Jun 20, 2015

Blind Spot (1977)

Long before his rather brief stint in Hollywood during the early 1990s when he directed both Drop Dead Fred (1991) and Highway to Hell (1991), which were both massive critical and commercial failures that ironically went on to earn cult followings, Dutch auteur Ate de Jong (Het Bombardement, Brandende liefde aka Burning Love) created somewhat low-budget and minimalistic arthouse oriented works in his homeland of the Netherlands. Indeed, a year after contributing a segment to the four episode tragicomedy Alle dagen feest (1976) aka Every Day a Party, de Jong completed his somewhat gritty dark romantic-comedy Blindgangers (1977) aka Blind Spot starring tall, dark, and handsome Dutch leading man Derek de Lint (Soldaat van Oranje aka Soldier of Orange, De aanslag aka The Assault) in his very first major role. Although oftentimes humorous, de Jong’s film is a largely dejecting work that depicts the slow and increasingly painful breakup of a young couple living in a white ghetto in post-counterculture era Holland. Admittedly, I hate virtually all rom-coms and romance flicks in general as I cannot relate to them in any way and find the humor to be about as funny as a corporate PSA, but then again I am not a physically weak and ugly neurotic Jew-boy who finds himself in the seemingly unlikely situation of attempting to vie for the attention of a beauteous shiksa who would never dream of dating some scrawny heeb in any sane world. Despite being nearly four decades old, Blind Spot is still relevant to modern couples in that it depicts the seeming impossibility of relationships lasting more than a couple year in an era when women give pussy away for free and no longer require men to marry or have children with them. The film is also notable for going into anti-feminist and borderline misogynistic territory and daring to depict the lack of decisiveness, irrationality, and flagrant bitchiness that plagues a woman when she finds herself doubting her relationship, but of course the flick is no more flattering in its depiction of its male protagonist, who is portrayed as jovially foolish, obscenely oblivious, and innately moronic yet somehow absurdly arrogant. Indeed, Blind Spot is not the tale of Tristan and Isolde or Romeo and Juliet, but a portrayal of a love affair that is patently pathetic, prosaic, and, in turn, realistic. Like the lovers in the film, the viewer does not want the couples' relationship to end but at the same time cannot deny the fact that it is ultimately inevitable that the two lovers will part ways. Set in dilapidated apartment buildings, sleazy dimly lit bars, and dirty laundry mats to the bombastic and oftentimes goofy sounds of degenerate Dutch jazz as composed by notable jazz bandleader, composer, and Kurt Weill authority Willem Breuker (Jos Stelling’s De illusionist aka The Illusionist, George Sluizer’s Twee vrouwen aka Twice a Woman), de Jong’s work is thankfully not as Brechtian as it sounds as it is an honest-to-goodness flick fueled by lovelorn lifeblood of the all-too-human sort. 

 For whatever reason, young male protagonist Mark Jonkman (Derek de Lint) has decided to attend a screening of an ancient black-and-white English-language film where a man self-righteously declares “I will not kill a woman!” upon refusing to take part of the killing of a discernibly lecherous flapper chick who is subsequently gunned down by a robotic firing squad.  Not unlike Mark, a young beauteous blonde in her early-20s named Danielle Sandberg (Ansje Beentjes of Roland Verhavert’s 1974 Hendrik Conscience adaptation De loteling aka The Conscript) watches the film as if oddly entranced by the banality of the old fashioned flick.  After the curious vintage film concludes, Mark is approached by cutesy blonde Danielle in the movie theater lobby who offers him a cigarette that he rejects and then attempts to make small talk with him by asking if he goes to the movies often, to which he semi-pretentiously replies, “I go to plays more often.” While Danielle attempts to get Mark to go on a date with her and he acts disinterested and tells her that he has no money, the male protagonist eventually gives in and agrees to go to the young lady’s house since her parents are not there. Since her parents are rather wealthy professionals, Danielle lives in a large and lavishly furnished home, which Mark will later come to resent as he is the son of a modest bicycle shop owner who he rarely sees. Since he is superficially charming and exceedingly extroverted, Danielle successfully guesses that Mark is an acting student. In scene that foreshadow the problems they will have in their relationship, Mark arrogantly assumes that Danielle is an antique store owner when, in fact, she is a student of Slavic Languages and Literature, especially Russian and Serbo-Croatian (which are, notably, the languages of the now non-existent nation of Yugoslavia, which the female protagonist will later consider traveling to after her romance begins to fall apart). Ultimately, Danielle uses the excuse of there being imaginary rats in her attic so that she can get Mark to go up so that she can seduce him. Flash forward two weeks later, the two protagonists have fallen deeply in love with one another and Mark brings Danielle a present in the form of a small box of mint tea that has a key hidden inside. Of course, the key is Mark’s way of asking Danielle to move in with him, which she immediately does. While fixing up their new apartment, Danielle reluctantly admits to Mark that she hopes they will “always be together” and he responds somewhat insensitively by saying, “’Always’ is a big word.”  As Danielle will eventually learn, nothing lasts forever.

 At a little bit before the ten minute mark of Blind Spot, the film has flashed forward two years and skipped over what the viewer assumes was the greatest moments in the Mark and Danielle’s once hot-and-heavy relationship. Danielle is depicted looking more than a little bit melancholy while sitting at a bar where she is soon met by Mark’s conspiring beta bitch friend Paul (Jim Berghout) who, being the socially inept and impotent science nerd that he is, pretends to deeply empathize with the female protagonist so that he can get into her precious pink panties. Danielle is pregnant and she is considering dumping Mark because he has a sort of hippie attitude to romance and is not serious about getting married or having kids. After going back to Paul’s apartment, Danielle informs him that she is pregnant and is probably going to get an abortion. Meanwhile, Mark finds Danielle’s birth control pills and realizes she has not be taking them regularly, thus leading him to assume that she is pregnant. When Mark comes to pick up Danielle from Paul’s place and she acts like a cold and callous bitch to him, it only reinforces his suspicion that she is pregnant, yet he does not have the balls to ask her if she is knocked up. Of course, considering that he has a pathetic boyish crush on Danielle, Paul neglects to tell Mark that his girlfriend is pregnant. As girls tend to do while they are irritated at their lovers, Danielle proceeds to bitch to Mark about a bunch of frivolous things like how the milkman had too many zits when he is driving her home. In fact, Danielle decides to randomly get out of Mark’s car and continues her bitching campaign while walking down the street while her boyfriend tries in vain to talk some sense into her. In fact, Danielle go so far as far as attempting to make her beau jealous by stating, “…Paul was nice. I could hardly resist him,” but Mark eventually manages to get back in the car. 

 When the couple finally gets back to their apartment, Mark attempts to get Danielle to open up to him about her feelings, asking her, “Why do you act so strange? You’ve been acting like a stranger for weeks. When I want to help, you don’t talk me,” but the only thing she can do is complain about being terribly tired and her head hurting. When Danielle complains “my head hurts” when he attempts to type up an article for work on his typewriter while she is attempting to sleep, the protagonist decides to roam the streets and call his father on a payphone that his girlfriend might be pregnant as if he is actually happy about the prospect of becoming a daddy. The next morning, Mark attempts to have sex with Danielle, but she acts fiercely frigid and callously complains, “You don’t have to use your body to prove you love me. You have done that for years.” In an attempt to gauge how serious Mark is about the future of their relationship, Danielle asks him where he thinks they will be in five years and he states in an idealistic fashion they will because split up because, “All relationships that last longer than two years, go wrong.” After rightly describing Mark’s response as a “pseudo-artistic performance” (indeed, it is quite obvious that Mark thinks he is some sort of enlightened post-counterculture progressive who rejects the outmoded morals of the dreaded bourgeoisie), Danielle decides to go against her beau’s wishes and plans a trip to Yugoslavia, but when she goes to her rich parents for money, she discovers they are out of town. Before even going on the trip, Danielle writes Mark a letter saying that she will be away for three weeks that ends with, “I won’t come back to you.” Upon meeting an elderly blind man that she finds sleeping inside a photobooth who she ultimately takes a series of photos with and who describes how he is still very much in love with his dead wife of 20 years, Danielle realizes there really is no future with Mark as she could never imagine him having the same feelings about her as the old widow does of his deceased spouse. 

 Needless to say, when Mark comes up with the rather absurd plan to save his relationship with Danielle by surprising her by bringing home two middle-aged swingers, Fons (Ben Hulsman) and Joke (Lettie Oosthoek), she becomes exceedingly enraged, especially after the male partner-swapper, who is old enough to be her father, slaps her on the ass in a sassy fashion.  Somewhat absurdly, Mark attempts to rationalize his actions by remarking, “That’s the future of all relationships. Partner-swapping, cheating, separate holidays, divorce. Everybody we know had one of those problems. And it’s the children who suffer.” Ultimately, Danielle rebuffs Mark for being so presumptuous as to inform his father of her pregnancy and invite swingers over without asking her about it first, complaining, “By never asking me, you’ve changed my feelings towards you.” Without even admitting she is pregnant, Danielle decides to get an abortion while her boyfriend is busy washing clothes at a laundry mat where he begins playfully flirting with a frigid four-eyed feminist named Anette Urk (Maroesja Lacunes), who is less than impressed with his boastful behavior and gets especially annoyed when he asks her, “Why are activist women always so unfriendly? “You think every man’s your enemy, but they can be your friend too. Or do you prefer women?” After proudly declaring, “I’ve never been cheated on by a woman,” Anette moves to the other side of the laundry mat and Mark follows her after noticing she has left a pair of her panties in a washing machine. After acting vaguely suave and blaming his rudeness and “bad mood” on an imaginary car crash, Mark actually manages to get Anette to come back to his apartment with him. Indeed, unbeknownst to Mark, he is attempting to cheat on his girlfriend at the very same time said girlfriend is getting a secret abortion, thus underscoring the innately deceitful behavior of both lovers. Somewhat predictably, Danielle catches Mark messing around with Anette in their attic. While Mark stops making out with Anette due to feeling guilty before things go too far, the damage is already done. Ironically, Anette goes from being a female-power-pontificating prude to a desperate horny woman when Mark rejects her to the point where she pathetically asks him “Am I not pretty enough?” like a little girl with low self-esteem. Ultimately, Mark makes the sexually frustrated feminist leave via a roof window despite the fact she is afraid of heights. 

 When Danielle tells Mark that they need to talk and says, “The decision has been made, but there are no words to talk about it,” it becomes quite obvious that their wrecked relationship is over, though the female protagonist is too afraid to actually execute her decision and leave for good. After telling Mark, “I don’t love you anymore,” Danielle runs to a nearby sleazy bar and her lovelorn beau naturally follows her like a scared puppy dog. After arriving at the bar, Mark goes to the bathroom to take a leak and is disturbed to find a decidedly deranged Dutch soldier waving a knife at him. After convinced the demented soldier not to stab him he stabs some pipes in the bathroom, Mark unexpectedly learns something about love from the fucked fellow when he hands him a photo of his ex-girlfriend and says, “Once a woman has taken that decision, that’s it.” After a later incident where Mark attempts to force himself on Anette at the same time pussy Paul pathetically attempts to get into Danielle’s panties, the couple temporarily makes up and has make-up sex, but the happiness does not last long. After they share carnal knowledge, Mark expresses his regret about Danielle getting an abortion, stating to her, “As long as that abortion won’t haunt us forever,” as if he knows their relationship cannot last due to their traumatizing experiences. When Danielle falls asleep, Mark absurdly decides to go out in public while wearing nothing but a coat and is ultimately arrested. Of course, the police give Danielle a call and when she arrives at the police station, the cop on duty asks her if she loves Mark and she responds yes. Upon releasing Mark from his prison cell, the cop states to Mark, “You’re lucky with such a nice girlfriend. Hurry, before she changes her mind.” Unfortunately, in the end, Danielle does change her mind and decides to go on the trip to Yugoslavia in what is a symbolic end to their relationship. 

 Not unlike Dick Maas, Ate de Jong is responsible for some of the most conspicuously contrived and Hollywoodesque Dutch films ever made, so Blind Spot makes for an especially interesting film in the filmmaker's oeuvre as much of its potency comes from its grittiness and rawness as a work that certainly does not look like it was directed by a mensch who beats his meat to George Lucas flicks. Indeed, I cannot think of another film where the creaking of floorboards as a result of characters walking around in a dilapidated apartment is so blatant. Of course, more importantly, the film dares to take a relatively realistic approach to dwelling on the more disconcerting aspects of romantic relationships to the point where, like in real-life, there is no happy ending or ideal resolution, thus leaving the viewer with a rare sense of bittersweet sincerity in the end that reminds the filmgoer that fairytales and Hollywood films have nothing to do with real life. Luckily, the film never falls into sappy sentimentalism like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), which although lauded for taking a more realistic approach to relationships and breaking up, ultimately ends on a hopeful note that feels like a cheap cope out. In terms of setting and tone, I think Blind Spot is best comparable to gay gutter auteur Andy Milligan’s once-lost X-rated masterpiece Nightbirds (1970), which is a considerably darker and more nihilistic work but takes a similarly tragic look at young love in the post-counterculture/post-feminist age. Aesthetically speaking, de Jong's film is like Paul Morrissey's Flesh (1968) meets Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977) sans the Hebraic neuroticism and pseudo-eccentric intellectual masturbation. Aside from possibly his role in Guido Pieters' Jan Wolkers adaptation Kort Amerikaans (1977) aka Crew Cut, Derek de Lint gives arguably his most energetic and angsty performance of his fairly admirable acting career in Blind Spot, which is a rare film that somewhat benefits from its slightly amateurish and minimalistic direction because it intensifies its overall raw and visceral tone. While I cannot be totally sure, I get the feeling that de Jong's film is more realistic in its depiction of young love in 1970s Holland than Paul Verhoeven's classic masterpiece Turks fruit (1973) aka Turkish Delight.  De Jong's film is also notable for being a rare flick that hints that feminism is not the result of members of the so-called fairer sex desiring equality, but quite the opposite.  Indeed, as the feminist character Anette reflects in her hypocritical attraction to exploitative and emotionally abuse men as opposed to stoic gentlemen of the morally righteous sort, feminism is a reaction by women to the emasculation and moral degeneration of men and not because women all of a sudden decided that they wanted to pretend that they have cocks and balls.  Of course, feminism and its promotion of abortion have helped to lead to the death of lifelong relationships in the West.  Indeed, as depicted in Blind Spot, an hour-long trip to the abortion clinic can save both men and women from the responsibility of being a parent, but then again any woman that would pay money to have her unborn child vacuumed out of her vagina while she is fully conscious probably should not have children in the first place.  Either way, de Jong's unexpectedly powerful and memorable little directorial debut is a reminder why divorce has become the norm in the Occident and why certain groups of men like those involved in the so-called ‘MGTOW’ movement have given up on women altogether.

-Ty E

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