Jun 6, 2015
Far from the anti-bourgeois Artaudian melodramatics of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, hysterical aberrosexual agitprop of Rosa von Praunheim, diva-obsessed aesthetic decadence and cultivated kitsch of Werner Schroeter, the autistic avant-gardism of Michael Brynntrup, and the AIDS-ridden gutter punk degeneracy of Michael Stock, Der Samurai (2014) directed by Till Kleinert (The Longest Night, Boys Village) demonstrates that kraut cocksuckers are a great deal less serious nowadays than they used to be and have been nurtured on a steady diet of Hollywood celluloid junk, yet somehow that does not mean that the film is totally unoriginal or uninspired. Indeed, although like a mix of classic homo horror flicks The Hitcher (1986) and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) meets Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) and Adam Wingard’s The Guest (2014) that is quite flagrant with its American influence, Kleinert’s film also has quite Teutonic roots that thankfully predate the Nazi era (in fact, Kleinert has described F.W. Murnau as his favorite German director) as a work featuring not only elements of German Romanticism and the Brothers Grimm fairytales, but also the much maligned Heimatfilm genre. Directed by a young queer that grew up in East Berlin as his ‘graduation feature’ for film school, Der Samurai is a rare German flick with a rare sense of German identity, which is usually a no go zone for most German filmmakers, who will typically do anything to avoid being perceived as ‘nationalistic’ or discernibly ‘Germanic.’ As most of his oeuvre demonstrates, Kleinert has a sort of fetish for the East German countryside and quaint rural village living, which he seems to be simultaneously infatuated with and horrified by, thus making for a strangely mystical and fantastic view of the Teutonic wilderness in his films. Of course, Der Samurai is no different as it depicts what happens when a young passive-aggressive pussy policeman of the latent homosexual sort is forced to hunt down a dress-wearing and sword-wielding eponymous killer who comes to his small village out of nowhere and starts wrecking havoc in a rather drastic attempt to get the protagonist’s attention, thereupon forcing him to confront his long repressed fagdom. An oftentimes irrational and romantic work that ultimately communicates a message in an allegorical way similar to a fairytale, the film is being promoted by its American distributor Artsploitation Films as recalling “early David Lynch,” but Kleinert's film is probably better described as an absurdist (anti)Heimat horror flick as directed by a young East German that has more of an appreciation for 1980s American horror than New German Cinema and post-Godard European cinema in general. While by no means a masterpiece of any sort, Der Samurai thankfully demonstrates that not all German filmmakers have become soulless dilettantes and succumbed to lame filmmaking trends like the so-called ‘Berliner Schule.’ Featuring arguably the most patently pathetic cop in cinema history as the protagonist and a sort of cross-dressing micro Kinski as the villain, Kleinert’s work probably has the potential to become a kraut cult classic of sorts, though American filmgoers might not be able to accept an unhinged and ferociously flirtatious quasi-tranny twink as a serious slasher killer of sorts, but then again anyone who looks at the flick as a horror movie will certainly be going in with somewhat misguided expectations, as Der Samurai works best as a stylish and somewhat sardonic savage comedy that forces the viewer to laugh at things that would otherwise be considered sick and depraved.
Jakob (Michel Diercks) is a self-loathing, uptight, and anally retentive social misfit who is denial of the fact that he is resented by most of the people in his small village and is constantly mocked by everyone despite the fact that he is an officer of the law. Despite the fact that he is denial of his dubious social status, Jakob secretly and seemingly unconsciously demonstrates his empathy and solidarity with fellow outcasts by regularly buying large quantities of animal guts from a butcher and leaving them in a local forest for a wild wolf that is hated by most of the locals who regularly complain to the protagonist’s police station about the wild beast. With both of his parents dead and having literally no real friends, Jakob spends his free time doing banal things like playing cards with his grandmother (Ulrike Hanke-Haensch), who suffers from dementia and who he takes care of. Ultimately, Jakob’s suffocating humdrum life changes dramatically when he receives a strange package at his work. Indeed, after playing cards with his beloved grandmother one night, Jakob receives a random phone call from the owner of the package who tells him to listen to the howl outside and requests that he bring him the box. When Jakob goes to hand deliver the package to the mysterious owner, he ends up wandering into a house where he finds a man wearing a dress—the eponymous ‘Der Samurai’ (Pit Bukowski of Kleinert’s Cowboy (2008))—who asks him “Like what you see?” while applying red lipstick to his lips in a manner that makes him seem like some sort of cheap bargain bin shemale bimbo. Although Jakob has no clue who the goofy transvestite is and what he wants from him, the superlatively strange fellow seems to know everything about him and he is determined to convert him to cocksucking, but the protagonist is determined to stay a hidden homo even though everyone else in his life seems to realize he is gay. Seemingly like the Teutonic son of "Buffalo Bill" of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), albeit with a twisted sense of humor and a more extroverted personality, the samurai is a mensch on a mirthfully malefic mission to prove he is the right lebensmensch for the protagonist and he plans to destroy tons of property and kill tons of people with his sword while trying.
When the samurai confesses that the house he is in is not actually his, Jakob tells him to leave or he will have to arrest him, but before he can do anything the unhinged mensch in the dress opens the package, whips out a sword from inside the box, and then makes his way outside where he begins running towards an oncoming train as if he has a death wish. Needless to say, Jakob reluctantly follows the psychotic samurai, who dodges the train at the last second and heads for the woods. Of course, Jakob follows the samurai through the woods and into another village where he knows he is on the right path when he eventually finds his elderly friend’s decapitated golden retriever lying in the street. While Jakob almost blows the samurai away with a shotgun upon tracking him down at a sort of sewage treatment site, the twisted tranny manages to dodge the bullet, asks the protagonist if he is ready for “the baptism,” and manages to get away by jumping in the sewage water. While attempting to track down the samurai after his rather dramatic escape, Jakob eventually happens upon a blonde babe on the side of the road who has a flat tire, so he changes said tire and then saves the fair lady from a deer that he mistakes for the maniac in the dress. As the viewer suspects, the blonde ultimately gives Jakob a ride back to his village and on the way she discusses how there are still wolves in Eastern Europe and then somewhat annoys the annoyingly uptight protagonist by commenting regarding his area that it, “Must be terrible […] Everybody knows everybody. Everybody making sure no one steps out of line.” Of course, Jakob refuses to accept that he secretly loathes his neighbors and they loathe him. Before dropping him off, Jakob fantasizes about kissing the blonde babe in a hopelessly contrived fashion and then she bequeaths him with the fitting nickname, “Lonely Wolf,” which he seems somewhat offended by even though his best friend is a wild wolf. Not surprisingly, Jakob will also eventually call the samurai Lonely Wolf, thus signifying that he unconsciously realizes that he has a deep connection with the dress-adorned whack-job.
When Jakob gets back to his village, he is disturbed to discover that the samurai has destroyed virtually everything in the neighborhood with his sword and he does not even bother to stop his nihilistic rampage when he sees the protagonist. Upon attempting to reason with the clearly psychotic tranny, Jakob makes a deal with the samurai that he will destroy his neighbor’s trashy plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament if he agrees to stop destroying everything. Naturally, the samurai watches with glee as Jakob destroys the pink flamingo in a surprisingly impassioned fashion, as if the lunatic is starting to actually have a sinister influence on him. After the trashy lawn ornament is destroyed, Jakob decides to question the samurai about what his “crusade” is about and the deranged dress-donning dude begins to get somewhat esoteric and tells the protagonist to imagine if they had met at a local party earlier that night and slow-danced with one another in front of all of his neighbors. Naturally, closet-queen is somewhat unsettled by the prospect of looking like a pansy poof in front of his neighbors and when the samurai accuses him of being in a “narrow prison” for altogether rejecting the idea of them dancing together, the protagonist becomes enraged, assaults him, and handcuffs him to a fence where he proceeds to punch him after he makes more homoerotic remarks and accuses him of deriving sexual pleasure from beating him. Eventually, Jakob becomes so enraged with the samurai’s rather aggressive flirting tactics that he storms off into the woods while the man in the dress yells, “Where do you think you’re going? We’re not done yet.” Meanwhile, Jakob’s asshole homo-hating boss Horvath (Uwe Preuss) calls him on his cellphone and curiously asks him if he is the one that neighbors have seen “wrecking havoc” around the village in a dress. Of course, Jakob denies the accusation and assures Horvath that he has caught the culprit, but when he goes back to check on the samurai, he discovers that he has escaped from the handcuffs by cutting off his own thumb.
In a somewhat humorous scenario worthy of Little Red Riding Hood, the samurai decides to visit Jakob’s dementia-ridden grandmother and play cards with her just like her grandson does but things soon turn ugly when he becomes dissatisfied with the elderly woman's slow pace when it comes to shuffling cards. While the samurai does not kill granny, he decides to give her a little scare and then goes in the protagonist's room and burns up a miniature village that is an exact replica of the neighborhood that Jakob has painstakingly assembled. When Jakob comes home to find his grandma petrified and cowering in a corner, he becomes quite distressed, especially when she yells at him, “Go away!” and accuses him of not being her grandson, as if the samurai has taken his place. Meanwhile, a group of young ‘redneck’ bullies on motorcycles that are about the same age as Jakob and regularly taunt him spot the samurai and decide to pick on him since he is wearing a dress. The leader of the gang Schölli (Christopher Kane), who Jakob seems to have repressed homoerotic feelings for even though he regularly berates him, decides to mock the samurai by moronically asking him, “What’s going on…Halloween?,” to which the mensch in the dress humorlessly replies, “You’re dogs.” While Jakob attempts to warn the bullies about how dangerous the tranny is, Schölli soon knocks him down for pretending to be a hero and at the same time the samurai begins slicing up the unwitting crotch-rocket-riding jocks, who never fathomed that a man wearing a dress could be so ultra-violent and bloodthirsty. When Jakob regains consciousness, the samurai runs up to him and decapitates Schölli only inches away from his face, thus leaving the perturbed protagonist in a daze.
After going by his police station to obtain a handgun and some bullets, Jakob goes looking for the samurai and ultimately finds him at a hellish bonfire that he has started at a local park. On top of discovering that the decapitated corpses of his neighbors have been placed in the bleachers and postured in a creepy fashion as if they are watching everything that is going on, Jakob finds Horvath hanging upside from a soccer goal with his arms and legs bound and his mouth taped shut. After leaving Horvath literally hanging after assuring him that he will take care of everything himself, Jakob soon finds the samurai lurking around the bonfire. After the samurai states regarding all the people he has killed, “Look closely. These are the miscreants. They are like corks to our bodies, keep the spirit bottled in. It is our duty to get rid of the blockage once and for all” and tossing Schölli’s decapitated head to him like it is a soccer ball (rather inexplicably, the head somehow says to the protagonist, “Easy, Jakob, easy. We’ve got everything under control”), Jakob points his gun at his forehead, but cannot bring himself to kill the terroristic tranny. When the samurai wipes blood against the protagonist’s head in a sensational fashion and then asks him, “What do we do now?,” Jakob strangely responds, “I still owe you a dance” and the two absurdly start dancing like autistic zombies from far away from one another. While Jakob eventually embraces the samurai and begins romantically slow-dancing with him next to the bonfire, he eventually becomes disgusted upon seeing the decapitated head of the blonde who gave him a ride earlier burning in the fire, not to mention the fact that Horvath is watching him getting all touchy-feely with a dress-adorned queer serial killer. While the samurai states regarding Horvath, “I left him for you,” Jakob refuses to kill his boss even though he is a dickhead, stating, “He’s innocent. They are all innocent.” While Jakob agrees to leave with him if he leaves his boss alone and then throws his gun and bullets to the ground as a demonstration of his sincerity, the samurai decides to hack off Horvath’s head when he sees police cars coming down the road. While police soon arrest the samurai and they begin taking him and the protagonist back to a police station in separate police cars, the tranny manages to escape by jumping through one of the backseat passenger windows after the wild wolf creates a diversion by coming out of the woods and randomly attacks the cops. Ultimately, Jakob decides to steal a police car and track the samurai down. Upon finding the samurai completely naked and sexually aroused while eating the butcher guts that he has left in the woods for the wolf, Jakob goes completely berserk and decapitates his gay buddy with his own sword, thus demonstrating that the crazed cross-dressing cocksucker was at least somewhat successful in his crusade to instill the protagonist with a much needed sense of psychosexual aggression and visceral testicular fortitude.
While some might assume that the eponymous killer of Der Samurai is not actually a real person but merely a manifestation of the seemingly sexually schizophrenic protagonist’s feeble and highly conflicted mind, director Till Kleinert assures the viewer in the audio commentary for the Artsploitation Films DVD release of the film that the cross-dressing swordsman is indeed a flesh and blood character, though he also acknowledges that the character could not exist without Jakob sort of summoning him from the woods, as it is a film with a sort of classic fairytale logic that is totally absent from contemporary German cinema. Indeed, if Kleinert accomplished anything with the film, it is most certainly creating the greatest filmic fag fairytale ever made and what makes it all the more impressive is that he does it in a fairly subversive and apolitical way. After all, as a work that features a defiantly gay serial killer who sports a goofy dress, gorges on raw guts, and attempts to goad a guy into converting to the pink by decapitating everyone he knows, Der Samurai is not exactly going to appeal to the dubious agendas of those sort of special interest groups with retarded acronyms like ‘LGBT’ that promote gay marriage and other hopelessly banal things that would have absolutely disgusted gay activists from previous generations. Arguably the most bizarre aspect of the film is that, although it features certain arthouse attributes, it is quite obvious that the director was trying to make the work as accessible to as many as people as possible, yet he still opted to include quasi-pornographic images of authentic erect cocks as if that is the kind of thing that the average horror fan wants to see. Of course, as Kleinert has revealed in interviews, he actually gets a thrill out of shocking heterosexual audiences with homoerotic horror material that goes completely against their expectations and Der Samurai certainly succeeds in that regard. Although Kleinert has concluded some of his films with unexpected happy endings like in Cowboy (2008), Der Samurai ends in such a curious and somewhat nihilistic manner that it is nothing short of unforgettable. While Kleinert is certainly no Hanns Heinz Ewers as far as Aryan homo horror masters are concerned, he clearly has a genuine love for horror and a sort of idiosyncratic knack for injecting a certain sincere sexual perversity and wicked humor into the genre. Indeed, I cannot really imagine a film like Der Samurai ever being made in the United States where true originality in horror is considered more or less heresy. In its depiction of a long-haired stranger coming to town and ultimately being killed by a self-loathing sod after knocking the social structure of the area's equilibrium, the film certainly bears strikingly superficial similarities with the underrated dystopian anti-Heimat flick Ich liebe dich, ich töte dich (1971) aka I Love You, I Kill You directed by Uwe Brandner. Undoubtedly by comparing Der Samurai with I Love You, I Kill You, one certainly gets a strong sense of how much Hollywood films have influenced Germany cinema since the death of New German Cinema. Hopefully, Kleinert will not become the next Tom Tykwer or, even worse, Roland Emmerich, but judging by his latest feature, that is somewhat doubtful. Indubitably a formative work that was directed by a relatively young auteur, Der Samurai is an undeniably entertaining and unforgettable work that, although somewhat uneven, demonstrates that Kleinert is a filmmaker to lookout for in the upcoming years. Arguably, the greatest compliment that I can pay Kleinert's film is that it demonstrates more budding talent and originality than Fassbinder's first feature Liebe ist kälter als der Tod (1969) aka Love is Colder Than Death. As far as homo horror auteurs go, Kleinert has certainly already transcended the competition (i.e. Tim Sullivan, Bruce LaBruce, David DeCoteau, etc.), so we will just have to see if he has what it takes to be the next James Whale or F.W. Murnau, which is somewhat more dubious.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:46 AM
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