Nov 4, 2015

Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat

While I am certainly innately anti-bourgeois and always have been, I absolutely loathe commies and other leftist rabble who, not unlike Marx and pretty much any other communist icon, are really just failed resentful members of the same pseudo-culture that they purport to hate, not to mention the fact that they subscribe to an even more extreme and soulless version of materialism than there capitalist enemies, thus I am very limited when it comes to true quality celluloid bourgeoisie-bashing. Indeed, aside from Douglas Sirk, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Todd Solondz, and to a lesser extent Oskar Roehler, there are not that many filmmakers that I consider to be masters of attacking the more repugnant members of the pansy ass petit-bourgeois and virtually all of these filmmakers created melodramas, so naturally I never expected to discover a sort of metapolitical experimental horror-comedy of the scathingly sardonic and scatological sort that rips both the neo-liberal middleclass and office work a new asshole, yet thankfully such a sweetly sick celluloid work does exist.  A 47-minute piece of outstandingly outlandish and obscenely offbeat Australian iconoclasm, the alliteratively titled flick Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat (1988) directed by experimental musician, composer, academic, film scholar, and sometimes filmmaker Philip Brophy, who is probably best known for his satirical slapstick biopunk horror flick Body Melt (1993), is indubitably one of the best kept secrets of Australian cinema. Somewhat unbelievably purchased in 1990 by a British TV channel for a series called Down Under that screened new Australian independent films and ultimately aired the film in a somewhat butchered form, but largely unknown outside of the Australian continent, Brophy’s charmingly subversive directorial debut is one of those oh-so rare cinematic works that is truly like no other film, albeit not in a sort of ultra-hermetic avant-gardist way, as it is a perniciously playful piece that is overflowing with tasteless toilet humor that could be, at least in a superficial way, understood by an ADHD-ridden toddler and even members of Australia’s illustrious aborigine community. With that being said, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat is also a sardonically philosophical and sometimes (anti)poetic work that virtually alleviates lowbrow celluloid scatology to an abstract art form.  Featuring an embarrassingly candid portrait of a languid and largely emotionally vacant loser life that is segmented into four eponymous chapters, Brophy’s foully yet farcically fetishistic experiment is a sort of post-Bataillean work that seems like it was directed by the bastard Aussie brood of Charles Baudelaire and Jan Švankmajer as a sort of psychopathic punk mutation of Mike Judge’s Office Space (1999) that more or less does for marvelously mundane yuppie office jobs what Liquid Sky (1982) did for the ‘heroin chic’ NYC fashion scene and what David Blyth’s punk-fueled surrealist kiwi cult classic Angel Mine (1978) did for New Zealand suburbia as a venomous satire that spares no one, especially the protagonist. An almost dialogue-less work that disseminates a sort of grotesque misanthropic philosophy via the nameless ‘writer’ protagonist’s archaic computer monitor, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat is also highly accentuated by an fairly idiosyncratic sound landscape that was composed by director Brophy while he was seemingly listening to too much Throbbing Gristle and watching too many Valie Export and Kurt Kren flicks. Notably, during a August 9, 1988 interview on the TV program The Movie Show, Brophy stated regarding his cinematic debut that, “I would describe it as a film about the essences of life. It's based on, let’s say, everything in life condensed down into four days and it’s all kind of driven into one particular character which could be anyone...and it's about experiencing all the kind of possible intensities of sex and violence—image wise, symbolically, graphically, physically—that can happen everyday to, I think, anyone's life, except this film just kind of plays with it a bit more forcibly.”  Luckily, Brophy's remarks downplay the true depravity of Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat, which is essentially an unwavering assault on the viewer that reminds them that Nietzsche was right when he prophesied the emergence of the spiritually bankrupt creature known as der letzte mensch.

 Featuring a turd being ‘birthed’ from a beta-bitch’s bunghole, a little girl who proudly spells out “Clit-City” during an intense game of Scrabble, and a blonde beastess office boss who gleefully disciplines her underlings by bending them over and shoving a large dildo up their poop-shutes, among various other unforgettable unhinged things that put the best Troma flicks to abject shame, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat is ultimately a darkly hilarious tale of collective societal cuckoldry and soul-sucking wage-slavery featuring an emotionally comatose protagonist of the all-around sexually and socially dysfunctional sort who lives to philosophize about biological fluids in a seemingly failed attempt to rationalize his magnificently meek and masochistic existence as an office drone whose only true forms of personal expression are his work computer and anus.  Although the film might be the closest thing to a sort of experimental Ozploitation flick, it utilizes various cinematic techniques of both horror cinema and pornography, or as auteur Brophy stated himself on The Movie Show, “A lot of the film is close-up photography and I think a lot of the film is based on physical and material details, which is something that is very important in all horror and pornographic films where things are in such close-up and in such detail that they virtually become abstract, like blood and sweat and gore and whatnot and fluids like that that glisten and so in that sense the film is, if you're talking about the look of it, it thrusts those things upfront in an almost anatomical kind of way, so it is not a very poetic or aesthetic film in that sense, I don't think.” Indeed, featuring a sort of carefully constructed ‘clinical kitsch’ (anti)aesthetic that epitomizes the worst of plastic 1980s preppie (pseudo)culture, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat is an intentionally sapless piece of 16mm celluloid (with a couple scenes shot on Super-8) that somehow performs the seemingly impossible tasking of being unwaveringly entertaining, but then again I guess it is hard to make a film featuring a farcical approach to fecal fetishism and a protagonist who blows his cunty boss’ brains out boring. Indeed, if you have ever had a shitty office job that you hated, Brophy’s film provides an exceptionally ecstatically therapeutic experience that is the next best thing to flooding Apple headquarters with rancid feces. 

 In a fittingly mundane fashion, the film opens with a shot of an archaic computer monitor that reads: “These are moist times we live in. The solid has been replaced with the liquid. Nothing stands still much anymore. Everything turns to water. The ethereal has been transformed into the aquatic. Sink or swim – float if you’re lucky. The signs of the times are all wet: the proximity of the sun melting the polar icecaps; the destruction of the ozone layer causing endless rain; and still the bulk of the ocean vastly unexplored. And things just keep getting wetter. As they get wetter, we become more absorbent. Soaking up anything and everything. Never dry, never thirsty, but always room for one more drink. There are no origins here: no fountain of youth; no spring of knowledge; no elixir of life; no well of contentment. All is either condensation or evaporation. An endless return to wet.” These words were written by the nameless hapless protagonist, who physically resembles a sort of archetypically gawky Anglo-Saxon dork and who lives, works, and acts like an autistic automaton who merely floats through life like a rusty robot that has no control over its body. At the beginning of the film, the viewer watches as the protagonist wakes up with a discernible expression of both abject misery and apathy on his face, holds a coffee pot in his hand while staring into the camera like a melancholy zombie, and then accidentally brush his teeth with antiseptic cream before heading to work. The protagonist lives in an apartment next door to a perverted slob that sips on a juice box while delighting in a TV program that involves a man being force-fed literal shit in an aberrantly allegorical scenario that surely recalls the infamous scene in Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) where a slave girl is forced to feast on feces. Set over the course of four different days, the film depicts how the protagonist is more or less involved in the same increasingly insipid day-to-day routines that only get worse as time passes as if the character is imprisoned in a sort of perpetual dystopian temporal loop, thus inspiring the viewer to hope that he is eventually put out of his misery. 

 While the protagonist might be a weak and meek wage-slave who lacks the drive and passion to change any aspect of his intolerably banal life, he is at least rebellious enough to utilize his time at work to codify his own idiosyncratic fetish-based personal bio-philosophy. Indeed, immediately upon arriving at his unnervingly sterile work office, the protagonist immediately types on his computer, “The world? You’re soaking in it. Saturated by its every move and every rhythm, it is the womb you were biologically prepared for. The world sprays you, drowns you, boils you, swallows you and spits you out. Still, you strive to have a presence in the world; to leave your mark upon it. Such is the old-world charm of fingerprinting: you leave your mark on the world. But now with genetic fingerprinting, your mark never leaves you. It stays in your blood, your saliva, your semen. Your identity now springs from your bodily fluids, interpreted by a photochemical scan of your DNA. In these moist times, bodily fluids become increasingly vital.” As his wayward writings surely indicate, the protagonist seeks solace in defecating, especially at the graffiti-covered public restroom at his work where he oftentimes falls into a sort of narcotizing trance while sitting on the toilet.  At one point in the film, a co-worker masturbates in another bathroom stall while watching the protagonist on the toilet through a peephole.  As the protagonist types regarding the power of food and feces and their effects on the human body, “Our bodies are moist machines fueled by our own fluids. Everything we saturate passes through, just as we continually pass through. The end of the line is only an S-bend continuing on somewhere else. Everything turns to water. Everything is reconstituted. We are never what we eat. We are always what we just ate.” 

While the hopelessly hapless protagonist types, “We are always what we just ate,” there is no indication that he devours semen, shit, pussy juice, menstrual blood, or any of the other bodily fluids that he seems to fancy. Indeed, while he does have a girlfriend (played by somewhat popular Australian actress/comedian Jean Kittson in an uncredited first time film role), the protagonist is never portrayed fucking or even kissing her (though his sexual disinterest in her is hinted in a scene where his girlfriend holds up a coffee mug that reads “SEX is not a four letter word” and he replies by holding up a mug that reads “But Fuck is”), which is rather curious for a fellow with a fiercely fetishistic body fluid Weltanschauung. In fact, the protagonist is more interested in playing with his girlfriend’s prepubescent children than her, with the protagonist even at one point in the film fantasizing about fucking his lady love's prepubescent son after seeing the little lad's bare buttocks (somewhat humorously, the little boy is featured wearing a Blood Feast (1963) t-shirt at one point in the film). As a rather rude and violent little girl that dares to spell out “Clit City” during a game of Scrabble, the protagonist's girlfriend’s little daughter has much more testicular fortitude than he does, thus arguably reflecting the emasculation of the male sex in general in a technocratic globalist society where masculine strength has become obsolete and men have been reduced to doing the same sort of abstract paper-shuffling as women as a means to support themselves. In fact, the protagonist seems somewhat perturbed by the little girl's savage Scrabble talent and later goes home and says the anti-prayer, “Eat. Shit. Die” before going to sleep.  Of course, the fact that the protagonist has no family of his own and is forced to deal with the somewhat sinister spawn of a single mother who he has no interest in fucking not only reflects how much of a loser beta-boy the character is, but is also symbolic of the everyday dysfunctional social relations that are becoming increasingly common in real-life in Western nations.  Luckily for the loser lead, he will eventually receive his dream of death within the next couple days, thus guaranteeing that he will never get the opportunity in embrace his assumed latent gay pederastic tendencies, though not before taking a two-foot-long rubber pseudo-schlong in his much cherished man-hole. 

 According to the protagonist’s writings, “To become dry is to die. Dead cultures are based on dust and air, dirt and prayer. Ashes to Ashes and dust to dust – it’s all just hot air. Never trust archeologists with suntans, tradesmen with dirt under their nails, preachers with parched skin. Should you come into contact with them – immediately place yourself under a running tap. (Water isn’t for cleansing – it’s for getting wet.).” Unfortunately, the protagonist never seems to actually get wet himself aside from when he is taking a dump and the toilet water splashes him on the ass. The closest that the protagonist ever gets to sexual wetness is when he is tediously flirting with his girlfriend in a goofy fashion, but when his blonde beastess boss catches him doing this at work, she takes him to her back office, forces him to bend over, whips out a giant dildo that she has specially placed in a fancy suitcase, and then ruthlessly reams him in the rectum with the rubber member (though thankfully this part is not actually depicted in the film). Not long after being defiled with a gigantic dildo, the protagonist types, “Listen to your body: Body holes, body parts, body fluids. A thousand-and-one triggers at the touch of a button: the body button. Touch it and it is engaged – you are activated. Eroticism is for writers and philosophers. For them, sex is up in the air. Come down to earth: the world is your orifice.” While the protagonist is a writer of sorts, his sense of eroticism is, at best, autistic and, at worse, totally impotent and nonexistent. Of course, the world is not his orifice, as he is the one that is always getting fucked by the world. 

At one point in the film, the protagonist decides to call a phone-sex hotline called ‘Phantasy Phone’ and is then subsequently depicted meekly performing cunnilingus on his lady friend while a fancy meal sits on a table in the background. By licking his (non)lover’s lily, the protagonist finally for once comes into close contact with some of the precious bodily fluids that he regularly rants and raves about in his writings, though it does not seem like a particularly spectacular experience for the protagonist. As the title of the film hints, the final segment of the film is titled “Sweat” and it depicts everything that can possibly go wrong for a white bourgeois untermensch who already lives a less than auspicious existence. Aside from being rudely awakened by the less than soothing sounds of shitty generic rock music on his alarm cock (which he subsequently smashes to bits) and cutting himself while shaving, the protagonist’s oh-so loving girlfriend senselessly headbutts him in the balls when he gets to work. On top of that, both the protagonist’s girlfriend and bitch boss gang up on him and then proceed to take turns slapping him in the face, thus bringing him to an all-time low in terms of his already outstanding emasculation. In an assumed attempt to redeem his rather marginal manhood, the protagonist goes into his boss’ office and blows her brains out with a handgun while she is working at her desk. Despite the fact that her brains are literally lying on her desk, the bitch boss somehow manages to shoot the protagonist in the back while he is walking out of her office. Ultimately, the entire shooting scenario is revealed to be a daydream that the protagonist has while he is sitting on a toilet. Rather fittingly, when the protagonist gets off the toilet, a used tampon is revealed to be floating in the toilet. From there, the protagonist types, “These are moist times we live in. If things don’t explode – they melt. One way or another, everything gets wet. Ashes to acid; dust to pus. One way or another, everything gets wet.” After getting beat up by his girlfriend’s kids, the protagonist goes home and is less than warmly greeted by a uniquely punk-goth fellow sporting a leather-jacket with a button reading “Life’s a fucked fuck!” who shoots him in the stomach. Instead of going to the hospital, the protagonist decides to bask in his bodily fluids and bleed out. Before assumedly kicking the bucket from too much blood loss, the protagonist types, “Salt, saliva, sperm and sweat.”

As the great Teutonic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “All prejudices come from the intestines.” Of course, considering that the protagonist of Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat seems to have a fairly weak stomach and tends to have the most fun while barfing and defecating, one can only assume that he is prejudiced against his entire life and the world in general, hence why he lets himself die in the end in the most pathetic and passive of fashions. Indeed, the protagonist lacks the gall, self-discipline, and drive to actually commit suicide, so it ironically comes as a sort blessing in disguise when some random dirty punk degenerate senselessly shoots him, but as the great frog right-wing anarchist Louis-Ferdinand Céline once wrote regarding the dilemma of continuing to live an insufferably phony existence and committing suicide, “The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows. And maybe it’s treacherous old age coming on, threatening the worst. Not much music left inside us for life to dance to. Our youth has gone to the ends of the earth to die in the silence of the truth. And where, I ask you, can a man escape to, when he hasn’t enough madness left inside him? The truth is an endless death agony. The truth is death. You have to choose: death or lies. I’ve never been able to kill myself.”  Luckily, in the end, the protagonist of Brophy's film does not have to gather the courage or will power to off himself yet he still manages to achieve his seemingly unspoken dream of dying a bittersweet death while soaked in his own much beloved bodily fluids, thus one could argue that the film has a sort of cynic's equivalent to a happy ending.  Speaking of Céline, who had an imperative influence on the Beat Movement, William S. Burroughs is indubitably one of the biggest influences behind Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat, which wallows in the same sort of jovially grotesque and intricately politically correct humor that was penned by the trust-fund-sponsored junky queer literary outlaw.

Notably, in his humorously titled 2004 essay My Dreadful Failure as an Australian Filmmaker, auteur Philip Brophy wrote regarding his debut feature Body Melt, “Ten years ago, I thought it would be really fun to get the then 'Coles girl' (Lisa McCune) to drop her placenta one month prior to child birth, then have the placenta force it's way down her husband's (Brett Climo) throat while her womb explodes. I also thought it would be a barrel of monkeys to kill a whole lot of soapie stars in a feature film. I also thought people would like it. Here in Australia, they sure didn't. Body Melt had no 'hero', no 'journey', no '3-act-structure', no 'multicultural aspirations', and no condescending dismissal of bogan suburbia (very important in quality Aussie comedy). Late last year Tarantino proclaimed Body Melt 'the best Australian film of the 90's' - but hey, what would he know? David Stratton hit it better on the mark: ‘Pity.’” Since Body Melt, like a lot of so-called body horror films, tends to be a flick that people either love or love to hate, it should be no surprise that Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat has suffered a similar fate in terms of obtaining a dubious reputation. Indeed, in the book Censorship: A World Encyclopedia edited by Derek Jones, Irish film professor and movie producer Dr. Rod Stoneman (who via the Irish Film Board, acted as an executive producer on Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters (2002)) noted that, aside from being heavily reedited when it was screened on British TV in 1990, Brophy’s film was found to be mighty offensive by certain Scottish college students.  Indeed, as Dr. Stoneman wrote in the book, “There was, however, further controversy about SALT, SALIVA, SPERM AND SWEAT at a student seminar on censorship in Glasgow University the year after its transmission. The necessary mischief involved in pushing the boundaries of British television with such a deliberately rude and shocking piece were challenged by a student audience, who thought that the desirous look from the main character to a young boy drying himself by the fire after a bath (which had been reduced from a prolonged stare to a glancing ambiguity in the cut version) was still outrageous and unacceptable. Some young people apparently felt that child sex abuse was too serious an issue to be played with in a satire about something else.”

While not exactly an unequivocal masterpiece, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat is almost immaculate in the context of the particular preternatural cinematic universe that it inhabits, sort of like similarly unclassifiable and inexplicable quasi-artsy works like Themroc (1973) directed by Claude Faraldo and Animales racionales (1983) aka Human Animals directed by filmmaker/screenwriter Eligio Herrero.  While Body Melt is undoubtedly regarded as Brophy's celluloid magnum opus, I unquestionably prefer his first film because I found its scathing anti-bourgeois iconoclasm and post-punk anti-aesthetic to be truly unrivaled (while Body Melt is, at least to some extent, derivative and just too much like the early horror-comedies of Peter Jackson like Bad Taste (1987) and Dead Alive (1992) aka Braindead for my liking).  Indeed, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat is the film that Nick Zedd and various other dope-addled members of the Cinema of Transgression wish they had directed but lacked the sophistication, artistic prowess, and sense of cinema (to read some of Brophy's essays on film, checkout his official website).  Unlike Zedd and company, Brophy understands that you have to understand the rules of cinema before you break them.  If you ever needed a sort of intricate metapolitical argument as to why you should never step foot in an office and you do not feel like reading esoteric Radical Traditionalist writings or suffering the experience of working under some self-important feminist-brainwashed female boss who wishes that her clit would grow into a cock, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat should provide you with enough fiercely fucked food-for-thought to inspire you to prefer doing manual labor over shuffling papers.

-Ty E

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