May 29, 2015

Pierrot Lunaire: Butch Dandy!

Somewhat ironically, around the same time he was putting together his most mainstream and accessible work to date, Gerontophilia (2013), Canadian-born alpha-homocore auteur Bruce LaBruce (Hustler White, Otto; or Up with Dead People) began assembling what would ultimately be the most experimental, artsy fartsy, obnoxiously avant-garde, and innately inaccessible film of his career to date. Indeed, LaBruce decided to direct an experimental film based on Arnold Schönberg’s atonal melodramatic ‘anti-opera’ Pierrot Lunaire (1912), which he had previously directed a couple of live performance of in March 2011 at the prestigious Hebbel am Ufer (HAU) theatre in Berlin, Germany. While LaBruce had two different performances of the play filmed for posterity, he later decided that he wanted to pay tribute to German Expressionism and silent cinema and got his usual producer, Teutonic pornographer Jürgen Brüning (who has produced virtually all of LaBruce’s films, including The Raspberry Reich (2004) aka The Revolution Is My Boyfriend and L.A. Zombie (2010)), to back the immortalization of his sexually unhinged Schönberg reworking in cinematic form, thus siring a curious celluloid photoplay that seems like it was directed by the bastard broad of F.W. Murnau and Ulrike Ottinger. Of course, aside from featuring the 21 selected poems from Otto Erich Hartleben's German translation of Albert Giraud's cycle of French poems of the same name that were featured in Schönberg’s original version of Pierrot Lunaire, LaBruce’s version features a more prominent parallel story written by the director that was based on a supposed true story/gay urban legend about a Toronto ‘proto-transman’ (female-to-male transvestite) who in 1978 cut off the cock of a taxi driver and attached it to ‘himself’ after his opulent girlfriend’s wealthy father forbid his daughter from seeing him upon learning that he was really a she. For better or worse, LaBruce ultimately assembled what is the most genitally confused (anti)love story since Rainer Werner Fassbinder's singularly tragic masterpiece In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden (1978) aka In a Year of 13 Moons, though the film also seems to pay tribute to the arthouse splatter films of Berlin-based blond beast Jörg Buttgereit (who LaBruce once went on a date with for an episode of the ZDF/ARTE show Durch die Nacht mit... aka Into the night with...). A nightmarishly grotesque (as well as grotesquely nightmarish) tale of transman penis envy where LaBruce pays questionable tribute to Schönberg's supposed love of the Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol with scenes of castration (or “Dick-capitation!” as it is described in one of the film's various inter-titles) and buckets of blood that are splattered across the screen in a somewhat fetishistic fashion, Pierrot Lunaire: Butch Dandy! (2014) is postmodern celluloid at its most literally and figuratively perverse where literal pornography, gutter grade splatter cinema, and Hebraic anti-Romantic musical atonality are combined in such an aberrantly obnoxious and gleefully obscene way that not even Oswald Spengler or Volker Spengler could have foreseen such flagrant and fanatical cultural decay. 

 As someone that has unfortunately seen more films directed by kraut carpet-muncher Monika Treut (Seduction: The Cruel Woman, Gendernauts: A Journey Through Shifting Identities) than I care to admit, I must admit that I find female-to-male transsexuals to be rather repellent in both appearance and character, as if they are gigantic little boys with perennially dry vaginas. Of course, LaBruce decided to go one step further in terms of the eponymous transsexual protagonist of Pierrot Lunaire by also making the character a lowlife wigger from the projects who sports goofy baggy pants and the sort of flashy basketball shoes that could get you shot in certain culturally diverse American cities. Although a sort of medium-length film at 51-minutes, the work features a very scant and superficial storyline that could have easily been told with a 5-minute short, but LaBruce decided to put more emphasis on atmosphere and aesthetics in what basically amounts to a sexually schizophrenic transman psychodrama and operatic orgy of blood where castration, swarthy male strippers, baldheaded capitalist pigs, and Teutonic diva Nico become objects of sick obsession. Indeed, aside from the fact that the lead resembles the butch cyber-dykes of her fiercely fucked films, LaBruce's Schönberg adaptation has much in common with the the works of Austrian transman A. Hans Scheirl (Flaming Ears, Dandy Dust) in terms of its queer Blitzkrieg of nonstop aesthetic aberrance sans the primitive stop-motion animation and kaleidoscopic colors (though LaBruce decided to add color to certain bodily fluids). Notably, for the scenes emphasizing the protagonist’s considerably unhinged mind, LaBruce opted to insert segments from the two different stage performances of Pierrot Lunaire that he had filmed, thus the film has two layers (on top of Albert Giraud's lyrics) that really drive home the tragic mental derangement of the titular lead. Indubitably, LaBruce’s film is probably the closest thing that transmen have to a sort of Tristan and Isolde or Orpheus and Eurydice in terms of tragic romance unless you count mainstream melodramatic twaddle like Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don't Cry (1999). 

 While the lyrics from Schönberg’s original version are sung/spoken in German (lead Susanne Sachße apparently spent 4-6 months receiving voice lessons to prepare for the role), the parallel story written by LaBruce is told via English language inter-titles, thereupon adding another layer to the already eclectically schizophrenic character and culturally mongrelized essence of Pierrot Lunaire, which would probably be nothing short of aesthetic terrorism for most viewers, including those super serious sort of cinephiles that diddle themselves to the latest Criterion Collection cover art. As told via an inter-title at the beginning of the film, “As our story begins, our hero, Pierrot Lunaire, and his girlfriend, Columbine, are out on a date…” Considering Pierrot Lunaire (played by Susanne Sachße, who previously engaged in unsimulated heterosexual sex while portraying the lead in LaBruce’s The Raspberry Reich) is a white woman who pretends s/he is a black man, her idea of a date is watching his lecherous hooker-like girlfriend Columbine (Maria Ivanenko) do a striptease in front of headlights while sipping on vodka inside of her car and yelling crude things at her hoe. Ultimately, Columbine proves to be a sort of cocktease and fails to completely strip for her boyfriend (I guess LaBruce was against having a naked woman in his film), which somewhat disappoints her cock-less and ball-less beau. After their less than eventful date is over, pseudo-pimp Pierrot heads back to his home in the projects and on the way decides to take a leak, thus revealing, “A sandbag for a cock!” Indeed, the pecker-less protagonist complains, “Oh mortal travesty and foul indignity that I must squat to pee!” while urinating in the snow just like any biological girl would (notably, while the film is mostly in black-and-white, LaBruce opted to colorize the urine-covered snow). Poor prick-less protagonist Pierrot also complains, “A curse upon these two onerous appendages!” and “What have I done to deserve such a grievous fate?” upon grabbing her pesky mammary glands while making a strange face that is a cross between abject disgust and melancholy. In a scene featuring the inter-title “Zombie Pierrot!,” Pierrot’s decidedly daunting body dysmorphia is reflected in shots where her face takes on warped shapes worthy of Francis Bacon. Of course, when Columbine’s wealthy father discover that his little girl is dating a chick that wished she had a dick instead of a real mensch and ultimately forbids her from seeing the protagonist, Pierrot's lunacy inevitably reaches murderous proportions. 

 When Columbine’s “fat capitalist pig father” (Boris Lisowski) comes to see Pierrot perform at a sleazy neo-Weimar cabaret, he soon asks “What kind of buggery is this?,” grabs the protagonist’s hidden bandage-wrapped tits, and declares, “I’m going to get to the bottom of this if it’s the last bottom I get to.” After Pierrot’s pants are pulled down, a curious inter-title reading “Wikileaked!” appears and Columbine’s father triumphantly declares, “Just as I suspected! Your mister is a sister!” upon exposing the pseudo-dude that is defiling his daughter. Naturally, Columbine’s father forbids his daughter from ever seeing Pierrot again, telling her, “As far as you’re concerned, Pierrot no longer exists!” and “You will only see him again over my dead body!” While there is no evidence that they have even attempted to have sex with one another, Pierrot is hopelessly in love with his superlatively slutty-looking girlfriend and s/he is willing to do anything to get her back. While watching a super swarthy baldheaded butch bro strip at a queer cabaret, Pierrot has an epiphany and declares, “I know what I must do to win back my love.” In a long and torturous scene emphasizing the protagonist’s rather insane plan, Pierrot is featured lurking around while sporting a strap-on dildo and carrying a butcher knife in a Norman Bates-esque fashion. After declaring, “The hunting ground: a house of burlesque!,” Pierrot watches a male stripper masturbate to the point of ejaculation and declares while watching the unwitting would-be-victim’s cock, “And what a prize package it is!” in a scene that is juxtaposed with a shitty electronic dance song that features trashy lyrics like, “ the name of pussy fixation.” Pierrot’s obsession with cutting off the stripper’s cock is depicted in a variety of grotesque ways, including, “A Glory Hole Guillotine” that castrates the thug-like male whore’s massive member in one swift chop. In another scene emphasizing LaBruce's signature fag fetish for guys and guts, blood is splattered on a triple-screen scene of the male stripper dancing from various angles. Of course, the actual castration is much less romantic than Pierrot thinks it will be. 

 Despite being a pseudo-masculine lowlife wigger of sorts, Pierrot seems to feel a certain degree of kinship with German singer-songwriter and one-time Warhol superstar Nico (aka Christa Päffgen), as s/he visits her grave and acts as if s/he is praying at it for good luck. After pseudo-heroically declaring, “Sweet Columbine! Soon I will prove to your fat capitalist pig father that I’m a real man!,” Pierrot gets involved with “roid rage” and begins shooting steroids in her ass like it is heroin, as if it will give her enough strength to physically overpower a man so that he can chop his member off. When it comes time for Pierrot to finally dismember the male stripper’s member, Pierrot pretends to engage in bum-buggery with the prick-peddler, but things go terribly wrong when the protagonist whips out a straight razor instead of her imaginary cock. Indeed, not only does the male stripper get away totally unscathed with his meaty member left perfectly intact, but he also mocks Pierrot for not having a purple-headed monster of his own, thus leaving the tragic transman exceedingly embarrassed and heartbroken. Ultimately, Pierrot decides to go for a much easier target and cuts of the hoe-handle of a Hindu taxi driver (Krishna Kumar Krishnan). Indeed, while the Indian cabby has a different skin color and his schlong is predictably considerably smaller than that of the male stripper, the colored castrated cock somehow seems like a fitting fit for Pierrot, who stares at the dismembered member with considerable intrigue immediately after hacking it off the hapless Hindu and then thinks to himself, “A cock of one’s own.” After somehow attaching the brown bald-headed bandit to his body, Pierrot heads to his beloved Columbine’s house while sporting a hoodie and looking like Trayvon Martin’s albino doppelganger. When Columbine and her father answer the door after Pierrot knocks, the protagonist proudly displays her new bloody tanned schwantz but the two react by just staring with expressions of abject disgust and shock. As reflected in a dream-sequence that reveals how warped the protagonist’s psyche really is, it becomes clear that Pierrot truly believes that his new stolen flim-flam has turned her into a real man. Of course, one can only speculate where Pierrot and Columbine’s relationship is headed, but it is quite dubious as to whether the protagonist will be able to rise of the occasion when he takes his beloved into the bedroom. 

 While academics claim that the Nazis labeled Arnold Schönberg’s work as “Entartete Musik” (aka “degenerate music”) simply because the composer was a Zionist and member of the Judaic tribe, it had more to do with the fact that his atonal music was considered a pathetic mockery of the medium and nothing short of “cultural Bolshevism” (notably, Schönberg’s Aryan student Anton Webern was a pan-German who more or less supported Nazism, yet his music was criticized for the same reasons as his Hebraic teacher). Indeed, in terms of his subversion and destruction of the Aryan model of music, Schönberg is like what Freud was to psychology, Franz Boas was to anthropology, and Einstein was to physics, hence why he was beloved by the neo-Marxists of the Frankfurt School like Theodor W. Adorno and far-left filmmakers like Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, who cinematically adapted his unfinished opera Moses und Aron aka Moses and Aaron in 1973 and would direct another two films based on the composer’s work. Interestingly, it was not Bruce LaBruce but a Belgradian conductor named Premil Petrovic who is friends with star Susanne Sachße that ultimately came up with the idea to rework Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, yet I think no other film director was better suited for the job as the Canadian homocore auteur indubitably follows in the same counter-tradition of aesthetically obnoxious and anti-pulchritudinous degenerate art. After all, it is quite fitting that a Canadian cocksucker of German descent would defile the work of a heterosexual Hebrew who debased German music and culture. Despite not even really being familiar with the composer’s life or work before taking on the project, LaBruce managed to echo the Expressionistic horrors of the composer’s paintings with Pierrot Lunaire in a fashion that might lead one to believe that the filmmaker is actually a longtime Schönberg fan-boy and not someone that grew up listening to second-rate punk bands. In terms of its theatrical style and emphasis on classical music, the film is indubitably the closest that LaBruce will ever come to obtaining Prussian auteur Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Wagernian ideal of the cinematic ‘Gesamtkunstwerk.’ Arguably most importantly, LaBruce’s Pierrot Lunaire is quite possibly the most potent example as to how far German kultur has degenerated aesthetically, morally, and spiritually since the capitulation of the 6th Army in the Battle of Stalingrad. Indeed, more wanton than the worst of Weimar and more grotesque than the childish caricatures of kraut commie troll George Grosz, LaBruce’s film is truly aberrant apocalyptic art that more than epitomizes the slogan at the 1937 Nazi Entartete Kunst exhibit: “Madness becomes method.” 

-Ty E


Tony Brubaker said...

Bruce LaBruce is a faggot. The bloody disgusting woofter, poofter, fairy, pansy queer, scum-of-the-earth filth.

Tony Brubaker said...

Bruce LaBruce must be annihilated specifically because he is a woofter.

Tony Brubaker said...

Not only must Bruce LaBruce and all his pansy queer technicians be destroyed but all the fairys who appear in his films must also be eradicated. The bloody odious poofs.

Anonymous said...

Ty E, its obvious that this weeks best new release is "San Andreas" simply because it had the most money spent on its production and it has superb special effects.

Tony Brubaker said...

Ty E, i once drew a picture on the wall of a public toilet of me tit-fucking Dolly Parton, the next week i returned to see that my picture and all the other grafitti had been completely painted over, but i always thought how hilarious it must`ve been for the geezer doing the painting over as he looked at the picture, he must`ve thought "what pathetic fucking wanker stood here and drew that ?" but at the same time he must`ve laughed till he fell over, it was such a hilarious picture i wish you could`ve seen it.

Debbie Rochon said...

At 1:15:31 in Tom Savini's quite magnificent 1990 remake of "Night of the Living Dead" dead Johnny is the spitting image of Klaus Kinski.

Tony Brubaker said...