Jan 24, 2015

Supergirl - Das Mädchen von den Sternen

When I hear a film described as an “undercooked indie hybrid” of Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris (1963) aka Contempt and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013), I have to admit it sounds more cinematically appetizing than I would like to admit. Indeed, that is how a certain German cinephile described the hopelessly offbeat West German cult flick Supergirl - Das Mädchen von den Sternen (1971) which, despite being advertised as a sci-fi flick upon its initial release over four decades ago and being categorized on imdb.com as a ‘comedy,’ is really a sort of jet-set (anti)romance and post-counterculture ‘cuckold fantasy’ as directed by a dubious dude who seems to get off to seeing ‘mysterious’ underfed women destroying men and turning them into groveling and dejected lovelorn losers of the alcohol-addled sort. Indeed, described as a “Regisseur der Frauen” aka “Director of Women” in his native land of Deutschland, Rudolf Thome (Detektive, Berlin Chamissoplatz) is probably best known for his dystopian counterculture flick Rote Sonne (1970) aka Red Sun, which depicts a crazed cult of fierce feminist cunts who seduce men and then subsequently kill them for sport as if they have been lobotomized by deranged dyke and failed Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas' infamous SCUM Manifesto. While I initially assumed that Red Sun had to be a sort of dry satire of women’s lib and the sexual revolution, apparently Thome’s tongue was not as firmly placed in his cheek as I had once assumed. Indeed, like most of Thome’s early work, Supergirl was penned by Max Zihlmann and is an obscenely outmoded too-cool-for-school film about too-cool-for-school dudes who for fall prey to a much cooler chick that is literally and figuratively out of this world (or something). Like many of the filmmakers associated with the largerly forgotten New Munich Group (aka ‘Neue Münchner Gruppe’) that was later eclipsed by New German Cinema as led by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (who was, somewhat ironically, inspired by NMG filmmakers like Thome and Klaus Lemke as his early cinephile works like Love Is Colder Than Death and The American Soldier demonstrate), Thome was heavily inspired by Godard and his tiresome tendency to fiddle with beaten-to-death old school Hollywood genre conventions, especially relating to film noir. Unfortunately, Thome took this tendency one or two steps further than Godard to the point where there was nothing left except a compulsively quirky and sometimes 'pretty' cross-genre shell of a film that is arguably best exemplified by Supergirl. Despite the film’s title, the work has virtually nothing to do with comic book superheroine of the same name aside the fact that the eponymous chick is from another planet and enjoys reading comic books. A work that transcends Godard’s Alphaville (1965) in terms of its asinine ‘anti-sci-fi’ angle (notably, the film even features a cameo appearance by Eddie ‘Lemmy Caution’ Constantine himself), Supergirl is a rather ridiculous exercise in would-be-style, proto-hipster wit(lessness), postmodern referencing, and pathetic retrograde jet-set degeneracy. For fans of seemingly autistic ass-less and tit-less girls that resemble scrawny preteen boys, heterosexual men that act and look more effeminate than the most flagrantly flaming of queers, and/or a cuisine of clichés about movie clichés, Thome’s quirk-ridden wonder film guarantees to offers the worst (or ‘best,’ depending who you are and what kind of dames you find delectable) of early-1970s kraut post-counterculture cult cinema. 

 As some great generic krautrock blazes in the background (created by Swiss composer Patrick Moraz, who also composed music for Swiss auteur Alain Tanner), a stoic and seemingly possessed young girl (Iris Berben, who previously starred in Thome's Detektive and would go on to have a long acting career) in a strikingly silly yellow jumpsuit emerges from a weed-covered field on the outskirts of Munich as if she is on some sort of mission to murder a bunch of men, or buy an entire new wardrobe. When the mysterious woman reaches a highway, she immediately flags down an exceedingly effete and somewhat overweight 33-year-old playboy in a sports car named Charly Seibert (Nikolaus Dutsch, who looked much more masculine as fascistic cop in Uwe Brandner's I Love You, I Kill You (1971)), who immediately asks the strange young lady regarding her jumpsuit, “Are you not wearing anything under that?,” but she does not reply as she rarely talks, especially when asked specific questions about her life. When chubby Charly brings the curious chick back to his ostensibly hip pad, she immediately strips off her rather unflattering jumpsuit and crawls into a bed where she immediately falls asleep. While digging through the girl’s jumpsuit, Charly finds a Bolivian passport indicating that her name is ‘Francesca Farnese.’ Charly is too much of a pussy to try to fuck Francesca but he does buy her like ten expensive wardrobes while Fassbinder watches from outside and smokes a cigarette in arguably the most ‘subtle’ cameo role in film history and then he takes her to the opulent home of his much more famous and slightly more attractive writer friend Evers (West German counterculture icon Marquard ‘German Belmondo’ Bohm of Thome’s Red Sun and Roland Klick's Deadlock (1970)), who is a depressed dipsomaniac that “loves mysterious women” and is terribly tired of his blonde bombshell superstar wife Elsa Morandi (played by the director’s then-wife, writer/director/producer Karin Thome, who was previously married to underrated auteur Uwe Brandner). Evers is a would-be-romantic of sorts who writes stuff like “He took her in his arms and said, ‘I tried to hate you’” and his latest 1,200-page tome Cynthia is such a big hit that a bigwig Hollywood producer named Polonsky (American actor Jess Hahn in a role that is more likely in tribute to black-listed kosher commie director Abraham Polonsky of Romance of a Horsethief (1971) starring Yul Brynner and Jane Birkin than Roman Polanski) that thinks the film adaptation “will be the biggest hit since DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.” 

 While Evers has no interest in selling his precious book rights to monetary-obsessed Polonsky—a proudly unscrupulous mensch of the cigar-sucking sort that is the complete opposite of his real-life Judeo-bolshevik namesake as a sort of Anglo-American ‘cowboy producer’ who lives to sell-out and cash-in—Francesca tries her damnedest to change his mind. Although not revealed until later on in the film, Francesca was apparently “born on the third planet of the Alpha Centauri system” and she was sent to earth to stop a rival political party from her home planet from attacking and colonizing earth. The daughter of the president of her planet, Francesca was part of an important expedition that was sent to earth to warn earthlings of an impending attack from the rival political party, but instead of landing in Washington D.C. to warn the President of the United States as intended, her spaceship crash-landed in West Germany and she was the only survivor. Through Evers’ connection to Polonsky—a relatively powerful man with many political connections who is good friends with a U.S senator—Francesca hopes to be able to warn the U.S. President before things are too late. Unfortunately for her, Francesca is treated like a cute and delicate little social-climbing slut by everyone she meets, especially Polonsky, who wants to make her his new Warholian ‘superstar,’ hence the title of the film. Meanwhile, Evers just wants to get into Francesca’s out-of-this-world underwear, but she seems more interested in reading Marvel comics than being dined, wined, and defiled by a famous writer with a self-destructive fetish for “mysterious women.” As a result of Francesca’s influence, Evers eventually agrees to sell his book rights to Polonsky, so the two (non)lovers both fly to Spain to meet with the producer. Unfortunately, Francesca becomes increasingly paranoid upon arriving in Spain as she suspects a black Cadillac is following her, but as Polonsky’s driver tells her in what is easily the most rather retarded movie cliché of the entire film: “You watch too many movies.” 

 While Polonsky says “Who’s the girl? Hire her immediately!” upon being introduced to Francesca, the producer soon decides to use “Gestapo methods” to find out more about the personal background of the intriguing young lady and soon learns that her Bolivian passport is a fake and that there is no record that she even exists, as she has no social security number or any other sort of official records to her name. When Polonsky introduces Francesca to his U.S. Senator friend at her urging, the Supergirl makes a major ass of herself by telling him that she is an extraterrestrial from another planet that has come to warn him about an impending attack against earth. Meanwhile, at the same party, drunken Evers slaps his wife Elsa in front of a large number of people and is soon manhandled for daring to hit a ‘lady.’ After the party, Evers shoots and kills a super swarthy and seemingly anorexic man with long black-hair that has been following Francesca around Germany and Spain, though he does it not to protect her but because he is jealous of the fellow and suspects it might be her husband. After the senseless killing, Francesca reveals to Evers her true identity as a literal ‘Supergirl’ from outerspace, as well as the fact that the man he has killed was one of her extraterrestrial comrades who has been following her to warn her about their enemies. After Francesca tells Evers her long and seemingly preposterous story about the Alpha Centauri revolution and then pleads with him to take her to Moscow, the thoroughly inebriated writer responds predictably by stating, “You read too many comics.” 

 When Francesca and Evers go back to Munich after their strange aborted scenic yet sexless ‘vacation’ in Spain, they still fail to commence coitus, though the writer still has not given up. Meanwhile, the sinister black Cadillac continues to follow Francesca everywhere she goes. After another failed night of pathetically attempting to get into Francesca’s panties that concludes with the extraterrestrial debutante falling asleep early and subsequently spastically tossing and turning as if suffering a seizure-inducing nightmare, Evers decides to go by his fellow playboy pal Charly’s pad to get good and drunk while complaining about his impossible failed love affair with the Supergirl. While Charly tells Evers how everyone in their clique thinks that Francesca is completely insane due to her ‘war of the worlds’ story and that Polonsky no longer wants to cast her in his upcoming film, the Supergirl buys a dozen or so comics from a newspaper stand in Munich. Charly also attempts to convince Evers to reconcile with his wife Elsa, but he is not hearing it and states to his friend while the two are both stinking drunk: “I don’t like you, Charley. I never liked you. You’re a revolting pig. You’re somewhat a regular human being.” In an ‘open ending’ of the rather anti-climatic sort, Francesca voluntarily gets inside the black Cadillac that has been chasing her during the entire film, but not before trashing her comics, and assumedly disappears from planet earth forever. In the end, lovelorn drunkard Evers goes on the balcony of his lavish mansion and stares up into the sky as if to mourn the fact that he never got to bugger the seemingly autistic Supergirl. 

 With its oftentimes pathetically drunk too-cool-for-school effeminate male characters, seemingly braindead cipher-like sex-starved beauties, incessant ‘offbeat’ humor, slow-burning melancholy and even misanthropic tone, and exotic locations and partial Spanish setting, not to mention cameos from Fassbinder and Eddie Constantine, Supergirl largely feels like a bare bones bargain bin version of Beware of a Holy Whore (1971), albeit with a preposterous sci-fi angle and minus the meta-cinematic elements that made the ‘anti-theater anti-film’ so intriguing. Ironically, Thome attempted to get Fassbinder to produce his film, once writing in West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices (1988) edited by Eric Rentschler: “I was in a jam. Distressed, I sought out Fassbinder, who just had received the Federal Film Prize in Gold and 650,000 marks for his second feature film, KATZELMACHER. I asked everyone I knew. Finally Karin found a rich private source in Hamburg who was willing to lend us part of the money (125,000 marks). We went on to make SUPERGIRL with this money.” Thome would also write regarding the public reaction to the film: “The production was a technical tour de force […] The final version was accepted and I'm not exaggerating when I say that the TV editors were excited. The film was aired in March and I received numerous crank calls from people who threatened all kinds of things. They thought I was putting them on. They thought that I wasn't serious about the story of SUPERGIRL, this girl from another planet.” Like the West German public of the early 1970s, I also had a very, very hard time taking the film seriously, but after reading Thome’s own words, I am going to have to take his word for it and assume that he is a strange and emasculated dude that seems more aroused by the prospect of by led on by a mysterious girl that he cannot have than actually manning up and showing a lady a good time with his cock. Indeed, somehow it is hard for me to watch a film like Supergirl where a rich and famous playboy writer somehow cannot manage to get the girl he wants in bed without thinking the director is some sort of majorly masochistic cuckold. After Supergirl, Thome began working on a film entitled Rio Guaniamo about “two friends who take off for Venezuela one day to hunt in the jungle for diamonds” that he absurdly anticipated would be produced by Columbia Pictures, but the Hollywood studio predictably blew him off and the auteur would later complain regarding the fact that his Bavarian comrade Werner Herzog actually managed to finish his own exotic South American epic: “That was right at the time when Herzog was making AGUIRRE and Antonioni was working on a film about the half-overgrown Amazon city, Manaos, which around 1900 had had one of the largest opera houses in the world. Unfortunately only Werner finished his film. I never forgave him for not showing the jungle as I imagined life in the jungle.” Of course, it is easy to see after watching Supergirl why Herzog and Fassbinder went on to do great things and create great cinematic masterpieces while Thome soon fell into obscurity and never again achieved the fleeting popularity and success he did with Red Sun.  Indeed, luckily films featuring German guys wearing colorful queer scarfs and purple shirts soon fell out of fashion.

-Ty E

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