Jun 2, 2015
Anyone familiar with the cinematic oeuvre of South Africa auteur Aryan Kaganof (aka ‘the artist formerly known as Ian Kerkhof’) knows that his early work The Dead Man 2: Return of the Dead Man (1994)—a truly apocalyptic adaptation of French (anti)erotic Nietzschean novelist Georges Bataille's stories Madame Edwarda (1941) and Le Mort (1967) aka The Dead Man that was actually made as the filmmaker’s final exam project at the Netherlands Film and Television Academy (NFTVA)—is one of the director's most immaculate, iconic, and beauteous yet dark, grotesque, and fiercely fetishistic efforts to date. It is pretty much a given that Kaganof himself thinks highly of this film as he has incorporated various scenes from it into some of his subsequent works, including “Nique ta mère!” (2004) and Guerilla Blues and Holy Ghosts (2012). Of course, anyone that has seen the film cannot forget the shocking nature of the final scene, which is arguably the most perversely potent piece of cinema that Kaganof has ever shot, where the elderly eponymous protagonist basks in a fountain-like stream of urine that is being quasi-ritualistically excreted on his head by a homely whore with a shaved gash who is standing on top of a bar table in what is indubitably the most aesthetically pleasing piece of unhinged urolagnia ever committed to celluloid. Naturally, the first thing that popped into my mind upon seeing this scene was how Kaganof was able to find an elderly man who would be willing to not only allow a woman to piss on his rather wrinkly face, but also allow such an uniquely unsavory image of himself to be immortalized in celluloid form. Upon doing a little bit of investigating, I discovered that the curious old fart’s name was Jaap Hoogstra (1915–1998) and that he was almost eighty at the time of the release of The Dead Man 2, which would undoubtedly be the last important film role of his fairly long and somewhat eclectic acting career. Although best known for small roles on Dutch TV shows, Hoogstra’s greatest contribution to the acting world was bringing the work of Irish avant-garde playwright Samuel Beckett to the Netherlands and the rest of the Lowland countries. Despite there being an age difference between the two of about half a century, Kaganof was friends with Hoogstra for the last couple years of the latter's life and would thankfully document one of their various infamous get-togethers about a year before the actor died. Indeed, in 1997 when Hoogstra was at the ripe old age of 82, Kaganof decided to document the elderly actor while he was rehearsing Beckett’s fifteen-minute play A Piece of Monologue (1980) whilst smoking dope and taking incessant swigs of liquor, though he would not edit the footage together until a decade later after he had returned to South Africa. Indeed, in the 24-minute experimental documentary Jaap Hoogstra: Geboorte Werd Hem Zijn Dood (2007) aka Jaap Hoogstra – A Piece of Monologue aka Jaap Hoogstra – Een Stuk Monoloog, the viewer has the rare opportunity to spend some quality time with an ancient reefer-addled queen who is just as sassy as ever even though he already has one foot in the grave.
More than a mere portrait, Jaap Hoogstra – A Piece of Monologue is a strikingly ‘heartfelt’ (I hate to use that word, but this is one of the rare cases where it is actually merited) tribute from one friend to another. Notably, in a written tribute entitled Inside Nothing: An Afternoon with Jaap Hoogstra, Kaganof stated of their rather unconventional friendship, “We were friends. It was a strange and valuable friendship. I think he wanted to fuck me but he never said so. The occasional hand on my knee, nothing more obvious than that. We would get stoned and laugh a lot. Laugh at the stupidity of everything and everyone. Laugh at ourselves laughing. Laugh at Nothing.” Indeed, for the 24-minutes that the viewer sees of the actor, Hoogstra spends most of the time talking about being fucked as a little boy, hitting on a middle-aged man in a pirate-esque outfit, rambling like a dazed and confused grandmother while stoned out of his mind on consumer grade Amsterdam dope, and discussing in a dejecting manner how much it sucks to be old and weak. At the beginning of the doc, Hoogstra mentions how he recently received a phone call where he was informed that his comrade Jean Paul had just suffered a stroke, which is something he fears might happen to him. Despite his rapidly deteriorating body and mind, Hoogstra has mostly positive things to say about his life, especially his youth, which he describes in an almost utopian way. The son of a harbor master from Dordrecht, Hoogstra developed an early love of swimming and especially swimming with other boys, stating of his experiences, “What I found strange about myself, I always hung out with boys. Not consciously, actually yes…I’m a born homo.” According to the actor, he lost his virginity at the rather young age of ten and when asked if he was really deflowered at such a young age, he joyously replies, “Yes. An older boy. At the school. But… I enjoyed it so much I wanted to change schools. To the school that was known as a homo school. I got there by nagging my parents. I got my way. All the boys fucked each other […] And I had a lovely youth.” Indeed, if we can trust Hoogstra, it seems that the Netherlands had a rather liberal attitude to sex even before the destruction of the country during the Second World War resulted in it becoming the sort of unofficial brothel of Western Europe.
With pictures of himself in an elegant dress and kissing another bald man sitting around Hoogstra’s rather kitschy apartment, it becomes quite obvious that nobody but an old sentimental queen could live there and he is quite proud of his lurid lifestyle. Undoubtedly, a morbid portrait of himself from Kaganof’s The Dead Man 2 sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to the rest of the stuff lying around the apartment which includes, aside from goofy gay portraits, a large porcelain pig. It becomes quite clear that Hoogstra is growing more and more aware of his fragile mortality as especially reflected in his somber confession, “I am not somebody who is scared of dying. The way it happens scares me. I hope it’s not a stroke. I find that a terrible…departure. That way…But if it happens suddenly…or an accident. Then I think to myself, at least I didn’t know. I also didn’t search for it. I’ll also have rest.” Not unlike the surviving spouse of a heterosexual married couple, Hoogstra began to go downhill in terms of his health after the death of his longtime gay lover, or as he states in a discernibly melancholy fashion, “It actually started with the death of George. With whom I lived together for thirty years. Thereafter my memory deteriorated. I always had a good memory. I confuse things. And that has been this year…also because of the many deaths…of colleagues…it’s been exacerbated. It’s made me uneasy. No. But…that’s life. You realize it when you get very old. That I’m now becoming. You notice that life…is increasingly less pleasant. At least for me.” Indeed, it seems that, as the years past, Hoogstra was more and more able to identify with his eponymous character in The Dead Man 2.
Despite being on the brink of becoming a corpse, Hoogstra is absolutely shameless when it comes to hitting on a middle-aged man that is dressed a lot like a pirate who shows up at his apartment with the gift of about an ounce of weed which they both smoke together (if you look carefully, you can also see the cameraman take a drag from a joint). When Hoogstra attempts to ply the man with alcohol, the rather happy butt pirate turns him down as he claims to have already drunk six Calvados, though he does share a fat joint with the old-timer. While stoned out of his mind with a cat in his lap, Hoogstra jokes to the pirate, “My puss he said…Is available to you” and then comments about how strong the weed is. While thoroughly inebriated, Hoogstra talks in a somewhat nostalgic fashion about how handsome he used to be, stating, “I didn’t know that I looked so young and handsome. If I see myself in photos I think “Jesus Christ!” How I’ve deteriorated. Also physically, wrinkles everywhere.” Indeed, if Hoogstra used to be handsome, it is absolutely impossible to tell so now as he resembles a sort of elderly effete half frog/half gnome. Somewhat fittingly, the doc concludes with footage of Hoogstra from The Dead Man 2 juxtaposed with music by pseudo-Guido Dutch singer Willy Alberti. Indeed, as a fountain of urine drenches Hoogstra's gleeful face, Alberti hilariously sings, “Your head in the air, your noise in the wind. Not caring about what others may think. Keep your heart full of warmth and love in your chest. But be a Prince in your own space. What you search for no one else can give you. Man dare to live!” Indeed, as a fellow who got buggered at ten and allowed himself to be pissed on for a film when he was almost eighty, Herr Hoogstra certainly dared to live with gusto and grace.
While appearing in a number of notable Dutch films, including Paul de Lussanet’s campy Gerard Reve adaptation Lieve jongens (1980) aka Dear Boys, Orlow Seunke's classic György Konrád adaptation De smaak van water (1982) aka The Hes Case, and Theo van Gogh’s Return to Oegstgeest (1987) and Loos (1989), Hoogstra’s greatest and most daring role was most certainly in Kaganof’s The Dead Man 2, thus Jaap Hoogstra – A Piece of Monologue acts as a sort of invaluable companion piece to the film as it warmly deconstructs the man behind the Kaganofian myth and gives him a sense of dignity that one would not expect from an old fellow that was so senile that he seemed to delight in being drenched with female waste fluids. While it is no myth that many gay men are extremely masochistic and are into acts of supreme sexual degradation, it certainly takes a singular sort of sod to allow a woman to initiate him into heterosexual watersports during his golden years for the sake of a film. As for Hoogstra’s sexual proclivities during the time of the shooting of the doc, Kaganof wrote, “We often talked about sex. He loved sex. Was paying a young Moroccan man quite substantial amounts of money every week for butt fucking. He loved to be butt fucked. Fucked in his rectum. His anus. His naught. His Nothing. Fucked inside his Nothing. Ass fucked inside Nothing.” As his rarely seen early J.G. Ballard quasi-adaptation Crash (1990) unequivocally demonstrates, Kaganof is a rare heterosexual filmmaker that is able to approach hardcore homo material in an unflinching fashion and with Jaap Hoogstra – A Piece of Monologue he proved it is not for purely exploitative or sensational reasons, as the auteur seems to respect all forms of sexual transgression. As Kaganof wrote regarding Hoogstra's death, “I visited him once at the hospital. But the joy was gone from the visit. It was too much schlepp to take the tram all the way out to the West of Amsterdam. And he wasn’t allowed to smoke weed or drink Jenever so what was the point? I never saw him again. I didn’t go to his funeral.” While Kaganof did not go to Hoogstra’s funeral, I cannot think of a more beauteous and genuinely touching obituary than Jaap Hoogstra – A Piece of Monologue where the ‘Dead Man’ certainly gets his due.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:46 PM
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