Sep 7, 2015
While I would not exactly describe Richard Kern (You Killed Me First, Manhattan Love Suicides) as any sort of avant-garde or arthouse auteur, his less than 30-minute black-and-white cinematic piece The Right Side of My Brain (1985) is indubitably somewhat artsy fartsy in the sense that it would bore the hell out of mainstream filmgoers even though it features an unsimulated blowjob scene and Sapphic sadomasochistic sex, among other gratingly directed debauched scenarios that are about as erotic as the women's restroom in a downtown Detroit McDonalds. More or less the somewhat predictable result of star and co-writer Lydia Lunch, who the filmmaker apparently once “worshiped from afar” (or so he stated in the doc Blank City (2010) directed by Celine Danhier), approaching Kern and asking him to direct it, the fetishistic (anti)erotic micro-epic depicts female sexuality in a fairly unflattering fashion with its less than playfully perverse portrayal of a masochistic cum-dump degenerate who morbidly metastasizes into a full-blown sadist as a result of her brutal sexual experiences with violent long haired dudes that resemble the gringo brothers of Richard Ramirez. Indeed, if you ever desired to be drenched in the putrid festering vaginal juices of Ms. Lunch yet are averse to contracting an STD or two, The Right Side of My Brain is probably your best bet as a seedy and sleazy no-budget ‘snuff chic’ flick where the viewer enters deep inside the anti-diva's (sub)conscious mind and is exposed to her more intimate and vulnerable psycho-sexual realms. Additionally, the film features the very awkward scenario of seeing lapsed Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins with longhair in a would-be-rough S&M sex scene with Lunch that is somewhat botched by a petrified little boy with a knife. In other words, the film features the special novelty of two overrated so-called ‘spoken word’ artists engaging in savagely brutal sex where cum and vaginal secretions are nowhere to be seen. For better or worse, The Right Side of My Brain probably deserves the somewhat oxymoronic label of being an avant-garde white trash porno piece, though I cannot really imagine anyone being in any way sexually aroused by it aside from maybe a very special sort of gynophobic serial killer and/or pretentious lesbian intellectual. As mentioned in the book Deathtripping: The Extreme Underground (2008) by Jack Sargeant, Lunch described the film as follows: “A psycho-sexual, emotional, nymphomaniacal drama based on one poor, unfortunate girl who just gets abused throughout, and possibly on why one may want to get abused. Abuse may titillate one’s imagination or emotions which could be far superior to feeling rot or ugliness. So it’s just a little expose, and the possible reasons for why one girl could be led to be so distraught.” Of course, as the debauched brainchild of a morally bankrupt street slut who credits her sexually predatory behavior as being the result of being molested by her own father (or as she stated in her remarkably coldly written whore memoir Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary (1997), “So twisted by men, a man, my father, that I became like one”), the film certainly has a psycho-autobiographical element to it that demonstrates that Lunch has no qualms about looking at both men and women as sexual prey even though she was once herself the prey of a pernicious pervert who also just happened to be her daddy.
Comprised of about half a dozen or so petite vignettes featuring Lunch in some sort of sexually deranged situation involving some sort of unsavory scumbag who gets a kick out of degrading women juxtaposed with annoyingly monotone narration from the female lead, The Right Side of My Brain is indubitably an ugly film about ugly people doing ugly things just to satisfy their baser instincts. Notably, after directing all the scenes for the film, Lunch watched the footage and wrote the pseudo-salacious dialogue, which is narrated in an annoyingly monotone fashion throughout and is in the style of her sleazy spoken word performances. As Lunch complains at the very beginning of the film while sounding like she wants a large throbbing cock shoved down her throat, “I felt like I was drowning…slowly, sinking…being suffocated…Sucked into an endless vacuum. A void…a place where reality was no longer necessary. I could hardly move from the bed. I didn’t wanna move.” In the next scene, Lunch is depicted fondling her own titties juxtaposed with the narration, “I just wanted to be left alone…To play hide-and-go-seek with my neighbors. Just me and my dreams. Just me and my nightmares. The need to feel alive was killing me…torturing me, holding me up in the ugliest of corners.” As is quite apparent at this point, Lunch has an undying aching desire to have her thoroughly used and abused cunt filled by some malevolent man, or as she narrates, “Always waiting…waiting and for what? Him…that special someone…the White Knight…the Jack of Diamonds, the King of Hearts. Him” and “Him…The Gravedigger.” Lunch is speaking specifically of a gawky cigarette-smoking sadist (No Wave musician Norman Westberg of Swans) with a fiercely flat affect that resembles a serial killer and carries a shotgun around like it is his cock, or as she states, “One night he came over…he was beautiful. He was a mess. He stepped out of the gutter and into my arms, or at least that’s what he’d say and he was so filthy, I guess you’d believe it. But he was different…very different. One in a million.” As Lunch states in regard to her experiences with Westberg, she is, “waiting to find out the difference between a crazy man and a crazy woman.” At the end of the scene, Lunch states in a suspenseful fashion, “Crazy women tolerate this behavior because love is deaf and dumb and stupid and it hurts like hell and that’s better than nothing,” and Westberg proceeds to point his shotgun in her pussy as if he wants to make a bigger hole between her legs. Naturally, Lunch gets all hot and bothered upon having a gun aimed at her cunt to the point where she develops a cutesy expression on her face that makes her seem like a flirtatious teenage virgin. Of course, the only thing that could make Lunch’s cock-chafer even wider is a gunshot blast. Naturally, crazy men like Westberg turn Lunch on because she suffers from the delusional belief that, “...they love you so, so much…They will try to kill you.”
In the second major segment of the film, Lunch narrates while lying in bed, “Dreaming…I was only dreaming, but even in sleep I saw no rest. I was beginning to lose control of my senses. I was wrestling with myself and losing. It was like someone else was pulling all the strings. I wasn’t feeling like myself, at all. Something was wrong. The right side of my brain was going berserk. I couldn’t possibly want what it was I thought I wanted. The anatomy of melancholy. No, I had a bad dream, that was all. I have a lot of bad dreams.” After a seemingly aborted attempt to masturbate, Lunch calls some random loser (Brian Moran) and thinks to herself how good it feels to be “split in two” and “all torn up.” When her loser fuck-buddy finally arrives, Lunch meekly licks his hands and fingers, which eventually enrages him to the point where he violently shoves said hands and fingers down her throat. As for the abuse that Lunch seems to wallow in, she narrates while being orally brutalized, “I just wanted to feel really, really alive…that’s all. No matter what the expense.” As far as lecherous Lydia is concerned, there is a “thin line between a kiss and a scream.” Indeed, after pissing Mr. Moran off by aggressively grabbing his cock, Lunch gets pummeled with his fists, which turns her on so much that she later masturbates while thinking about it. Indeed, the more Lunch is beaten and brutalized, the more her masochistic tendencies grow, or as she pseudo-poetically narrates, “My every waking moment was spent trying to fend off the beasts inside me. Nothing seemed to satisfy this unquenchable monster…This unbearable longing, this yearning for everything bad and ugly and self-destructive.” Of course, it is only a matter of time before Lunch begins dishing out pain and destruction.
In the next segment of the film, Lunch is depicted giving an unsimulated blowjob to her longtime Australian-born boyfriend J.G. Thirlwell, who was not only responsible for being the “soundtrack coordinator” of The Right Side of My Brain and contributing music to a number of other Kern flicks, but also composed the titular song for David Wojnarowicz and Tommy Turner’s aborted Cinema of Transgression art-horror epic Where Evil Dwells (1985) with his electronic noise-rock side-project Wiseblood. During the segment, sunglasses-adorned Thirlwell rips off Lunch's top, manhandles her mammary glands, and eventually physically forces her to lip-lock his cock while she narrates things like, “It feels so good to be alive and squirming under his fists…and made to do exactly what they want you to do because that’s what you want.” At the end of the segment, Lunch bitches when Thirlwell forces her off his cock, “They always stopped short of giving exactly what I wanted,” thus making it seem as if no man can completely fulfill her completely insatiable sexual needs. As Lunch narrates after Thirlwell abruptly leaves her all hot and bothered, “I was my own worst enemy and I liked it like that,” thereupon acknowledging the fact that the sexual violence that she regularly endures is entirely voluntary.
Maybe it is because I have read one-too-many of his books as a teenager where he incessantly complains about things like skinheads kicking his ass or why he hates everything, but it is hard for me to imagine Henry Rollins chasing after any woman, especially a wanton wench like Lunch. Indeed, in the next segment of the film, Rollins is depicted literally chasing Lunch through a forest while she narrates, “…running headlong into my own demise. Running not away from it, but to embrace it and rejoice in it with open arms.” As she thinks to herself, Lunch wants Rollins to “catch me and conquer me.” Of course, Rollins eventually catches and manhandles Lunch when she runs inside a house, but a problem arises when a little blond boy who is hiding behind a nearby bed becomes an unconventional cock-block of sorts. Indeed, after Rollins begins getting a little bit rough with Lunch after she violently pushes him away, the boy emerges from behind a bed with a knife, so the ex-Black Flag singer picks him up and begins shaking him like he wants to snuff him out via shaken baby syndrome. When the boy eventually manages to get free after Lunch begins attacking Rollins, the masochistic bitch switches places with the little lad and begins receiving a series of blows to her body and face while being pinned down on a bed. In a sort of twist ending to the segment, the blond boy proceeds to look under Lunch’s clothing and presumably attempts to molest her after she is left unconscious as a result of the beating that Rollins doled out to her.
The final segment of the film is important in that it demonstrates that all Lunch’s beatings and rapes have paid off in the long run, as she has gone from being a meek and masochistic heterosexual woman to transforming into a Sapphic sadist who dishes out savage beatings to other sexually dysfunctional broads, though she is somewhat baffled about her own sexual transformation, or as she narrates, “I did not know where I was…Or where I would end up…And I didn’t care. It was as if I was beside myself.” Indeed, not only does Lunch graduate on to sadomasochistic lesbian affairs but she also engages in white-on-yellow miscegenation with a brutal looking East Asian chick (pussy-loving Proto-riot grrrl musician Sally Ven Yu Berg of groups like Egoslavia and SHE). While initially seeming quite timid and rather intimidated by the yellow diva, Lunch soon engages in some mutual tit-touching with the oriental dame that eventually evolves into her smacking around and beating the slant-eyed little bitch. As Lunch narrates at this point regarding her sexuality, “I wanted to feel good and throbbing and wet and real, but all I felt was filthy and dirty and cheap. That’s why I was torturing myself…beating myself at my own game.” After giving the chink chick a good thrashing, Lunch narrates at the very end of the film, “We’ll take the bad with the bad and make it worse, ok…So if it kills me, so what.” Of course, as demonstrated by the fact that she has physically deteriorated so drastically over the past couple of decades, Lunch clearly embraced this nihilistic metasexual weltanschauung in her real-life.
While ostensibly ‘deep’ and ‘esoteric’ in terms of its depiction of the more unflattering examples of female sexuality, The Right Side of My Brain ultimately has a fairly simple and easy to understand message about the vicious circle that is sexual abuse and how victims oftentimes graduate on to becoming full-blown victimizers, including star Lydia Lunch who is completely conscious of her perversions and their source yet she chooses to exercise as opposed to exorcise her all-consuming sexual demons. Indeed, one of the things that makes the film undeniably potent despite oftentimes wallowing in banality is that Lunch brings a certain aberrant authenticity to the role that demonstrates that she probably could have had a fairly lucrative career as a full-blown porn star. As Lunch described the film in the doc Blank City, “THE RIGHT SIDE OF MY BRAIN was my investigation into a specific type of female psyche. It was completely instinctual and I think Richard [Kern] just knew exactly also what I wanted.” Indeed, I think Kern, who is well known for letting his actors/performers take control of his films creatively, knew to let Lunch just be herself and let her gutter lechery just drip from the screen, which it most certainly does. For better or worse, no one can watch The Right Side of My Brain without concluding that Lunch is a conniving cum-dump and proud sexual predator with a pathological need to make both men and women her servile little sex slaves and cuckolds, with Kern arguably being the latter, at least artistically speaking, as a mensch that has no problem with a woman taking over his own film.
Indubitably Kern and Lunch’s subsequent collaboration Fingered (1986) is superior as it is innately more enthralling and even darkly humorous, not to mention more sexually subversive, yet The Right Side of My Brain certainly has a more ominous and foreboding tone to it that makes it fairly unforgettable, even if it is also sometimes annoying and boring. Like Fingered, the film features a sort of post-Expressionist aesthetic that almost seems to excrete a sort of erotic ‘evil’ as opposed to merely mimicking it, hence its strange and almost inexplicable minor degree of idiosyncratic aesthetic potency. Certainly the ‘private dick’ that Lunch depicted in Beth B and Scott B’s Vortex (1982) seems like a naïve teenage girl compared to her ‘character’ in The Right Side of My Brain. In terms of visceral rawness and organic integrity, I would certainly rather watch Kern’s film over Lars von Trier’s epic, botched orgasm NYMPH()MANIAC (2013) starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, who makes Lunch seem like a young Sophia Loren when it comes to physical attractiveness and overall sexual appeal (even if Lunch looks like a decaying 70-year-old crackwhore nowadays). It should be noted that Lunch and Rollins would later reprise their roles as onscreen lovers in the somewhat uneventful arthouse flick Kiss Napoleon Goodbye (1990) directed by Babeth Mondini. Personally, I cannot imagine Rollins being able to fulfill Lunch’s voracious sadomasochistic needs, but I guess that is the main appeal of seeing the two together. While I still would not want to touch Lunch’s pussy with a ten-foot-pole even while she was at her physical peak during her Kern years, I have to give the perennial spoken word slut credit for being able to embody malignantly manipulative and unhinged ‘feminine’ sexuality in such a artfully sleazy way, especially in The Right Side of My Brain where she demonstrates that she is better at beating up some Asian dyke than downing the dick of her longtime beau.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 5:16 AM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.