he translated Homeric Hymns and works by ancient Greek poet Hesiod, as well as works by German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine. Markopoulos also incorporated various pieces of art in the film to highlight his homosexuality as demonstrated by a scene where Paul and the ‘Artist-Physician’ stand in front of a nude male statue, with the penis of the statue being in between their faces. In a scene in the se(a)men-fetishizing spirit of the director’s cocksucker contemporary Kenneth Anger (Fireworks, Scorpio Rising), Paul stands next to a painting of a young sailor, with the face of the seaman staring at him if as he wants to defile the young lad after a long hard day of sailing the seas. With Markopoulos’ utilization of ancient pagan imagery, one also gets the feeling that he longs for a bygone ancient utopia where ‘boys could be boys’ and be buggered by older men, hence the director's strong attachment to his Greek roots, self-imposed exile to Greece where he could by influenced by the ancient classical landscape, and his lifelong obsession of realizing his ideal of ‘Temenos.’ 



 While Markopoulos’ work, especially his unconventional use of montage, has been somewhat rightfully compared to everyone from his contemporary Stan Brakhage (Dog Star Man, Mothlight) to French auteur Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad, Muriel), I think that German New Cinema dandy Werner Schroeter (Eika Katappa, Willow Springs) shares the most cinematic and poetic ‘kindredness’ with the equally arcane filmmaker. Indeed, aside from their mutual love of the Southern European Mediterranean, totally idiosyncratic style of ‘queerness,’ utilization of divas, love of classical art and ancient mythology, seeming hatred of chronology and linear plots, unnerving utilization of dissonant noise and obscured dialogue, and propensity for making some of the most esoterically personalized and impenetrable homo hermetic cinematic works ever made, Twice a Man seems like it could have been one of Schroeter’s early films (notably, Schroeter was inspired by Andy Warhol, whose Italian-American Superstar Gerard Malanga briefly appears in Twice a Man). Of course, in creating his own fantasy world and idealized occult utopia as influenced by the ancient Greeks and focusing on beautiful Adonis-like men, Markopoulos also shares much in common with gay German Conservative Revolutionary poet Stefan George. Indeed, while Twice a Man may be an undeniably queer flick, its influences demonstrate that Markopoulos was a born traditionalist who eschewed any sort of deracinated cosmopolitan world inhabited by raceless and cultureless beings and looked to the past for his ideal of beauty, even if he was one of the foremost pioneers of American experimental cinema.  While mere speculation on my part, one has to wonder if Markopoulos saw his self-imposed exile as a sort of rebirth in the spirit of Paul in Twice a Man, as both men ultimately escape from their backgrounds and identities.  Indeed, while the ‘Artist-Physician’ character might be a stand-in for the director, Paul, who somewhat resembles Markopoulos as a young man, seems like a depiction of the filmmaker's younger and more naive self.  Either way, there is no denying that Markopoulos poured out his soul for Twice a Man, as a film that is so distinctly dejecting, dreary, and disconnected from society as a whole that no man would dare to make it unless they felt the undying need to express their inner torment, thus it should be no surprise that the auteur eventually decided to sever contact with most of humanity and enter a fantasy realm of his own making a couple years after the film was released.



-Ty E

8 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

ALL FAGGOTS MUST DIE. (completely irrespective of the rea-daughter why they became woofters in the first place).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Homo-hating", i love that phrase.

DIONYSOS ANDRONIS said...

MARKOPOULOS ALSO DIRECTED IN THE BEGINNING OF THE SIXTIES AN ADAPTATION OF GREEK's NOVELIST "SERENITY" WHICH WAS NEVER REALLY SCREENED BECAUSE OF GREAT PROBLEMS BETWEEN ITS PRODUCER. AT THE SAME TIME KENNETH ANGER AFFRONTED THE SAME PROBLEMS WITH THE FRENCH PRODUCER OF "HISTOIRE D'O" (BASED ON THE SAME NOVEL). SO WE CAN ARGUE THAT SINCE THE SIXTIES (till today) EVEN THE GREATEST UNDERGROUND DIRECTORS LIKE ANGER AND MARKOPOULOS WERE CONDEMNED BY THE PRODUCERS.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, just with regards to what you were saying about the nature of memory, my memorys of June 1988 and my first ever veiwing of Poltergeist III with an audience in Los Angeles are so clear, every time Heather appeared on the screen it was a surreal and astonishing experience for the entire packed house, sure there was a sense of sadness but there was also an incredible kind of exhileration that we were watching a legend in the making, that Heathers death hadn`t been in vain, that she would go on to become an incredible legendary figure long after hundreds of other living actors and actresses had been forgotton (as she has done). Of course i`ve seen Poltergeist III hundreds of times since then but that very first veiwing will always be an astounding memory for me, thanks for helping me to recall those memorys so vividly Ty E.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

DEATH TO ALL PANSY QUEER BASTARDS.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Hey DIONYSOS, faggots should ALWAYS be condemned (preferably to death) w-HEATHER they are film-makers or not ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

All woofters must be systematically eradicated from the planet, the bloody disgusting pansy queer filth.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I know you`re probably a little bit young to re-twat-er Ty E, but just imagine being in the first house on the first day of release (the way i was) of Poltergeist III on June 10th 1988, it was so incredibly unbelievable and astonishing. A quite surreal and mind-bogglingly astounding experience, seeing Heather on screen that day was perhaps akin to seeing God, witnessing the stunning beauty of the most gorgeous little girl who ever lived but knowing that she would never appear in any other movies, it was indeed like a religious experience. Oh Heather, Heather, Heather, why did you have to leave so soon ! ?, there will never be another Heather O`Rourke she was totally unique perfection.