Nov 30, 2015

A Safe Place

Although it might sound like something straight out of a dystopian sci-fi flick, there are actually special rooms (or other special designated areas) called ‘safe spaces’ on some college campuses where certain mental cripples that are usually female and/or non-white can go to indulge in happy things like ice cream and footage of puppies if they feel ‘triggered’ by something that hurts their super special feelings like a so-called ‘microaggression.’ Indeed, if a mulatto tranny freak gets freaked out because a mean evil white boy in his class questions how someone can be a woman if they have a cock and Y chromosome, they can seek sanctuary in a safe place where pesky things like facts and reality will not hurt them. Long before society became completely spiritually and socially castrated and safe places became a sad and pathetic reality, Hebraic hipster auteur filmmaker Henry Jaglom (Tracks, Venice/Venice)—a sort of failed Woody Allen type, albeit slightly less neurotic and more Zionistic—made his directorial debut with what might be best described as the cinematic equivalent of such outstandingly absurd anti-reality rooms. A complete and utter commercial and critical bomb upon its less than auspicious release, Jaglom’s highly personalized first feature A Safe Place (1971) was made during the New Hollywood (aka ‘American New Wave’) era when auteurist cinema had become vogue in America as a result of the unexpected big commercial success of works like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Easy Rider (1969).  Produced by wealthy dope-addled Judaic (pseudo)bohemians Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner’s production company BBS Productions (which was previously called Raybert Productions before Blauner joined and was responsible for creating both the successful situation comedy The Monkees and the initially imaginary band of the same name), both Jaglom’s film and Jack Nicholson’s rarely-seen quasi-arthouse flick Drive, He Said (1971) would mark a sort of turning point for the fairly lucrative company, which had great success with its previous works like Easy Rider (which Jaglom played a role in reediting), Five Easy Pieces (1970), and The Last Picture Show (1971). According to Jaglom, BBS head Schneider sobbed upon first seeing A Safe Place and told the filmmaker that he had absolutely no clue what the film was about and felt it would be an abject failure at the box offices but opted to release it anyway since he was a rare producer of his time who was committed to the artistic freedom of the auteur. A conspicuously convoluted and incessantly fragmented doped-out psychodrama that centers around a decidedly dumb and equally morally retarded blonde woman-child that lives in a pathetic fantasy realm that revolves around her nostalgia for her seemingly largely imagined childhood, Jaglom’s film follows in the post-WWII Jewish American male tradition of Philip Roth, Norman Mahler, and Woody Allen in that it grovelingly fetishizes the tall, blonde Aryan Shiksa. 

 Based on a play by Jaglom that he originally performed in NYC in 1964 with his then-girlfriend Karen Black in the lead role and himself portraying a character that would eventually be played by Jack Nicholson for the silver-screen, A Safe Place was mainly aesthetically influenced by both improvisational theater and European arthouse films by Fellini, Godard, John Schlesinger, Ingmar Bergman, etc., among various others. Thematically speaking, the film was mostly influenced by Jaglom’s desire to stay a perennial child, or as the auteur stated himself in the Criterion Collection featurette Henry Jaglom Finds ‘A Safe Place’ (2010), “I had the character I wanted to explore, which was this amalgam, as I said, of a lot of women I had known and parts of myself…and this resistance to growing up, which was very endemic to […] that period. A lot of us did not want to grow up in the 60s, you know, when I wrote it. By the time I made it in 1971, I still did not want to grow up and I was still, like, not understanding what that was about […] and there was a death attraction. A kind of, sort of romance of suicide. A lot of aspects of the popular culture, which I was […] certainly a part of. And ummm, in A SAFE PLACE I just really wanted to tell the truth emotionally up onscreen. There was no question for me that what I had to try to do was make films that, in my sense of things, told the emotional truth about life as I perceived it and I still don’t want to grow up. Absolutely, the Peter Pan thing is profound […] Luckily, I haven’t had to grow up and that’s kind of the amazing thing about this and I think Anaïs Nin had a whole lot to do with that.” Indeed, Jaglom’s debut is a proudly masturbatory film culled from a whopping fifty hours of seemingly randomly shot footage that depicts infantile young adults doing infantile things, with the brain-dead blonde lead being exceedingly upset about the fact that she believes that she was able to fly as a child yet no longer remembers how to do it. Featuring the novelty of a rather bloated and broken Orson Welles in a role that Jaglom gave him a color TV to do as a sort of phantom magician with a grating Eastern European Yiddish Jewish accent who pops in and out of the protagonist’s life throughout the entire film, A Safe Place is like a cross between Ambrose Bierce’s classic short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890), Federico Fellini’s psychedelic classic Juliet of the Spirits (1965), and Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin Féminin (1966), albeit nowhere near as ambitious and spectacular as it sounds. Directed by the proud great-great-great-great-great-grandson of German Jewish Haskala philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Jaglom's debut is a work that is ultimately quite typical of the sort of neurotic racial schizophrenia that many contemporary Judaic men suffer from as a film that simultaneously celebrates Hebraic kultur and the singular beauty of blonde Nordic women. In that sense, A Safe Place is like a hippie art fag equivalent to Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid (1972).

 At the very beginning of the film, Orson Welles gives a good indication of the film’s helically oriented narrative structure by slowly stating in a quasi-poetic fashion, “Last night…in my sleep…I dreamed…that I was sleeping.  And dreaming in that sleep…that I had awakened…I feel asleep.” Welles portrays an imaginary character that Jaglom hilariously described as a “lapsed wander rabbi” who tells Hasidic stories “that have no meaning” that were written by an eccentric Orthodox rabbi named Nachman of Breslov and who is also a failed magician of sorts whose sole trick is making things, including money and a silver ball, levitate.  For whatever reason, Welles, who acts as a sort of paternal figure (Jaglom has hinted that he is actually her father), watches over protagonist Susan aka ‘Noah’ (Tuesday Weld of Frank Perry’s Play It As It Lays (1972) and Richard Brooks’ Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)) as she makes stupid decision after decision in her patently pathetic life of mindless self-indulgence, self-destructive hedonism, and delusional nostalgia worship. Protagonist Noah—a character named after Noah's Ark that auteur Jaglom has described as being “1/3 Tuesday, 1/3 Karen [Black], and 1/3 me”—lives in a perpetual dream realm of sappy sentimentalism and careless sensuality where she does everything she can to block out the less than happy events from her waste of a life. At the beginning of the film, a somewhat Jew-y dork named Fred Sapier (Phil Proctor, who is best known for his voice roles in Pixar films like Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, etc.) bumps into Noah and more or less immediately decides to dedicate his life to her, thereupon eventually becoming a pathetic cuckold in the process. Unquestionably, Fred is what hippies would call a ‘square’ but because he is completely infatuated with Noah and her plastic pulchritude, he decides to make a valiant attempt at adopting her bohemian way of life by hanging out with drugged-out naked degenerates that babble on about nothing. Unbeknownst to poor Fred, Noah’s troubled heart is owned by a suave and stoic player named Mitch (Jack Nicholson in a largely improvised role where he more or less plays himself) who swings by the protagonist’s apartment anytime he feels like fucking her, even though he is apparently in love with a chick named Rita (which was apparently the name of the girl that Nicholson was dating in real-life at that time). Needless to say, heartbreak is a malignant metaphysical affliction that virtually every single character in the film seems to suffer from to some degree or another. 

 Throughout the film, protagonist Noah and her hippie friends are incessantly depicted doing childish friends like riding rocking horses and merry-go-rounds, holding broken baby dolls (undoubtedly symbolic of their traumatic childhoods and arrested development), and lying around naked while doing nothing like over indulged babies that are happy to play in their own feces and vomit. As she tells to a somewhat baffled Fred, Noah demands that her television be on at all times, even though she has the sound turned off, as if she needs a constant state of both stimulation and escapism. Noah also shows Fred a special wooden box where you apparently put something that “means something very special to you” and then you make a wish “for something that you really need to happen,” thus reflecting the lead heroine’s completely childish wishful thinking, as if she is afraid of taking actual action in her life and making things happen through work and determination. For what might be described as their first date, Fred takes Noah to a natural history museum that makes the protagonist somewhat upset and inspires her to complain, “They’re not natural. [It is] supposed to be the Museum of Natural History. Well, there’s nothing natural about it. All those space things and switches. You know, when I was a little girl, we used to go there all the time on school trips. It was all natural then.” Needless to say, Fred is somewhat confused when Noah states in all seriousness, “When I was a child, I flew. I know it sounds crazy, but I did. I did fly. I just can’t remember how.” At this point, Noah becomes considerably upset and complains, “sometimes it hurts” because “if I could just remember it, then I’d be able to fly again.” Of course, when Fred questions if she really had the ability to fly, Noah becomes fairly hysterical and begins sobbing like an irrational child that hates the fact that reality does not conform to her wishes. Naturally, poor cuck Fred is hopelessly pussy-struck and thus reduces himself to dealing with the increasingly nonsensical behavior of a grown woman that acts like an emotionally erratic retarded child with ADHD, but of course it is only a matter of time before a woman as beautiful as Noah gets with a man that does more than just act like a passive doormat. 

 When her ‘dream lover’ Mitch randomly shows up on her roof and asks while smirking in a knowing fashion, “Well, is it alright – is it all right that I came at this – this time?,” Noah replies like a naïve schoolgirl with wet panties, “Yes, it’s more than all right,” even though she is in a relationship with Fred. Since he knows that she worships his cock, Mitch has no problem insulting Noah and telling her that he misses her because, as he states to the philistine protagonist in a less than flattering way, “’re very simpleminded. Do you know why I like simpleminded because? Because it’s real easy to make them do whatever you want them to.” Indeed, it is quite apparent that Mitch can get Noah to do whatever he wants, including fucking him on the roof even though she is in a relationship with Freddy boy, who walks in on the two while they are spooning yet does not have the testicular fortitude to confront his girlfriend about the fact that she is blatantly cheating on him with another man. While Fred hangs out with some naked hippies that are discussing “psychic self-defense” and rapist hobos, alpha-mensch Mitch plows Noah’s pussy in a montage sequence that really epitomizes the moral bankruptcy and degeneracy of the counterculture generation. Meanwhile, lapsed rebbe magician Orson Welles attempts a magic trick where he tries in vain to make Mitch disappear, as if he is Noah's bargain bin guardian angel and knows that she is on the brink of destroying her relatively ‘healthy’ relationship with Fred. 

 While playing a mere secondary role, a fairly Aryan-looking Jewess with blonde curls named Gwen Welles (real name Gwen Goldberg) ultimately upstages the lead as a drug-addled hippie named ‘Bari.’ A real-life junky that died in 1993 at the fairly premature age of 42 as a result of anal cancer that she refused to get properly treated (incidentally, her younger sister died of colon cancer a decade later), Welles still managed to acquire a somewhat eclectic variety of film roles ranging from the eponymous lead of Roger Vadim’s Hellé (1972) to a cute no-talent country singer that gets an audience's attention by doing a striptease in Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975). In A Safe Place, Welles gives a totally improvised and considerably impassioned yet somewhat degrading performance where she recalls being stalked by a number of dirty old men and eventually hints while sobbing that she was once date raped after swallowing one-too-many sleeping pills. Indeed, while sincerely crying to her hippie comrades as a lone tear drips down her fairly adorable face, Welles declares, “I mean, I felt completely apart from anything that doesn’t resemble – doesn’t resemble being miserable,” thereupon unwittingly foretelling the tragic course her life would ultimately take. Dyke filmmaker Donna Deitch would ultimately document Welles' final days in the doc Angel on My Shoulder (1998) where the deathly ill actress does not even vaguely resemble her former self. 

 At a certain point in the film, Fred takes Noah to a fancy apartment (which was actually owned by Jaglom’s wealthy parents) that is filled with various authentic degenerate quasi-Expressionistic paintings that was apparently the male protagonist’s childhood home (thus hinting that pussy Fred is indeed a stand-in for Jaglom). Not surprisingly, Noah decides to hide in a closet (which was, rather revealingly, actually Jaglom’s own mother’s closet) and ultimately gives a clue as to why she is such a dysfunctional young dame. Indeed, after proclaiming to Fred, “Some people have a light that seems to come out of the center of their eyes. There’s – There’s something that’s so alive in them. You know, it’s a quality of hopefulness, of love. People who can love have those lights. You’ve got them. Little lights that are always on, sparkling and warm,” Noah proceeds to describe in a decidedly depression fashion how she has dead eyes. Naturally when Noah states, “In some people…In – In my father, the iris…has a milkiness to it. And they’re flat. There’s no light. They look, um – They look glazed over and dead. I’m terrified that…I’m all dead in my eyes, like my father. That I inherited an – [nervously laughs] inability to love,” it becomes obvious that she has a dubious relationship with her daddy and that he might have done something to her that completely destroyed her inside, hence her current childlike state. 

 When Nicholson’s character Mitch stops by for what he proudly describes as a “late nighttime drop-in” at Noah’s apartment, it ultimately ushers in the beginning of the end of the protagonist’s fairly prosaic relationship with sad pathetic beta-bitch Fred. Indeed, as soon as Mitch shows up, Noah immediately attempts to get Fred to leave so that she can have enough privacy to be meticulously defiled by her dream lover. While Noah eventually convinces Fred to go in a back room and stay there, the cuckolded boyfriend is more than aware of what is happening and decides to barge back in under the pretense of sharing some fine wine with his less than faithful girlfriend and her super suave fuck-buddy. Of course, this totally annoys Noah, who is discernibly horny for marvelous Mitch’s man meat and cannot tolerate being cunt-blocked, so she firmly tells Fred to leave immediately. Like many men in such a situation, Mitch becomes somewhat uneasy and complains to Noah, “I can’t do this…I can’t do this…I can’t do this. I feel bad about this person coming in and out like this. You know, I mean, I just – I identify with the position, you know?,” but the horny heroine reassures him by stating, “Maybe sometimes you should just take what you want when it’s there.”  Indeed, even when her fuck-buddy Mitch demonstrates that he has a large enough of a heart and conscience to attempt to dissuade her from cheating on her beau and ultimately destroying her relationship, Noah cannot help but cheat on Fred in a most overtly emasculating and ultimately soul-destroying fashion.  Of course, Mitch cannot turn down free premium pussy, no matter how awkward the situation gets.  As for poor pathetic cuckold Fred, he decides to grab all the meaningful mementos that he has collected during his relationship with Noah and then proceeds to burn them in a fireplace in a scenario that seems like it was stolen from a similar scene in Dimitri Kirsanoff's masterful silent short Brumes d'automne (1929) aka Autumn Mists starring Nadia Sibirskaïa. Upon exiting the apartment in a pathetically melodramatic fashion, Fred resentfully shouts to Noah and Mitch “I’m leaving” and “you’ve won,” but they barely acknowledge his presence because they are in the middle of a heated pre-fuck foreplay session. After Fred slams the door like a pathetic sore loser, Noah celebrates by declaring “We won” and then she and Mitch proceed to laugh while continuing to make out. 

 In an unintentionally hilarious montage sequence towards the end of the film, Fred is featured looking directly at the camera and crying in regard to his bitter breakup with Noah, “These feelings are like…f-feelings of love […] It’s like the confusion of love, you know? Does love hurt, or is it something that makes you feel happy? Well, I guess it’s somewhere right in between, just kind of on a tightrope.” Of course, it is nearly impossible for any self-respecting man to have sympathy for a character that is as weak and ineffectual as dumb fuck cuck Fred, who ultimately loses Noah because he is a pathetic bore and pedantic pansy who acted in a groveling manner towards the heroine during their entire terribly mismatched (non)romance. In the end, Fred seems to make a desperate attempt to get back Noah by randomly swinging by her apartment, but she is nowhere to be found (indeed, as the film hints in the end, she has probably already committed suicide).  Meanwhile, Noah is depicted sobbing in a bubble bath and when Orson Welles tells her to “disappear,” she cries “no.” In a scene that hints that Noah was molested by her father, she states while sitting in the bathtub, “He loved me as a little girl. I could tell, when the lights came on, when he looked at me.”  Of course, at this point in the film, there is no question that Noah—a perennial little girl that lacks the capacity to love or have a serious meaningful relationship—has become the way she is as a result of some serious daddy issues that she never resolved, hence her love of escapism and various imagined childhood memories, which she seems to have created as a self-defense mechanism to block her real memories out. After some children yell “Time to go now!” and Orson Welles proceeds to levitate a ball, Noah proceeds to commit suicide in her bathtub by swallowing some unmentioned substance in what is undoubtedly the most soft and flowery self-slaughter sequence in cinema history. After overdosing on whatever fatal cocktail that she decided to off herself with, Noah is depicted as a little girl in the bathtub juxtaposed with her adult self declaring, “I remember.”  Indeed, as one ultimately learns from A Safe Place, spoiled girls with serious daddy issues make for terrible girlfriends and tend to be attracted to shitty men.  Naturally, the so-called sexual liberation movement gave such damaged dames as Noah a virtual license to speed up their inevitable self-destruction.

 Despite my less than positive opinion of the film, I find it absolutely amazing that a cinematic work like A Safe Place was ever made in Hollywood, as it is so anti-linear and thematically degenerate that it ultimately makes Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973) seem like George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) by comparison. After watching the film, I was not surprised to learn that Jaglom has described his fan base as being, “70-80% women and mostly women who are interested in examining the lives of women.” Indeed, Jaglom (as well as his much more successful fellow Hebraic contemporary Woody Allen) undoubtedly proves that Viennese philosopher Otto Weininger was certainly on to something when he theorized in his magnum opus Geschlecht und Charakter (1903) aka Sex and Character that Jewishness and femininity are one and the same. Notably, Weininger was certainly prophetic when it came to foreseeing the collective moral and cultural degeneration of the Occident, especially in regard to the zeitgeist depicted in A Safe Place, as reflected in his words, “Our age is not only the most Jewish, but also the most effeminate of all ages . . . an age of the most credulous anarchism, an age without any appreciation of the state and law . . . an age of the shallowest of all imaginable interpretations of history (historical materialism), an age of capitalism and Marxism, an age for which history, life, science, everything, has become nothing but economics and technology; an age that has declared genius to be a form of madness, but which no longer has one great artist or one great philosopher; an age that is most devoid of originality, but which chase most frantically after originality; an age that has replaced the idea of virginity with the cult of the demivierge. This age also has the distinction of being the first to have not only affirmed and worshipped sexual intercourse, but to have practically made it a duty, not as a way of achieving oblivion, as the Romans and Greeks did in their bacchanals, but in order to find itself and to give its own dreariness a meaning.”  Of course, all the sex depicted in A Safe Place is completely soulless and meaningless, not to mention oftentimes downright self-destructive, thus the film ironically ultimately criticizes the very same counterculture movement and hippie chick type that it attempts to glorify, thereupon underscoring the innate nihilism of that particularly pathetic zeitgeist.  Indeed, while I find Jaglom to be a particularly repugnant fellow, I can at least respect the fact that he acknowledges that he and his entire generation suffered from Puer aeternus, with his debut film arguably being the most blatant and literal example of this in cinema history, albeit from the curious perspective of a woman as opposed to a man like the filmmaker (who, as I mentioned before, claims that the character is partially based on himself).

 Aside from his second feature Tracks (1977) starring Dennis Hopper as a deranged Vietnam War veteran, virtually every single one of Jaglom’s films focus on women and specifically women themed issues, with Eating (1991) centering around female food obsession, Babyfever (1994) focusing on child-craving chicks that are struggling with their biological clocks, and Going Shopping (2005) depicting the feminine vice of jovially wasting tons of time and money on worthless junk. Of course, I guess that it what one should expect from a man who once stated in regard to his mother’s disturbingly gynocentric influence on him, “I had this very enormous influence of femininity in my childhood and I was allowed to be a girl to some extent, which boys weren’t. She gave my access. I’m sure that’s why I am so connected to women. She never said you can’t cross this line, so I got to try on the new lipsticks and be the girl in the family.” Going back to Weininger, Jaglom’s oeuvre indubitably demonstrates that the Austrian philosopher was right when he wrote, “No men who really think deeply about women retain a high opinion of them.” Naturally, considering Jaglom’s films present women in a realistic and, in turn, rather unflattering fashion, it should be no surprise that feminists tend to either love or loathe his work (notably, lecherous quasi-feminist Anaïs Nin was one of the few vocal supporters of Jaglom's debut when it was released and even actively promoted it by penning a rave review and showing it to women on college campuses).  Personally, I found A Safe Place to be a singularly torturous experience due to the fact that I not only felt a bit of Fremdscham as a result of seeing a rather bloated and broken Orson Welles being reduced to portraying a babbling kosher clown with a terribly phony Yiddish accent, but also because I had to be reminded that countless Jewish men like Jaglom have a peculiar propensity to prey on Aryan (anti)goddesses with serious daddy issues that no sane or self-respecting white man would ever dare tolerate.  Indeed, while Jaglom once proudly stated, “I'm a Jew because of Hitler. More than anything, anti-Semites try to make you not a Jew. So self-respect requires you to be a Jew,” he has demonstrated with both his films and actions that he has a curious case of racial schizophrenia (in fact, he has only married and reproduced with goy gals with traditional Nordic features), but then again that is just one of the many reasons why he is one of the most innately Jewish filmmakers of his generation.  Aside from validating Weininger's theories on Jewishness and femininity, A Safe Place also demonstrates that even the most women film oriented gay Aryan filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder seem fairly macho when compared to heterosexual Hebrews like Jaglom.

-Ty E


Tony Brubaker said...

I want to bugger Tuesday Weld (as the bird was in 1961 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

Jennifer O`Neill said...

You should reveiw "Pretty Poison" (1968) starring the then 24 year-old Tuesday Weld, its a much better film than this ludicrously pretentious unwatchable hogwash.

Tony Brubaker said...

I wonder if Orson Welles was ever lucky enough to bugger Rita Hayworth or w-HEATHER he had to just make do with fucking her ?.

Tony Brubaker said...

Just with regards to that other equally unwatchable pile of pretentious horse-shit that Jack Nicholson appeared in 5 years later "The Passenger": I want to bugger Maria Schneider (as the bird was in 1970 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

Tony Brubaker said...

Another crappy thing about Henry Jaglom is that hes actually British, the worthless Limey scum (although i do of course respect his rampaging heterosexuality).

Orson Welles said...

"I`m speaking from the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai".

Tony Brubaker said...

Jaglom is a much better film-maker than Fassbinder simply because he is heterosexual where-as that Kraut was a faggot.