Dec 29, 2014
We certainly live in ugly times where ugliness is worshiped and lauded in the most patently of absurd ways as reflected in everything from TV commercials to sporting events. Indeed, in no other era was it considered normal and even ‘romantic’ to see two obese ogre-like bull-dykes with shaved heads getting married, for mainstream music to be comprised of largely sub-literate race-baiting neo-minstrel ‘singers’ who do not even know how to read a single note of music and ramble on about they or their ‘bitch's’ putrid STD-ridden snatches, and for movies to be polluted by physically and mentally grotesque lard ass Heebs that constantly tell the same two or three scat jokes while swooning over some half-braindead shiksa with pseudo-blonde hair, yet I almost think our contemporary times pale in comparison to the complete and utter abject aesthetic vulgarity of the so-called ‘Swinging Sixties,’ especially in regard to ‘Swinging London’ as depicted in the Brit cult flick Joanna (1968) directed by Czech-Saxon actor and pop singer turned filmmaker Michael Sarne. Probably best known for banging busty blonde bombshell Brigitte Bardot and directing the X-rated box-office bomb Myra Breckinridge (1970) featuring Raquel Welch as a tranny, Sarne started his distinctly uneven directing career with the 31-minute ‘anti-travelogue’ Road to Saint Tropez (1966) starring kraut queer Udo Kier as a gigolo-like boy toy who escorts a horny old MILF around a scenic resort spot in what would be the German character actor’s debut film role. With Joanna, Sarne would prove that he was just as good at whoring out dumb blonde females as he was at charming kraut cocksuckers like Herr Kier. Indeed, the star of the film, South African model Geneviève Waïte, was apparently declared persona non grata in her own then-still-white-ruled nation after appearing in Sarne's first feature-length film due to bringing shame to the fatherland by portraying a spoiled rich bitch that has a love affair with a criminally-inclined woman-beating negro from Sierra Leone. Originally supposed to feature Sarne’s somewhat more beautiful and surely more tolerable then-girlfriend Gabriella Licudi (Herostratus, The Last Safari) as the eponymous lead, Joanna is notable for featuring arguably the single most annoying female protagonist in all of cinema history, which is certainly no surprise when one considers that lead actress Waïte has just as high and squeaky a voice as her similarly loud and lecherous daughter Bijou Phillips (James Toback’s Black and White, Larry Clark’s Bully). Sold by Sarne to the studios as a female Alfie (1966) and based on a real-life nymphomaniac/kleptomaniac that the director personally buggered, the film is a sort of satire of Swinging London where an anti-bourgeois Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) is royally fucked by Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) in a work that reminds the viewer why a good portion of the degeneracy that exists today in the Occident is a direct result of the counterculture era. I certainly dare someone to watch Joanna and not come to the conclusion that the two-headed monster of women’s liberation and sexual revolution were not two of the most decidedly deleterious plagues to hit the West during the post-WWII era.
17-year-old Joanna Sorrin (Geneviève Waïte in her first and thankfully and not surprisingly last lead film role) is the superlatively spoiled daughter of a loving magistrate and she hates her well meaning father despite all the pointless expensive gifts he buys her, so she moves from her home in the country to Swinging London where she can better put to use her twin talents of thievery and lechery under the preposterous pretense of becoming an artist. As soon as the viewer sees Joanna jubilantly jump off her train like a Tourette-addled toddler on a sugar rush upon landing in London, you know she is going to be an insufferable little bratty bitch who makes the titular pixie frog princess woman-child of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (2001) seem semi-tolerable by comparison. Joanna has such a repugnant character that she even annoys her grandmother, who throws her out of her apartment not long after her arrival after getting tired of her whoring, thievery, and incessant rudeness. When grandmother Sorrin asks Joanna about how her father is doing, she sickly fantasizes about daddy dearest as a corpse with his throat slit. Like so many trust fund brats, Joanna is an aspiring artist and she is taking lessons from a blond Nordic teacher named Hendrik ‘Cas’ Casson (German actor Christian Doermer of Georg Tressler’s Teenage Wolfpack (1956) aka Die Halbstarken and Herbert Vesely’s The Bread of Those Early Years (1962) aka Das Brot der frühen Jahre) who, like virtually all the men the protagonist meets, she inevitably screws. Despite proclaiming, “I just loathe married men. My father’s married,” Joanne’s first boy toy in London is a married man with a fancy sportscar named Bruce (Anthony Ainley of The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)), who she soon catches with a more beautiful and sophisticated blonde babe named Angela (Jane Bradbury), so she ditches him for ‘artiste’ Cas, who is also banging a negress with a similarly nauseating high-pitched voice named Beryl (Glenna Forster-Jones). To his credit, Cas is well aware that he is taking advantage of poor young dumb sluts and seems somewhat guilty about it as reflected by his remark, “I get terribly sad sometimes. These girls, they sleep around, going nowhere, meaning nothing. One gets the feeling that all women have achieved by emancipation is the privilege of being laid,” but he has a sort of ‘feminine essence’ about him being an ‘artiste’ and all, thus he provides Joanna with emotional support, even after the two stop being fuck buddies.
Probably seeing her as no real threat since she is black and despite the fact that they both end up sharing the same man, Joanna sparks up a friendship with Beryl, whose black buck big brother Gordon French (Calvin Lockhart of John Landis’ Coming to America (1988) and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990)) is a successful yet criminally-inclined long-legged mack daddy that will ultimately become the protagonist’s main love interest after her various rendezvouses with wimpy white boys gets old. After becoming somewhat irked when Cas confesses that Beryl is better in bed because “she talks less” and that he screws 3-4 different girls a week, Joanna hooks up with a broke ass bro of the hopelessly banal sort named Dominic Endersley (played by the director’s brother David Scheuer of Stuart Cooper’s Overlord (1975)), but that does not last long since she cannot keep her panties on and soon finds herself in bed with a married man whose wife and kids catch them in the act. Luckily, unlike most men in the film, Dominic has enough sense to give Joanna a good slap across the face upon learning of her sexual indiscretions. Meanwhile, through Beryl, Joanna meets an exceedingly effete terminally ill aristocrat named Lord Peter Sanderson (Donald Sutherland), who buggers the black birdd and becomes a father figure of sorts to the protagonist, even taking her and her friends on a luxurious vacation to Morocco where he teaches them how to eat couscous and teaches them about the finer things in life. To show her appreciation for his truly aristocratic generosity, Joanna steals Lord Sanderson a compass and a box of cigars. Ultimately, Lord Sanderson reveals to no one else but Joanna that he only has about a year to live because he hopes that it will help her find some meaning in her “uncommitted” and “pointless” life. When Lord Sanderson sponsors an art gallery showing for Cas, whose style is like Jean Cocteau meets counterculture crud, the art teacher ultimately becomes rich and famous. Unfortunately, Lord Sanderson croaks soon after the gallery showing.
When Lord Sanderson eventually dies, Joanna, who has already done her fair share of whoring in a very short period of time, decides she will attempt to start a new life by becoming monogamous with a relatively successful man, but unfortunately she picks a negro with a violent temper and mob connections. Indeed, Joanna hooks up with Beryl’s brother Gordon, who she absurdly declares her love to by stating, “I wish you were white…because I think I’m falling in love with you […] you frighten me just a bit. Does that make sense? I think you’re going to die or something…And I don’t want to lose you.” Joanna might be a major moron who does not know her ass from her elbow, but her premonitions regarding her love affair with Gordon are more or less spot on. Gordon owns a night club as a result of Lord Sanderson's patronage, but since the wealthy aristocrat is dead, he now has to receive his funding from more unsavory sources. Needless to say, Joanna immediately moves into Gordon’s flat and the two have fun by engaging in miscegenation and shouting “nigger” at scared old white people. Unfortunately, Gordon has various criminal connections and when a nosy neighbor reports him to the police after seeing him beat up a gangster in their apartment, they receive trouble from the cops, who do not take kindly to seeing an uppity opulent negro with a pretty white girl. When a young white cop comes by the apartment to ask Gordon about the brawl, Gordon rudely refuses to cooperate and even slaps the officer in the face, thus resulting in an entire police squad arriving at the flat to question him about his less than civil behavior. Gordon resents cops, especially white ones, and demands that they address him as “sir” since, as he states in a ridiculously contrived fashion, he has been living and paying taxes in London for eight years. Luckily, since Joanna’s father is a respected Magistrate, Gordon manages to get off without any charges even though he assaulted an officer. Of course, Gordon’s belligerent criminal behavior does not end there.
After Gordon is brutally beaten by about half a dozen mob goons, he self-righteously declares, “I’ll get those bastards. I’ll get them one-by-one” and plots his senseless revenge while not considering how it may affect him and his girlfriend's future. Of course, Gordon does not keep his savagery isolated to middle-aged male thugs, as he also beats Joanna for hanging out with Cas, even though he knows they did not have sex. When Joanna asks Gordon why he beat her despite the fact that he knew very well that she did share carnal knowledge with Cas, he replies, “’Cause I am a black bastard and I know what’s best for you,” which ultimately turns the warped white girl on. Shortly after learning that she is pregnant with a mongrel baby, Joanna is approached by two police detectives who say they want to speak with Gordon regarding a murder. Indeed, Gordon got his revenge and crushed one of the crackers who beat him up and now he is a wanted fugitive. After managing to evade the police, Joanna meets with Gordon at a secluded beach house where he sweet talks her like a pimp and tells her things that he knows she wants to hear like how he and she will start a family together in New York City, ultimately reassuring her with the bullshit Snoop Dogg-esque words, “It’s all gonna happen baby, it’s all gonna happen.” Of course, Gordon is soon nabbed by the cops while hiding out in one of Lord Sanderson’s estates in Dublin, Ireland and he is ultimately sentenced to ten years in prison for murder. In the end, Joanna takes a train back to her family home in the country just as she once arrived in a scene that cuts back to an ironic flashback of her father warning her, “Don’t overdo it in London.” To add insult to injury in terms of aesthetic vulgarity, Joanna concludes with a musical number of all the characters in the entire film singing the title song “Joanna” written by American poet turned singer-songwriter Rod McKuen.
Notably, in a 2010 interview featured with the BFI Flipside release of Joanna, director Michael Sarne reveals that, no surprisingly, the real-life girl that he used to ‘date’ that inspired the film met a much darker end than the fictional one in the film. Sarne also reveals in the interview that he intended for the film to be much more ironical than it turned out and that he was hardly attempting to glorify Swinging London with the work, though he hoped the film would act as a sort of celluloid time-capsule of its particular era. Notably, Sarne’s film seems to have inspired a sort of ugly anti-utopian trend of now-obscenely-outmoded Swinging Sixties films about nubile blonde beauties eagerly hooking up with black bucks, as demonstrated by the somewhat bizarre avant-garde black power short Death May Be Your Santa Claus (1969) directed by British Black Panther member Frankie Dymon Jr. (who also opted to use a white South African model for the female lead), as well as the agitprop avant-garde collage piece nEROSubianco (1968) aka Attraction aka The Artful Penetration of Barbara aka Black on White directed by Italian auteur Tinto Brass during his early pre-pornography years. For better or worse, out of all the movies about madly miscegenating 1960s London, Joanna certainly features the most eclectically and eccentrically damning depiction regarding the nihilistic excesses of its ostensibly zany zeitgeist. Unquestionably, for me, watching Sarne’s film was like the cinematic equivalent of suffering the flu or some other illness, as I felt like I was trapped in some sort of disorienting metaphysical hell that totally transcended the physical realm where all my senses were bombarded with a sort of impenetrable feeling of spiritual vulgarity and grotesquery that felt like it would never end, at least until the film had finally concluded. Despite whatever point(s) Sarne might have been trying to make in the film in regard to race relations and the counterculture movement, the only thing I could come away with from the film was that Geneviève Waïte is the most annoying woman in the world and that I feel absolutely blessed that I have only dated mostly reserved and intelligent girls who don’t treat their vaginas like toilets or garbage dumps. Indeed, hidden somewhere in its over-conscious Fellini and French New Wave homage sequences, barf-worthy blue-eyed ballads, pathological fourth wall breaking, and soulless sex and skin scenes is some sort of poignant message about the price of sexual liberation, but it seems to have taken a backseat to the director’s curious obsession with the pseudo-cutesy lead, who one might describe as the ultimate anti-diva and braindead debutante.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:18 PM
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