It must suck to be an enterprising young auteur filmmaker with a seemingly bright future who rejects a young man’s application for becoming your meager assistant director, only for that young man to later not only become more popular than you, but also the most popular, successful, and important filmmaker of your zeitgeist. Indeed, that is exactly what happened to German auteur Marran Gosov (Angel Baby, Wonnekloß), who probably had no idea that the young whippersnapper that wanted to be his AD, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, would go on to become the most important filmmaker of the post-WWII era and that his career would more or less fall apart during the early 1970s. The progeny of a Bulgarian father and a German mother (his birth name is ‘Tzvetan Marangosoff’) who originally wanted to be a painter but discovered that he enjoyed writing even more after penning a novel in prison after clashing with the commie Bulgarian government, Gosov relocated to West Germany in April 1960, in part due to his loathing of Soviet style Marxist authoritarianism, and eventually settled in Munich in 1964 where he directed the first of no less than 27 short films which he would make between 1964 and 1978. While most revered in the filmmaking world for his shorts (none of which are currently available anywhere, even in Germany, and can only be seen when they are occasionally shown in large German cities), Gosov also made an initially fruitful attempt at commercial filmmaking, ultimately directing five feature films, beginning with Engelchen - oder die Jungfrau von Bamberg (1968) aka Angel Baby, which was an extended reworking of the director’s short Sabine 18 (1967) about a little lady who wants to lose her virginity in a desperate attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend(?!) and was a surprise hit, and concluding with Wonnekloß (1972) aka Spiel mit Bulle, which was a huge flop that the auteur made the mistake of funding mostly with his own private savings. Thanks to a certain Nuremberg-based cinephile, who also provided what little info I was able to find on the filmmaker, I was recently able to see Gosov’s second feature Zuckerbrot und Peitsche (1968) aka Sugar Bread and Whip aka Gangster Love which, like the director’s first feature Angel Baby and the third feature The Sex Adventures of a Single Man (1968) aka Bengelchen liebt kreuz und quer, was produced by prolific Dutch producer Rob Houwer, who is probably best known for producing the pre-Hollywood arthouse works of Paul Verhoeven like Turkish Delight (1973), Soldier of Orange (1977), and The Fourth Man (1983), and who also produced important New German Cinema works like Peter Fleischmann’s anti-Heimat flick Hunting Scenes from Bavaria (1969) aka Jagdszenen aus Niederbayern and Mike Verhoeven’s undeniably amateurish yet gritty anti-Vietnam War artsploitation flick O.K. (1970) featuring Fassbinder superstar Eva Mattes portraying a raped and murdered gook gal.
Like his comrade Klaus Lemke (who appeared in Sabine 18 and whose screenplay Gosov reworked for his fourth feature Der Kerl liebt mich - und das soll ich glauben?), Gosov belonged to the largely forgotten ‘New Munich Group’, which was eventually eclipsed by New German Cinema, even though the former would influence filmmakers involved with the latter (especially Fassbinder, whose debut 1969 feature Love Is Colder Than Death is blatantly influenced by the NMG genre-warping style), with Sugar Bread and Whip being ‘typical’ of the movement as an overtly offbeat genre-defiling (anti)gangster flick set in a late-1960s ‘Swinging Munich’ backdrop of jaded jet-set degeneracy, darkly humorous libertine criminality, and doomful absurdist (anti)romance. Starring actor and fellow New Munich Group auteur Roger Fritz (Mädchen, Mädchen aka Girls, Girls, Mädchen... nur mit Gewalt aka The Brutes)—a handsome fellow that once resembled a sort of Teutonic Joe Dallesandro, except much taller, who is probably best known to American filmgoers for playing the treacherous mustached crypto-cocksucker traitor Lieutenant Triebig in Sam Peckinpah’s The Cross of Iron (1977)—and the star’s then real-life wife Helga Anders (Vojtech Jasný’s 1976 Heinrich Böll adaptation Ansichten eines Clowns aka Clowns), Sugar Bread and Whip is the darkly mirthful and audaciously absurd yet melancholic and Weltschmerz-rattled tale of a disillusioned cigarette ad model turned amateur drug dealer and murderous jewelry store robber who has a doomed fleeting romance with a young rich bitch of a fiercely frigid femme fatale with a reluctantly self-cuckolded husband who gets off to the idea of his much younger wife blowing other men, though he would never actually admit it. A film that will appeal to gangster film lovers and haters alike (personally, I couldn't care less about the subgenre), Gosov’s film is a potent reminder of how a bunch of relatively unknown Bavarian quasi-avant-gardists beat commie frog fanboy Jean-Luc Godard at his own game in terms of defiling and molesting Hollywood genre conventions.
Opening with a “pop art” montage of the antihero Roger Klaus (Roger Fritz) shooting his machinegun and then succumbing to imaginary bullets in an intentionally superficial and satirical advertisement-like scenario where the character’s robotic body movements resemble that of a mannequin in stop-motion, Sugar Bread and Whip immediately establishes an absurdist anti-realist tone that disguises a sort of foreboding melancholia that is just beneath the surface. The opening credit montage concludes with the revelation that “Even dead men smoke.” Indeed, Roger is a super suave but equally somber iconic model of a popular cigarette brand called “Top Ten,” though he personally likes to roll his own cigs, which he does before committing robberies. Roger became a robber after becoming fed up with the fact that he is featured in ads with fancy cars and villas yet he does not actually own these status symbols in real-life, thus he has taken it upon himself to obtain his own Bavarian version of the American dream. As a hashish abuser, Roger may have also had the idea to start strong-arming jewelry stores and banks after suffering some sort of drug psychosis. At the beginning of the film, Roger enters a jewelry store while sporting a trench coat and ski mask, smashes all the glass display cases, steals all the best jewelry, and then shoots the store clerk when he makes the mistake of attempting to press the emergency alarm. The robbery is witnessed by a spoiled and sexually frigid pixie-like broad named Helga Arnold (Helga Anders), who lies to the police and tells them that the robber hit her while withholding the fact that said robber dropped a small musical instrument, which she decides to keep as a souvenir. Helga is married to a stinking rich art dealer/gallery owner named Robert Arnold (actor and sometimes TV director Harald Leipnitz of the 1965 Kraut-Yugoslav western The Oil Prince aka Der Ölprinz and exploitation trash like Franz Antel’s “Sexy Susan” series), with whom she bore a young lederhosen-adorned son that she rarely acknowledges aside from when she is giving violent puppet shows inspired by Roger's robberies. Since hubby Robert, who seems more interested in seeing his spouse being defiled by other men than doing the job himself, will not have sex with her, Helga derives most of her pleasure from playing with her beloved tortoise Markus, whose shell she likes petting while she is lying naked on a fancy fur rug. It does not take Helga long to realize that she also derives pleasure from seeing Roger commit blood-splattered bank robberies.
When not shooting cigarette advertisements where he declares “Love the French way, smoke the English way” and avoiding two gangster brothers, scar-faced sadist Jörg (Jörg Jung of Roland Klick’s brutal 1968 cult classic Bübchen and Hans W. Geissendörfer’s 1970 ‘anti-Heimat’ Dracula reworking Jonathan) and big buffoon Helmut (Helmut Hanke), Roger is attempting to bang Helga, who is aroused by his criminality but is too much of a spoiled ice queen to let the model turned coldblooded murderer penetrate her posh pussy. Meanwhile, Helga’s husband Robert seems to be taking as much interest in his wife’s non-romance with Roger as she does. The closest Roger even comes to sharing carnal knowledge with Helga is slapping her on the face and feeling up her tits while she ‘attends’ his various robberies, where the model/murderer senselessly kills at least one person because he knows it turns on his would-be ladylove. Meanwhile, Roger literally and figuratively dodges the bullets of the two gangster brothers who want revenge against the cigarette model for killing their third brother. Apparently, the gangster family began stalking Roger after he confronted the men because they owed him money for 50,000 marks worth of hashish he fronted to them and killed one of the brothers after brother Jörg began shooting at him. As a result of ‘scarface’ Jörg’s erratic behavior, Roger also ends up killing brother Helmut in a parking garage shootout after the brother makes the mistake of shooting at the model while he has a gun pointed at the fat bro’s head. Notably, two young cap-gun-wielding preteen brothers witness the shootout in a scenario that seems to highlight the fact that gangsters live in a perpetual state of childhood
Eventually, Roger gets tired of Helga’s perennial cockteasing, calls her a “little bitch,” and tells her to fuck off. Of course, that does not stop Helga’s husband Robert from hounding Roger after seeing his wife getting all hot and bothered while watching the murderous model mug one man and shoot another. Just to fuck with Robert, Roger lies and tells him that he has been screwing Helga when he asks, which ultimately turns the art dealer on so much that he goes home and screws his wife while asking her for details about her nonexistent extramarital affair. Although too seemingly borderline retarded to be a successful femme fatale (her hubby does not call her a “bird brain” for nothing), Helga comes up with a plan to get away from her husband and run away with Roger. After attempting to make up with Roger by telling him “I like you,” Helga reveals that her husband is having a big gallery showing that will be attended by various wealthy politicians and industrialists and their wives. While proclaiming to Helga that he has quit the armed robbery trade and is planning to move to England where he will make a living continuing to model, Roger shows up to the art show in his trademark ski mask, robs all the patrons, and shoots Robert dead when he makes a pathetic and rather anticlimactic attempt to stop him. Before being blown away with a machine-gun, Robert demonstrates ‘Entartete Kunst’ is once again vogue in Germany by giving a speech on the so-called “art of the fantastic” and and Swiss-German painter Paul Klee (whose use of dry humor seems to have influenced auteur Gosov). Upon getting in his getaway car after the robbery, Roger finds Helga sitting in the passenger seat and while the two are almost gunned down by surviving gangster brother Jörg, the two go home and finally commence coitus in what should be a happy ending. Of course, since Roger has yet to obtain passports to get him and his ladylove out of the country, the two still have plenty of time for their budding love affair to be destroyed by the last remaining gangster, Jörg. After proclaiming their “like” for one another, Helga leaves Roger’s flat and discovers a newspaper about her husband’s death in the art gallery, so she decides to screw over her lover by calling the police, but just before she does, Jörg catches her and takes her hostage. Ultimately, Roger is killed in his Aubrey Beardsley painting adorned flat after Jörg shoots him in the eye after he looks through the peephole of his front door upon Helga showing the gangster where her boy toy lives. In the end, Helga, like all femme fatales and most women in general, is left unscathed and goes back to her deceased husband’s fancy mansion.