May 11, 2015
Like a lot of guys, I have never understood the appeal of runaway and fashion models as I am not attracted to women that are only a couple inches shorter than me and lack an ass and tits (indeed, I can proudly say without exaggeration that my girlfriend has a delectably large and shapely derrière that goes perfectly with her equally immaculate true hourglass shape and nice and firm busty bosoms), but then again I am not a fag or a woman like most people that work in and/or follow fashion. Indeed, I am convinced that the homos that run the fashion industry are interested in tall beam-shaped women because they remind them of awkward and gawky teenage boys, but I digress. I must admit that there is at least one famous supermodel that I respect and my interest in her is completely accidental and purely the result of the fact that she just happened to be in a number of classic European arthouse works that I have seen over the past decade or so. Indeed, Prussian-born supermodel turned actress turned artist Veruschka von Lehndorff (real name ‘Vera Gottliebe Anna Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinort’) has lived a totally unbelievable stranger-than-fiction life that is more melodramatic than the starkest and most tragic of Sirkian and Harlanian melodramas, or as the almost lethally lanky and alien-like diva stated herself, “My story seems like a horrible fairytale.” Indeed, this is one of the many confessions that Veruschka makes in the documentary Veruschka - Die Inszenierung (m)eines Körpers (2005) aka Veruschka: A Life for the Camera, which is notable for being the first film that lapsed Warhol superstar auteur Paul Morrissey had directed in almost twenty years since he released his classic Guido comedy Spike of Bensonhurst (1988) starring Hebraic philistine Sasha Mitchell (the filmmaker would also direct the impossible-to-find feature News from Nowhere (2010) five years later after the release of the doc). Co-directed by the eponymous star’s friend and sometimes photographer Bernd Böhm, the doc tells the uniquely unbelievable story about how Veruschka went from a homeless aristocrat interned in a concentration camp at the age of five after her Count father was executed for his involvement as a resistance fighter connected to the 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler to becoming arguably the most famous and prolific supermodel in all of human history. Although I cannot say that I was all that surprised to learn these things as someone that has seen her esoterically autobiographical work Veruschka - poesia di una donna (1971) directed by her then-boyfriend Franco Rubartelli and her pleasantly preposterous performance in drag as the titular character in Ulrike Ottinger’s Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse (1984) aka Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press, Morrissey's particularly provocative collage-like doc—a film that is notable for featuring excerpts taken straight from new restored 35mm prints of Rubartelli's Veruschka and Ottinger's Dorian Gray, as well as various other insanely rare cinematic works and documents—reveals Veruschka to be a haunted and guilt-ridden woman who finds it to be quite therapeutic to hide behind various self-created personas and who is still just a “timid little girl” who has yet to get over the brutal murder of the father that she barely got to know. Indeed, Veruschka might be an insanely famous and wealthy supermodel who still models despite being well over three times the age of the average model, but she is also a barren woman who, unlike her sisters, never got married or had children and seems to suffer from a perennial state of loneliness that no amount of fame or fortune could compensate for. As the doc ultimately demonstrates, Veruschka is androgynous Nordic Aryan beauty at its most tragically and malignantly melancholy and forlorn and I would argue that, in terms of her background as someone whose aristocratic father was executed by the Nazis and strikingly statuesque yet perennially sad appearance, she is symbolic of the present state of Germany, which has become a fatherless Fatherland.
As revealed at the beginning of Veruschka: A Life for the Camera, Veruschka had graced over 800 magazine covers by 1970, but the last thing the supermodel ever thought about herself was that she was beautiful as she has dealt with self-loathing ever since she was a young child. Indeed, by the time she was a teen, Veruschka was extremely self-conscious about her inordinately tall and lanky frame and especially large feet and dreamed of looking like her sister Marie Eleanore “Nona,” who would eventually marry Richard Wagner’s great-grandson Wieland Wagner. Ironically, she was a chubby baby, or as she states of herself in the doc, “I was the second child, a chubby Caucasian baby in a palace, the only time in my life that I was really fat.” Veruschka was born on 14 May 1939 in Steinort in East Prussia at a 6,000-acre castle estate that had been in her old aristocratic family for centuries (although the baroque castle was built in 1689, the family had owned the land since the year 1400). Somewhat bizarrely, while her father was secretly working with the resistance, Nazi bigwig Joachim von Ribbentrop would be regularly hanging around Veruschka’s family castle where he would screen Nazi propaganda films and take propaganda photos with the supermodel and her siblings. In fact, Uncle Adolf’s headquarters, the Wolf's Lair, was nearby Veruschka’s family castle just through the Masurian woods. Like many aristocrats that had originally supported National Socialism, Veruschka’s father eventually realized that the regime was run by mad men after seeing Jewish kids get liquidated on the Eastern Front and finding his complaints fell on deaf ears after complaining to a fellow Prussian aristocrat, field marshal Fedor von Bock, who was no fan of Hitler himself. Ultimately, Veruschka’s father stood trial before “the horrible Roland Freisler” and was sentenced to death and executed on September 18th 1944 at Plötzensee Prison where thousands of other members of the resistance were also executed. To add insult to injury, Veruschka’s mother was sent the bill for her husband’s execution. Due to her uniquely unpleasant childhood, Veruschka reflects regarding her early years of childhood innocence, “I remember mostly the unpleasant, the idyllic I only know from photographs, where I laugh and seem happy on a swing with my father.” As Veruschka explains regarding how the tragic death of her father impacted her for the rest of her life, “My father was one of thousands who lost their lives in the Resistance. The childish concept that I was to blame for the demise of my father befell me early and contributed much to the episodes of depression later.”
While Veruschka’s mother was imprisoned after her husband’s execution and even members of her extended family were sent to concentration camps, all the family members survived and were reunited after the war, though they were left homeless and completely destitute. Naturally, the Nazis confiscated the family estate, which was soon overrun and taken over by the Soviets, who were notorious for deriving a special sense of sadistic glee when it came to stealing and destroying the property and possessions of the German aristocracy (while the von Lehndorff castle still stands today, it is more or less in ruins like much of former German territory in Eastern Europe). With her family left both penniless and homeless and lacking a patriarch (which is most certainly highly detrimental to any child), Veruschka ended up moving all around Germany while staying with various different family members, thus she ended up attending no less than thirteen different schools during her childhood that ranged from a small one-room schoolhouse to a Waldorf Institute. While she had an interest in dance, Veruschka’s dream was to become a painter and, to the slight chagrin of her monetary-minded mother, she attended art school, but it was not long before she began being approached by photographers and began appearing in various magazines. Undoubtedly, Veruschka soon began to develop a sort of compensatory love and affection for modeling that her own real-life lacked as indicated by her remark, “A photo shoot is like a love triangle of the photographer, the camera and me. I imagine the camera to be a lover I am intensely flirting with.” The first major photographer Veruschka worked with was Hollywood filmmaker Arthur Penn’s brother Irving Penn, who was responsible for shooting her first cover for the American version of Vogue magazine. Naturally, the model was rather flattered when Salvador Dalí took a strong interest in her in the early 1960s and unwittingly taught her to view her body as a work of art when he worked with her. After appearing as herself in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), Veruschka’s popularity completely blew up in the mainstream yellow press and she soon had many nicknames, including the “Naked Countess” in Germany and “Übermensch,” “Frauleinwunder” and “Unucklabella” and abroad. Despite becoming rich and famous, Veruschka’s blueblood family found her career choice to be “Really quite cheap” and “close to being a prostitute” because being a model was no way for any true noble woman to live.
As Veruschka explains regarding how her international fame began to negatively effect her psyche, “The problem starts, when you realize what it means to be a model. It concerns one to be such a fantasy figure that fools the people. Suddenly you are always expected to be perfect. People want to adore you and don’t accept that you have weaknesses. Here lies the vicious circle.” Over the years, Veruschka suffered various deep depressions and mental breakdowns, even attempting suicide and being brought to a mental institution in a strait-jacket at one point. Undoubtedly, Veruschka has a rather pessimistic and even morbid view of fashion and modeling as expressed in her remark, “Fashion and death are closely related, because fashion is made from death. Whatever today is fashion will be gone tomorrow. It happens every year and for a model it is not different in the fashion game. They come and go, every few years all the faces change.” Luckily for Veruschka, her modeling career has still yet to end even though she is literally elderly. Assumedly as a result of some irrational guilt revolving around her tragic childhood, Veruschka also began to believe that she was “evil” because she believed she was culpable for “seducing” people with her work. Despite her rather delusional and neurotic view of herself, Veruschka does seem to be conscious of her greatest aesthetic strength as indicated by her rather accurate remark, “My melancholy expression is my trademark…a decadent sadness in the face almost always.” Of course, the supermodel eventually got tired of modeling and decided that she wanted to cultivate herself into a serious and respectable artist even though it seemed impossible for a woman of her particular profession.
Indubitably, the fact that Veruschka had the gall to star in films and stage plays directed by German-Jewish lesbian avant-garde filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger (Freak Orlando, Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia) in drag for next to nil money is more than enough evidence to demonstrate that she was truly serious about becoming a legitimate actress and artist, as appearing in such works, especially while dressed like a man, could only besmirch her seemingly unblemished career as an individual that was regarded by many as the most beautiful woman in the world. Indeed, in Ottinger’s delightfully deranged dystopian epic Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press, Veruschka portrays a new sort of postmodern Dorian Gray who degenerates into a debauched gangster of the mass murdering sort as a result of becoming a popular celebrity and international playboy who is ‘created’ and eventually ‘ruined’ by an overtly evil media dictator of sorts with the fitting name Dr. Mabuse as portrayed by French diva Delphine Seyrig. Veruschka would also portray decadent proto-fascist poet Gabriele D'Annunzio is Ottinger’s 1983 theatrical staging of Elfriede Jelinek's play Clara S. Arguably, Veruschka would become most artistically prolific when she hooked up with photographer Holger Trülzsch and began using her body as a canvas and turned herself into a sort of “living sculpture.” Indeed, Veruschka would spend 10-12 hours a day just to paint her unclad body for photo shoots where she would camouflage herself in her surroundings to the point of blending in almost immaculately with everything from rocks to dilapidated wooden doors to dead trees. Apparently, blending into her surroundings and ‘disappearing’ was quite therapeutic for Veruschka, or as she explains, “We are horrified by it but for me impermanence is not horrible. It is rather liberating.” Notably, during the doc Veruschka proudly reads Susan Sontag’s description of her work with Trülzsch, which is described as reflecting, “…a desire to punish the self, dissolve the self into the world…to be stripped naked…to petrify the body and become matter.” Indeed, it seems the beauteous, rich, glamorous, and famous Veruschka would love nothing more than to disappear into oblivion.
Ever since the 2000s, Veruschka has been spending much of her time living in New York City where she apparently hangs out under the Brooklyn Bridge and creates art with people who have no idea who she really is, which she finds quite liberating. In fact, Veruschka directed a short film under the bridge entitled Buddha Bum and Burning City about hobos, who she describes as having a special affinity with. Probably due to the fact that she feels a kinship with him because they were both homeless aristocrats, Veruschka also developed an obsession with Buddha, stating during the doc, “We can all end up on the street in no time at all. Buddha was an aristocrat who became a beggar by choice.” Indeed, it almost seems as if Veruschka feels guilty over the fact that she is now wealthy after experiencing an impoverished childhood. It also seems that the supermodel has become disillusioned, as wealth (she was making $10,000 a day when she was at her peak!) did not help to fill the void she felt as she probably hoped it would, but instead made her feel all the more detached from life and other people. Of course, as a woman that says things like, “What fascinates me about transformation is the possibility…to change one’s skin, the illusion that one is detached from the self,” it is quite clear that Veruschka is a woman that feels comfortable portraying any and every other person (and animal or inanimate object!) aside from herself. Indeed, as part of her curious “Veruschka’s Noble Gangstas” photo shoot, the supermodel unequivocally proves that she is better at pantomiming the appearances and mannerisms of low-class negro criminals than moronic white rappers like Riff Raff and other racially schizophrenic untermensch scum.
Rather fittingly, Veruschka: A Life for the Camera concludes with still photos of the eponymous subject’s father, mother, and herself as a child as it emphasizes the fact that the model is indubitably the tragically pulchritudinous person she is today as a direct result of her entire life being completely destroyed when she was only five when her daddy was executed and the entire family fortune was lost. Notably, Veruschka does not make a single reference to her love life or why she never opted to get married or have kids, but I certainly do not doubt that it is a direct result of the internal pain she was exposed to as a child as a girl who loses her father at such a critical age is bound to have troubled relationships with men when she grows up. It should be noted that gay icon and pornographer Peter Berlin (whose real name was ‘Armin Hagen Freiherr von Hoyningen-Huene’) came from a similar background to Veruschka as an aristocrat whose father was killed in the Second World War and whose family lost their estate and entire fortune. Of course, Berlin ended up just as lonely and screwed up as Veruschka as a gay man with no heirs and only memories of vain and narcissistic glories as a homo icon and pornographer. Undoubtedly both Veruschka and Berlin’s tragic yet high-profile lives act as sort of allegories for the death of old Europa as fallen sons and daughters of the Teutonic nobility that were forced to make their livings on their appearances instead of living great lives as leaders of Europe. Instead, Germany is now ruled and governed by the same sort of largely degenerate and psychopathic democratic whore politicians that make up American politics.
I am not at all surprised that Veruschka has a morbid view of fashion and the visual arts in general, as she is well aware of the fact that her father’s execution via hanging on piano wire attached to a meat hook was actually filmed for Hitler’s viewing pleasure. Near the beginning of Veruschka: A Life for the Camera, the supermodel mentions how she somewhat recently finally visited the location of her father’s execution where she almost instantly suffered a blackout as she felt a sort of ominous and foreboding force in the atmosphere. Since her father used to take her to a lake to collect stones as a child, Veruschka developed a lifelong obsession with rocks and stones that is quite prominent in her personal paintings and photography. In fact, Franco Rubartelli’s Veruschka - poesia di una donna (1971) begins with the supermodel’s carefully painted face completely camouflaged amongst various stones. Personally, I found Veruschka: A Life for the Camera exceedingly enjoyable as it confirmed many of my suspicions about Veruschka as someone that is a fan of her films with Rubartelli and Ottinger, which are works that gave me a feeling that the supermodel was a morbidly melancholic and weltschmerz-racked lost soul of the conspicuously accursed sort who, somewhat paradoxically, resents her fame just as much as she wallows in it. Of course, the doc also convinced me that Veruschka has probably come closer to any woman in human history in terms of transforming her body into a genuine work of art, which is certainly no small accomplishment considering that virtually all members of the fairer sex spend a good portion of their lives looking at themselves in mirrors and experimenting with makeup and fashion. Indeed, Veruschka may be a fallen member of the Prussian nobility, but there is no mistaking her blueblood pedigree, even when she is in blackface drag as an American negro gangster. While I consider myself one of Paul Morrissey's greatest fans, I have to admit that I consider Veruschka to be the true auteur of Veruschka: A Life for the Camera, as all the film's potency and charisma comes from the supermodel, whose particularly penetrating presence haunts the viewer long after the film is over. Of course, Morrissey has always had a talent for finding and directing strikingly attractive and preternaturally charismatic people for his films and it is no different with his documentary, which more or less unwittingly depicts the moral and cultural decline of the Occident from the perspective of a woman who is, quite symbolically, post-WWII Germany's most internationally famous aristocrat. Indeed, we certainly live in strange times when an elderly yet nonetheless still beautiful Prussian noblewoman sports blackface and pretends to be a young crotch-grabbing American negro thug.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:27 AM
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