Oct 6, 2016

Sin




Until relatively recently, I do not think there has ever been an occasion in my life where I felt a certain overwhelming nostalgia for a film that I had never actually seen, but such is certainly the case with the apparently long ago completed but only just released cinematic work Sin (2005-2008) directed by Dutch-born auteur Nico Bruinsma. I first heard about the film in 2008 but did not become obsessed with seeing it until early 2013 after interviewing director Nico B, whose latest film 1334 (2012) became somewhat of a personal obsession of mine. At the time, my lady friend had become extremely sick with some mysterious illness and joked that she was ill with “1334,” thus the film name became a brief but nonetheless memorable inside joke of sorts between of us (given that both of us are also longtime fans of Christian Death/Rozz Williams, the dark origin of the name was not lost on us). In short, early 2013 was a very happy period in my life and I cannot help but associate the enigmatic film Sin with it, so naturally I have been dying to actually see the film in all its sexually sacrilegious splendor, especially considering that I eventually began to suspect that it might not ever be released.

A partially pornographic, silent black-and-white avant-garde triptych with an innate timeless quality starring both literally and figuratively dark dames with deadly and thankfully wholly organic fleshy curves that should remind any sensible heterosexual man why fake tits are aesthetically repugnant and nothing short of the erotic equivalent of fool's gold, Nico’s rather refined 30-minute celluloid experiment in stylishly sinister eroticism is arguably his most personal and, in turn, auteur oriented, film to date. For those familiar with dark-haired Dutchman, it is no secret that Nico B is arguably better known as a film distributor and owner of the great company Cult Epics than as a filmmaker, hence his fairly small yet nonetheless notable oeuvre. Of course, Nico pretty much always intended to be both an entrepreneur and auteur as he saw it as a practical means to not succumbing to the starving artist cliché that has more or less become synonymous with his famous countryman Vincent van Gogh. In fact, as the filmmaker stated in an interview with proud belligerent dipsomaniac Gene Gregorits in regard to his one-time film professor and mentor Babeth Mondini’s absolutely imperative early influence on his career, “She took me to school every day, because we both lived in Amsterdam. After one month, she said, ‘Okay, I like what you’re doing but the films you want to make are not going to make any money.’ Or, ‘No one’s going to invest money in these films.’ I thought, Well, I’ll make money first, and then I’ll do films. She gave me the best advice of my life.” Ultimately, Nico would return the favor by releasing Babeth’s feature Kiss Napoleon Goodbye (1990) starring Lydia Lunch and Henry Rollins under his Cult Epics label. 




 Not unlike his one-time friend, legendary experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger, Nico B is an auteur that might not direct many films, but when he does they tend to be seemingly immaculate in their esoterically erotic ‘evil’ splendor as singular celluloid works that surely transcend time in terms of both cinematic technique and subject matter. Also, like his one-time professor, Dutch experimental master Frans Zwartjes (Living, Pentimento), Nico seems to have nil interest in appealing to any sort of audience as a perennially underground filmmaker that rarely makes full-length features and is only concerned with exploring his own distinct personal obsessions, especially of the carnal sort. In that sense, Sin is, in many ways, the quintessential Nico B film as a sort of instant cult classic that will only be truly appreciated by those select loyal few that have the will and good instincts to find it.  Somewhat ironically, despite being rampantly heterosexual as demonstrated by his virtually lifelong obsession Bettie Page and the promotion of her bondage films, Nico’s best known film is the homo serial killer meditation Pig, which was co-written and co-directed by legendary deathrock prince(ss) Rozz Williams and thus less geared towards the Dutchman's own sexual proclivities (for starters, the film not only features no unclad female bodies, but not female characters at all). As his early Super-8 student film Slime (1990) rather blatantly reveals, Nico has been long obsessed with many of the same themes, especially in regard to the so-called fairer sex, sacrilege, and the sometimes strangely complimentary relationship between sex, death, and religion.  In many ways, Sin, much like Rozz William's art, is a deceptively spiritual cinematic work in that sense that it feels like it was created by a heretical believer who subscribes to an inverted form of Christianity where sin and human misery are worshiped, as if Nico lost the faith due as a result of living in such a dark, dispiriting, and dystopian realm that he could only bring himself to believe in hell and sinfulness.  Indeed, not unlike much of Zwartjes' films, Sin feels like an aesthetically pleasing expression of hell on earth, thereupon making it all the more notable that the director hails from a literally puritanical Calvinist nation where telling jokes was even considered subversive only a couple of generations ago.




 Notably, nearly a decade ago in 2008, Nico B confessed in an interview in regard to the cryptically semi-autobiographically nature of his film, “My new film SIN is a collection of 3 stories told from my own personal experiences with women I have been with. I put the protagonist of each film in a different time and changed their professional ambitions. All three I shot on Super 8 to get that early century artistic feeling. All three are also very surreal and erotic (and of course controversial). In one story a nun gives an on camera blow job to a priest. I believe this is the first art film to show this on screen. The scene is a tribute to Rozz of Christian Death (both of us being brought up with Christian beliefs). Also, the religious ending of BETTIE PAGE: DARK ANGEL is also a reference to the scene in SIN.”  As Nico's own words more or less express, his film is a sort of amorously abstract three-part cinematic anti-love letter to seemingly mostly dangerous and mentally unstable ex-lovers from his past.  In a second interview that I conducted with Nico in 2013, he demonstrated an almost ambivalent attitude to the act of filmmaking by stating, “I never intend to ever make any film, unless I see no way out,” thus underscoring the internal pain, sorrow, and despair that is at the very core of the film. Of course, judging by the fact that virtually all of the male characters in the film meet a grisly or tragic end, it is easy to see what Nico means as Sin is a fairly forebodingly forsaken cinematic work that, despite featuring unclad busty babes flaunting their entrancing flesh, is clearly the agonized express of a haunted and internally wounded individual that sees sex as an oftentimes deadly affair, at least spiritually speaking. An elegantly gritty three-part Super-8 tone poem fueled by pathos of perversity and full of big and highly suckable milky white tits and nicely trimmed beavers, Nico B’s strikingly beauteous dark romantic cinematic confession thrives on unabashedly laurelling the lethally lustful and sexually neurotic in such an effortlessly confident and reassured fashion that most filmgoers, including thoroughly desensitized gorehounds, will be simply stunned and dumbfounded by what they see to the point where they will only remember the big bosoms and cross-in-the-cunt. Far too moodily aesthetically exquisite to be confused with actual pornography and too politically incorrect and just plain incendiary to be accepted by the more spiritually castrated members of the Criterion Collection crowd, Sin is sinema for the decidedly romantically damned. 




 A modern day mythopoeic silent flick featuring a musical score made up entirely of Impressionist compositions by Claude Debussy that thankfully does not seem masturbatorily cinephiliac in a Guy Maddin-esque fashion nor obnoxiously anachronistic like the sickeningly silly shot-on-video neo-vintage Lovecraft adaptation The Call of Cthulhu (2005) directed by Andrew Leman, Sin begins in a striking fashion that seems like what might happen if someone attempted to reconcile the classic Golden Age Hollywood biblical epics of Cecil B. DeMille with Kenneth Anger’s classic psychedelic Thelemite micro-epic Lucifer Rising (1972). After beginning with an ancient Egyptian princess having her throat slit by some random Egyptian gentleman, the following inter-title appears, “In ancient Egyptian mythology the panther Bastet is the God of pleasure, dancing and music, also know as . . . LADY OF THE EAST.” Literally roaming with black panthers as a child, the Lady of the East grows up to be a sort of archaic stripper and while she is doing one of her exotic dance routines she is ‘bought’ by a wealthy American (Pipo) who brings her back to the United States where she becomes the headliner in a Chicago burlesque cabaret act called “Dance of the Pharaohs” where she exploits her exotic ancestral roots in a fittingly kitschy fashion. Leading a lurid life of potentially deadly vice, the Lady of the East has a traumatic childhood flashback in regard to the murder of her father whilst in an opium haze and subsequently shoots her man dead with a handgun after he gets the gall to attempt to steal her precious whoring money. As the ‘Lady of the East’ segment seemingly unintentionally reveals, America has the power to even debase tough third world whores.  Of course, the segment also reveals that it is never a good idea to get involved with a girl that has daddy issues, especially if said daddy issues began at an early age before any sort of emotionally maturity could have been reached.




 In what is arguably the most intricate and indubitably the most controversial segment of the film, ‘Le Modèle,’ one watches with erotic intrigue as porn star Caroline Pierce—a seemingly forsaken woman that now regularly appears in extremely amateurish ‘mandingo’ porn—portrays a dual role as both a Catholic nun and a lecherous model in a provocative performance that features a devilishly dichotomous look a female sexuality and spirituality. Undoubtedly, one could argue that the model is the nun’s sort of Jungian shadow and vice versa, as both characters seem to reflect the other’s unconscious longings and compulsions. Despite being total opposites in virtually every single way (for instance, the nun is followed by a white cat while the model is followed by a black one), they are merely inversions of one another, with one suffering from sexual repression and the other spiritual repression. Of course, as Nico B more than hints in the segment, the sexual is oftentimes intertwined with the spiritual and vice versa, with a crucifix being arguably the ultimate figurative (and, in the film’s case, literal) dildo and/or phallic symbol. While ‘Le Modèle’ oftentimes feels like a hypnotic hodgepodge of Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet (1930), Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), and John E. Schmitz's The Voices (1953), it also owes a little to the Catholic carnality of Walerian Borowczyk’s classic Nunsploitation flick Interno di un convento (1978) aka Behind Convent Walls. While the nun sucks the cock of a swarthy Jesus-esque priest with great grace, the model seductively stabs her cunt with a wooden crucifix, which she eventually mutilates herself with after adding a crown of thorns to the makeshift holy dildo. After their sexual experiences, both women become somewhat haunted in their own ways, with the nun being obsessed with destroying a statue modeled after the model and the model being preoccupied with the horrors of being seen naked in public by finger-wagging nuns and priests. In the end, the nun stabs the statue in the heart and causes to magically bleed and the model strips her clothes and enters a large church, which immediately becomes consumed with flames of passion.  As to whether either women achieves salvation or eternal damnation, one can only assume, but considering the model seems to worship herself and her own body (hence why she is a model) instead of Christ like the nun, it is probably safe to say that she will become one of Satan's sluts.




 Undoubtedly, the third and final segment of Sin, ‘The Maid,’ is the most understated and enigmatic as a sullen and quite literally pathetic story that centers on a vaguely handsome and independently wealthy legless dope fiend (Mark Lee) that hires an inordinately busty broad (Dahlia Dark) to supposedly clean his humble abode. Indeed, the eponymous cleaner has what might be sensitively described as ‘jumbo jugs’ and she certainly knows how to use them as indicated by the fact that her crippled employer is regularly voyeuristically gazing at her fine fleshy goods. In fact, the perverted cripple even finds himself masturbating with one of his stubs whilst admiring the maid’s absolutely mesmerizing carnal meat, as if her ample sized body parts are all the more of a turn-on for him since he is missing some of his own appendages (whether or not he has a cock remains to be seen). A man that seems to have come to the conclusion that he is nothing and that no healthy sane woman would ever be genuinely interested in him as a romantic partner, the visibly lonely legless wonder seems determined to degrade himself and does so by kissing and gently placing high-heels on his rarely clothed employee’s feet.  The relationship between the man and his maid is innately infantile and almost seem like that of a mother and son as demonstrated by his tendency to crawl around his house like a baby and stare at his employee's fine fuck-udders like he is desperately thirsty for mother's milk.  As an individual that seems to have lived a seemingly unbearable life of pain and discomfort as hinted in haunting childhood flashbacks where he receives large injections from a doctor while be watching by a little girl that may or may not be his sister, it is certainly no surprise that the man is a morbidly morose and melancholic masochist that lives solely to further his own self-debasement despite the fact that he is wealthy. In a bittersweet conclusion that really sums up many of the themes of the entire film, the well endowed maid gives the man an injection that provides him a most permanent form of solace that could not be more ideal considering his extra precarious predicament in life.  As all three of the chapters of Sin make quite clear, sex and death are the only things that make life truly worth living, especially if you are a whore, cripple, or nun.




 In the introduction of his text Erotism: Death and Sensuality, French Nietzschean Georges Bataille wrote, “Eroticism, it may be said, is assenting to life up to the point of death. Strictly speaking, this is not a definition, but I think the formula gives the meaning of eroticism better than any other. If a precise definition were called for, the starting point would certainly have to be sexual reproductive activity, of which eroticism is a special form. Sexual reproductive activity is common to sexual animals and men, but only men appear to have turned their sexual activity into erotic activity. Eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest independent of the natural goal: reproduction and the desire of children. From this elementary definition let us now return to the formula I proposed in the first place: eroticism is assenting to life even in death. Indeed, although erotic activity is in the first place an exuberance of life, the object of this psychological quest, independent as I say of any concern to reproduce life, is not alien to death.” Undoubtedly, Bataille’s words in regard to erotic passion, as opposed to sexual reproduction, having to be imagined by the individual are indubitably relevant to the entire essence of a film like Sin where sex takes a truly transcendental and otherworldly form that entirely eclipses bodily functions, so it is only fitting that the frog anarchist concludes his introduction to Erotism with the remark: “Poetry leads to the same place as all forms of eroticism—to the blending and fusion of separate objects. It leads us to eternity, it leads us to death, and through death to continuity. Poetry is eternity; the sun matched with the sea.” Of course, in a way, cinema is also eternity, thus making it all the more fitting that Nico B’s film has an innate timeless quality as a cinematic work that even transcends the truly bygone era(s) that it recreates, hence its similarities to the films of Cocteau (who Nico paid tribute to with his ‘travel film’ Ville Jean Cocteau (2003), which is included with the BD/DVD combo of Sin released by Cult Epics). 




 Sometimes feeling like an avant-garde porn-snuff flick documenting three real-life cases that were excised from Kenneth Anger’s classic piece of highbrow toilet reading Hollywood Babylon (1953), Sin is nothing short of an orgasmically oneiric celluloid gem that was made for the sort of dark seeker cinephile that looks at hunting down rare and arcane films as a sort of spiritual quest. As a successful film distributor and cinematic poet that clearly only makes films for himself, Nico B is like both Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo van Gogh combined. Certainly, I cannot think of another mensch that I respect as both an artist and businessmen that releases obscure European arthouse films that no one else would dare to release. While set in an idealized past that seems like a schizophrenic universe as dreamed up by the black sheep stepson of Judaic pornographer Irving Klaw and surrealist poet Cocteau, Sin is certainly most potent if viewed from the perspective of a cryptically autobiographical film that is based on three events from Nico B’s life, hence why the filmmaker seemed so reluctant to release it. Of course, as a film with a strangely erotic crucifix masturbation scene that makes the infamous unholy preteen Onanist scenario in The Exorcist (1973) seem like outmoded child’s play, one can only speculate how literal the film is in terms of its autobiographical depiction of the auteur’s sexual life, though one can pretty much assume that Nico B has had his fair share of unhinged girlfriends with humongous hooters.  Naturally, as art history has unequivocally demonstrated, crazy cunts with addictively delectable carnal-traps and devilish curves always make for a great source for artistic inspiration, even if one would rather forget the mind games and violently neurotic tendencies that tend to plague many members of the so-called fairer sex.  Undoubtedly, after watching Nico's film, I could not help but be reminded of Friedrich Nietzsche's poetic words, “The true man wants two different things: danger and diversion. He therefore wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything . . . Man must be trained for war, and woman for the relaxation of the warrior: all else is folly . . . Too sweet fruits — these the warrior does not like. He therefore likes woman — even the sweetest woman is bitter [...] Thou goest to women? Do not forget thy whip!”


In his 1963 article ‘The Camera As A God,’ film theorist and experimental filmmaker Charles Boultenhouse (Handwritten, Dionysus) provocatively wrote, “The good film-maker is he who is engaged (consciously or unconsciously) in preserving and perfecting the demon in the camera; the very best film-maker is he who is engaged in transforming the demon into the god. I am sure you will see that an idea so theological as this will probably make out experimental film to be positively sacred in character and commercial film rather blasphemous. You will be right..” In the same article, Boultenhouse also states, “Hollywood is the tease of all time [...] The teenagers of all ages who worship its fetishes will never be satisfied; nor will the Demon of the Camera, bored almost cross-eyed by the miles of Nothing passing before it into Oblivion.”  Of course, whereas Hollywood gives you nothing more than the a wholly artificial pseudo-blonde silicone-fueled tease that has plagued vulnerable American youth with a sort of collective metaphysical disease that has caused them to confuse love with lust and eroticism with animalistic bodily function, Sin—a delectably demonic film where, in the Nietzschean sense, god is long dead and has been replaced by a sort of Dionysian goddess of erratic eroticism—is a three course orgy that reminds the viewer that sometimes the sight of a certain pussy evokes serious pathos.  As someone that counts virtually all of the great loves of my life as voluptuous women with killer curves and delectable derrieres, I can certainly understand the misery, melancholy, and lovelorn lunacy that the unclad female form can provoke in men, hence my admittedly somewhat perverse personal obsession with a film like Nico B's where a woman's best assets are elevated to the level of spectral archetypes that stir the collective unconscious and penetrate the psyche like a pulsating love truncheon plowing into a fresh hymen-intact prick-purse.  In short, Sin is the sort of romance film that you hope to see from a friend of Rozz Williams and ex-student of Frans Zwartjes.



 -Ty E

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