Aug 29, 2015

Kidnapped (1978)

Out of all the film remakes I have ever seen, Kidnapped (1978) directed by French-born No Wave auteur Eric Mitchell (The Way it Is or Eurydice in the Avenues, A Matter of Facts) has to be the most patently pointless and uniquely unbelievable, as a work that is not much more than an equally static Super-8 color reworking of Andy Warhol’s black-and-white S&M-oriented Anthony Burgess adaptation Vinyl (1965) starring pretentious drug-addled homo poets Gerard Malanga and Ondine and all-too-tragic heiress Edie Sedgwick in one of her very first underground film roles (although oftentimes credited as her first film role, the emotionally damaged Factory diva previously appeared in the Ronald Tavel penned Warhol feature Horse (1965)). While Warhol’s adaptation is at least notable for predating Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film as an adaptation of Burgess’ dystopian novella A Clockwork Orange (1962) and somehow even managed to earn an entry in the popular film reference book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (2003) due to its somewhat revolutionary meta-barebones approach to filmmaking, Mitchell’s debut feature is only really notable for demonstrating how much various No Wave filmmakers merely copied off the absurdly amateurish Factory brand of filmmaking. Indeed, as described in the classic text Midnight Movies (1983) co-written by rare fellow Hollywood-hating Hebrews J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Mitchell’s first film, KIDNAPPED, consisted of fifteen unedited super-eight rolls spiced end to end in a poverty-row rehash of the Warhol Factory’s assembly-line method. (The film was even blandly billed as “A 1960s underground movie happening today.”) A few jittery extroverts stimulated by drugs, Mitchell’s on-screen direction, the cue sheets bluntly taped to the wall, and the new-wave music blaring from a plastic phonograph on the floor jostle each other and the ever-panning camera within the cramped, harshly lit confines of the filmmaker’s barren Lower East Side living room. When not trading insults, the cast vaguely pretends to have abducted a wealthy industrialist (Mudd Club owner Steve Mass) and are halfheartedly beginning to torture Mass as the camera runs out of film in midsentence.”  Like Vinyl, Kidnapped is the sad and pathetic yet nonetheless sometimes engaging result of a considerably lazy and technically inept artist merely placing his decidedly dopey dope fiend friends in front of a camera and getting them to reveal how superlatively stupid and passively nihilistic they are, among other things.  In short, Mitchell's film is a shockingly grating and preposterously prosaic 62-minute celluloid endurance test that ultimately rewards the viewer with nothing aside from the opportunity to mock neo-bohemians and obnoxious art fags from the rotten Big Apple.

 Like the pre-Morrissey Warhol films, Mitchell’s proudly lackluster Super-8 abortion is mostly comprised of a couple high-as-a-kite hipster dullards posturing for the camera like mind-numbingly obnoxious narcissistic toddlers and mumbling about absolutely nothing of value while trying in vain to seem glamorous, sophisticated, and covertly chic, thereupon making for an occasionally unintentionally marginally entertaining sad joke at the expense of the hopelessly inept filmmaker and especially the would-be-superstars, who are so hopelessly bored with life that they cannot even bother to fuck or be passively fucked, especially the male ‘characters.’ Somewhat interestingly, Kidnapped was shot by No Wave filmmaker turned painter James Nares (Rome 78’, No Japs at My Funeral), who also came from the Warhol/Morrissey school of filmmaking and stated of his work as the sort of ‘anti-cinematographer’ in the documentary Blank City (2010) directed by Celine Danhier, “Eric asked me to shoot his film KIDNAPPED. It had a beautiful structure. It was just like rolls of Super-8 and we shot one roll, shot the next, and then shot the next and cut them together and that was the movie.”  Nares would also go on to shoot degenerate avant-garde jazz saxophonist John Lurie's No Wave anti-sci-fi flick Men in Orbit (1979), which features both the director and Mitchell tripping on acid while pretending to be astronauts in outerspace in a work that was actually shot in the former's dilapidated apartment.  Indubitably, Mitchell’s homemade anti-anti-terrorist feature is even more amateurish seeming than Nares describes it, as a sort of post-Warholian celluloid wart that is hidden somewhere on the ass of NYC underground filmmaking and thankfully will only be remembered by those individuals masochistic enough to wade neck-deep through a sea of celluloid shit. Of course, as a work where some East Asian hipster bitch who seems terribly sexually repressed accuses a bunch of No Wave figures, including of auteur Mitchell, of being closested fags, Kidnapped is not a total waste of life, especially if you like it when sickeningly self-conscious posturing scenster fags attempt to create ‘ironic’ art and unwittingly create something that makes a total mockery of them and their rather remarkably rotten work. 

 The first film in a loose trilogy preceding Red Italy (1978) and Underground U.S.A. (1980), Kidnapped was described by Mitchell himself as being highly derivative, or as the auteur once stated himself, “My first approach was to make a comment on what was around me at the time. That’s why I made KIDNAPPED. I began by trying to figure out a definite style. The style was a rip-off, but I was very interested in making the reference. I liked it a lot at the time; I was completely nuts about it.” While fundamentally being more or less the same in terms of style, structure, and amateurishness, Mitchell’s film is slightly different from Warhol’s Vinyl in that it was shot on color Super-8 film as opposed to black-and-white 16mm, as well as inspired by the half-cracked kraut rock star revolutionaries of the Baader-Meinhof Gang as opposed to being adapted from a Burgess novel.  A work that was shot in one day and was never edited, Mitchell described the film in Blank City as, “It was like punks-on-speed and terrorists-on-valium,” yet it would probably better be described as poofs-with-hissy-fits and hopelessly horny fag hags on PMS. In other words, Kidnapped features a couple posturing hipsters incessantly babbling about things they know nothing about like sex and revolutionary politics, yet ultimately saying nothing, at least nothing of any intrinsic value, thus making the work a perfect example of a true landmark ‘No Wave’ flick, as a playfully plodding piece of pseudo-arthouse ‘high schlock’ with no production values, no real actors, no plot/script/storyline, and of course no discernible point. 

 Like an aesthetically autistic punk take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) in terms of giving the illusion of being much longer than it actually is due to seemingly being all shot in one take in a claustrophobic apartment inhabited by morally retarded young hipsters sporting mostly goofy clothes, Kidnapped begins with horrendous pan shots of the flat juxtaposed with a grating art-punk-jazz song that gives the viewer a good idea of the antisocial essence of the film. For a good portion of the film, especially during the beginning, the character’s heads are cut out of the frame in a fairly annoying way that makes it seem like cinematographer James Nares fell asleep at the camera. At the beginning of the film, Chinese-American cunt Anya Phillips (who was the one-time girlfriend of No Wave saxophonist James Chance) says to No Wave diva Patti Astor (of Amos Poe’s The Foreigner (1978) and Anders Grafstrom’s The Long Island Four (1980)), “You know, you should come by my flat sometime. We can talk about politics or something.” Since Astor does not seem too interested in dyking out with a cunty chink as demonstrated by her remark “I am a one-man woman,” Phillips complains, “What do you think I’m going to do, jump on a big dildo?” and continues to bitch in an insufferable fashion. Eventually, Astor gets annoyed and complains to Phillips that she does not want to go to her “slimy apartment” or have her sticking her face in her “twat.” Indeed, as she bitches, Astor does not feel like a “cheap dyke” and will certainly not allow a slant-eyed Chinese carpet-muncher to dine on her gristle-gripper. When auteur Eric Mitchell also attempts to hit on Astor by saying patently preposterous things to her like, “I think you’re really gorgeous…I think you’re really beautiful…I think you’re really magnificent…I think you’re magnificent […] You’re so fabulous,” she is less than impressed. In a pathetic attempt to use his dubious reputation as a novice filmmaker, Mitchell also attempts to swoon Astor into bed by proclaiming, “Every inch of your body stinks of celluloid” and “It really reeks of celluloid,” but she puts him in his pathetic place by retorting, “I don’t give a shit about your image because I don’t have an image.

 When flagrant fag Gordon Stevenson (who directed the somewhat unconventional No Wave flick Ecstatic Stigmatic (1980) before dying of AIDS not long after) goes on a clichéd quasi-commie rant where he self-righteously declares that rich people are uncultivated pigs that cannot dress and like sporting vulgar blue jeans, Phillips becomes extremely agitated and hatefully states to him, “I think that’s a bunch of reactionary crap. I mean, I have never seen anybody so reactionary as you. You know, people like you should be shot dead…Run over and shot dead. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned.” After Stevenson retorts, “Just frustrated, just really frustrated,” Phillips accuses him of being a hypocrite and states, “If you don’t like these rich pigs, just blow them off. Nobody is going to stop you…You’re just too scared, too scared to do anything.” After her prosaic pseudo-political rant, Phillips gets somewhat flirty with Stevenson and gives him a backhanded compliment of sorts when she declares, “In some ways, you’re kind of cute…But you’re probably just another fag and I’m sick of hanging around fags.” Since Monsieur Mitchell does not like cunty chicks accusing his homeboys of being homos, he defends Stevenson by telling Phillips that she is an “asshole” and “phony,” among other childish things that make him seem like a toddler suffering from an intolerable case of the terrible twos. At this point, Phillips completely loses her cool, states to both men, “You’re all fags. Every one of you,” and recommends that they both get out of the closet because, as she less than eloquently states, “It couldn’t hurt…that much.” 

 Totally oblivious to the fact that Phillips is just acting like a bitch because she is in dire need of some dick and maybe a little cunt, Mitchell goes on a girly man rant while smoking a fat joint where he verbally vomits on her, “You really think you’re some kind of revolutionary, huh? I’ll tell you, you’re really a phony one, a phony revolutionary because I haven’t seen you do anything yet. You haven’t done shit. Alls you’ve done is talked about it…You haven’t done anything yet […] Have you put any bombs anywhere? Have you kidnapped anybody?” After Mitchell gets down verbally reaming Philips, Stevenson goes on a similarly aimless rant where he thankfully decries the “liberal humanist lie.” Out of nowhere, everyone eventually begins dancing to the Rolling Stones cover of “Satisfaction” by Devo that is playing on a record player in the room and Mitchell eventually gets in a girly fight with a wuss in a leather-jacket in the process. After the dance, Stevenson begins hitting on Mitchell and apologizes to him in regard to an assumed botch sex session by stating, “I couldn’t get it up for you […] I couldn’t get it up for anyone at the moment, sorry.” Seeming to have the sexual habits of a psychopath, Mitchell replies to Stevenson, “I can do the same job myself. Anyway, I think it’s a lot better afterwards…because you don’t have any hassle. See, I don’t like sex very much at all. I don’t like anything that much.” When Astor attempts to sleep with sod Stevenson and even offers him $30, he rudely begins laughing and replies, “There’s just something about you I don’t like. Too fucking bourgeois or something.” In a rather valiant attempt to prove Phillips wrong in regard to her claims that they are nothing but whiny armchair revolutionaries, the raging revolutionary queers kidnap a young businessman (played by real-life business man Steve Mass, who owned the Mudd Club) and spend the last ten minutes of the film ‘torturing’ him in a lackluster fashion while he is blindfolded and tied to a chair. Since the victim is “capitalist swine” and all, Mitchell forces him to oink like a pig. In the end, the victim softly states “kill me,” so Phillips fulfills his wish by shooting him in the head, though naturally the gun fails to make a ‘bang’ sound. 

 Without a doubt, Kidnapped is one of the most absurdly amateurish and incredibly pointless and meandering films that I have ever seen and I say that as someone who is somewhat familiar with both Troma and the so-called Mumblecore movement, yet I'd watch it any day over the latest Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg blockbuster because it at least has some character, charm, and a sense of humor, not to mention the fact that it mocks the dilettante guerilla politics of far-left terrorists, namely rock star commies like Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin.  In that sense, Mitchell’s film anticipates the self-critical left-wing art-porn flicks of Canadian cocksucker Bruce LaBruce, especially The Raspberry Reich (2004) aka The Revolution Is My Boyfriend. Somewhat curiously, aside from Warhol’s Vinyl, Kidnapped seems to most resemble the classic homo hardcore porn flick Boy 'Napped (1975) aka Boy-napped! starring Jamie Gillis and mustached dick-stabber/disco singer/AIDS victim Wade Nichols (aka Dennis Posa) and directed by German-American exploitation auteur turned gay pornographer David E. Durston (The Love Statue, I Drink Your Blood). Indeed, if Mitchell’s film featured a sex scene or two, it might be considered a classic porn chic era fuck flick as opposed to a forgotten No Wave classic. Despite the minimalistic art-trash aesthetic of Kidnapped, Mitchell has more cultivated cinematic influences than one might assume, or as he stated in the doc Blank City, “I really liked Warhol for the concept, Fassbinder for the ensemble of actors, Pasolini for his integrity, and Melville for his hat and sunglasses.” Speaking of Fassbinder, compared to films where the New German Cinema alpha-auteur satirizes the senseless behavior of self-stylized commie revolutionaries like Die Niklashauser Fahrt (1970) aka The Niklashausen Journey, Mutter Küsters Fahrt zum Himmel (1975) aka Mother Küsters' Trip to Heaven and Die dritte Generation (1979) aka The Third Generation, Kidnapped seems like a botched attempt at a hipster philistine circle jerk.  For better or worse, Mitchell's film would have a somewhat notable influence on both No Wave cinema and the Cinema of Transgression movement, especially the oeuvre of husband-wife team Beth B and Scott B (Black Box, Vortex).  Somewhat surprisingly, Mitchell eventually became a remarkably more cultivated filmmaker as demonstrated by his ‘magnum opus’ Underground U.S.A. (1980), which demonstrates eclectic influences ranging from Josef von Sternberg to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) to Paul Morrissey’s Heat (1972). Additionally, Mitchell's feature The Way it Is or Eurydice in the Avenues (1985)—a work where a chick portraying Eurydice in an adaptation of Jean Cocteau's Orphée (1950) aka Orpheus is found dead in Tompkins Square Park and where the East Village is portrayed as a sort of Cocteauian underworld—is notable for featuring both Steve Buscemi and Vincent Gallo in early pre-fame acting roles. While indubitably Mitchell's most eclectically mediocre work, I personally somewhat appreciate Kidnapped to some marginal degree because it demonstrates that NYC art fags are just as stupid, lazy, and dirty as ghetto crackheads. 

-Ty E

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