Dec 11, 2016

Crimes of Passion




There is probably no other filmmaker that my opinion of has changed so drastically in the past decade or so than English auteur Ken Russell (Women in Love, The Devils), whose films I used to regard as mostly obnoxiously bombastic hagiographic celluloid swill and/or asininely aesthetically decadent quasi-pornography. Undoubtedly, out of all of Russell’s films that I had originally seen during my first attempt to tackle the auteur's oeuvre, the one I found to be the most innately worthless and just plain unwatchable was Crimes of Passion (1984) aka China Blue, which I could not even bear to finish when I attempted to watch it about a decade ago or so. As a result of my newfound affinity for Russell’s films, I naturally decided to give the film a second chance, which I am glad I did as I now regard it as one of the most underrated films of the 1980s and easily one of the director’s most innately subversive and seedy cinematic works. Indeed, forget black Brit Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011), Russell’s film makes the Michael Fassbender vehicle seem like a shallow exercise in sterile decadence in terms of its deceptively sleazy yet ultimately rather intricate and nuanced examination in regard to the perils of sexual addiction (or what might be better described as ‘sexual nihilism’) and issues relating to fears of intimacy and monogamy. While the film might feature hilariously perverse things like Anthony ‘Psycho’ Perkins menacingly wielding a deadly silver dildo named ‘Superman,’ the bloody slaughter of a blowup doll (!) by Perkins, and a corrupt cop being sodomized with his own baton while stiletto heels are simultaneously penetrating his flesh, among numerous other equally darkly erotically eccentric examples of cinematic alchemy where trashy scenarios and imagery are executed in an inordinately elegantly stylized fashion, Crimes of Passion is indubitably, for better or worse, one of the most sophisticated films ever made about the stark contrast between soulless sex and genuine sexual intimacy and how many people that regularly engage in the former lack the emotional capacity for the latter.  Indeed, in Russell's wayward celluloid realm of transcendental sleaze, a smart and beauteous fashion designer is more afraid of love and committment than violently shoving long inanimate objects up men's asses while wildly riding their cocks.  Crimes of Passion is also probably the only film ever made where a ghetto reverend manages to find the ultimate form of redemption by being murdered with a dildo while dressed in extra kitschy drag.



 Adapted from a screenplay by a fairly unknown homo Hebrew named Barry Sandler, who is arguably best known otherwise for penning the gay love triangle piece Making Love (1982) directed by fellow Israelite Arthur Hiller, Russell’s film also features a bizarre love triangle, albeit of a considerably seedier and more sexually depraved sort that does not involve sodomy. Not unlike Sander with his screenplay for Making Love being bastardized for mainstream consumption, Russell had bad experiences with Hollywood studios butchering or otherwise manipulating his two previous American efforts Valentino (1977) and Altered States (1980), so the two made for perfect partners for a cinematic collaboration, or as the auteur better explained himself in Altered States: The Autobiography of Ken Russell (1991), “Recently some of the most popular evangelists on TV were exposed for the scum they are, but at the time I was asked to direct my first truly original American screenplay their mask of sanctity was yet to be torn away. Yes, my agent had at last landed me a job—a real job, not a development deal but a definite offer to make CRIMES OF PASSION. It was a package deal. The writer, Barry Sandler, was handled by the same agency. Barry was something of a maverick, though not as far out of the Hollywood mainstream as myself. He was, however, equally disillusioned. Having written an adult screenplay for Fox about a married couple who turn into a ménage a trios when the husband comes out of the closet with his boyfriend, Barry had the painful experience of seeing his creation castrated for being too ballsy. He hoped for better things from New World, who didn’t have such a high moral profile to uphold. So did I.  They were known for their cheap exploitation movies and, because no one else seemed to want us, they got us cheap too—with Kathleen Turner into the bargain [...] The screenplay dealt with identities, split personalities and the masks those in the rat race for the American Dream feel compelled to wear if they're out to win.  Sometimes the mask becomes more real than the face underneath, especially if it's a public face.  And then we're in trouble.” 



 Arguably what might be best described as the most cultivated, nuanced, and sophisticated exploitation film ever made, Russell’s devilishly dark and satirical anti-romcom neo-noir is indubitably a cinematic work of Elephantiasis level testicular fortitude where two very different people—a young and naive yet kindhearted family man and a socially alienated workaholic fashion designer that moonlights as a pimp-free ghetto hooker—that hide behind masks learn to be themselves and embrace reality after unexpectedly falling in love with one another. Also featuring a morally depraved ghetto reverend portrayed by Anthony Perkins who completes the bizarre love triangle that attempts to ‘save’ the hooker from her lonely life of self-destructive lechery due to his belief that they are same due to their pathological longing for self-destructive sexual debasement, Crimes of Passion is like Andy Milligan’s Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973) meets Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls (1966) meets Werner Schroeter’s Malina (1991) with shades of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). In short, there is nothing quite like Russell’s darkly romantic romp of Reagan era raunchiness, yet, despite its glaring degeneracy, the film ultimately contains a surprisingly positive and important message about emotional alienation in the age of porn, big hair, and rampant materialism. 




 In a morally inverted and exceedingly emasculated (post)feminist world where many young woman waste their most fertile years working as virtual corporate prostitutes doing abstract paper-shuffling in offices and ultimately end up unhappy unmarried old maids and where young white men have become disillusioned with starting a family and even sometimes give up on women altogether as reflected in dubious online communities like MGTOW, Crimes of Passion is arguably more important now then when it was first released in terms of diagnosing what is wrong with modern couples and society in general. Of course, as a fetish-fueled man that was married no less than four times during his rather eventful life, director Russell certainly had some special insights in regard to the problem between the sexes and the importance of sex in a healthy relationship. As the film demonstrates, genuine organic intimacy is an imperative ingredient in terms of maintaining a healthy relationship, especially as far as the male partner is concerned (as the film hints, women are better suited to live sexually unsatisfying lives, especially if it is to their material benefit). Likewise, as the hooker portrayed by Kathleen Turner demonstrates, sexually promiscuity is innately soulless and typical of a damaged and most likely morally bankrupt individual that is either afraid of and/or lacks the capacity for true sexual intimacy, hence the tendency of so-called ‘sex workers’ (e.g. prostitutes, strippers, porn stars, etc.) to be the unfortunate products of child molestation and/or a single mother.

While the male protagonist of the film portrayed by John Laughlin lies to himself about the fact that his marriage is a sham and that his fiercely frigid wife is sexually repulsed by him, the female protagonist has created an entire phony prostitute persona that allows herself to feel strong and in control when, in reality, she is a terribly lonely emotional cripple that is afraid of devotion, intimacy, and love, hence her need to live a double life as the city's most brazenly sensually eccentric pussy-peddler. Luckily, in Russell’s film, opposites attract and the young married businessman and bourgeois prostitute are able to shed their masks and embrace reality after falling in love with one another.  Of course, the film would not be complete without Mr. Perkins' performance as psychotic pervert reverend that partly acts as the chic hooker's unlikely savior.  A piece of meticulously stylized high-camp trash-with-class with the sort of strange hermetic melodrama that you would expect from a classic 1960s George Kuchar flick like Hold Me While I'm Naked (1966) or Eclipse Of The Sun Virgin (1967), including lavishly stylized silhouette sex scenes, Crimes of Passion is a rare cinematic work that manages to communicate an important message without succumbing to cheap sentimentality or heavy-handed art fag pretentiousness. In fact, as a result of using exaggerated fetishistic imagery and kinky quasi-pornographic scenarios, Russell ultimately tricks the viewer into devouring what is, thematically speaking, a relatively wholesome film that says more about love than any Woody Allen or Wes Anderson film could.




 The film begins awkwardly yet hilariously enough with all-American male protagonist Bobby Grady (John Laughlin)—an unhappily marriage middleclass electronics store owner with two kids—sitting in on a sex group therapy session while he listens to men and women expression their hatred for the opposite sex (for instance, one fine chap makes a joke about vaginas smelling like fish). While Bobby claims that he is only there to support his homey Donny Hopper (Bruce Davison), he loses his cool when an unseen misandristic bitch singles him out for verbal venom and absurdly accuses him of being a “lousy lay” despite knowing literally nothing about him. As a poor horny fellow that just wants a little bit of sex yet is married to a fiercely frigid bitch that will not even give him a meager peck on the lips, Bobby takes offense to the woman’s completely fabricated accusation and retorts in an impassioned fashion that reveals he has serious marriage problems, “I’m not the one who complains how tired I am every night. Getting her to make love . . . It’s like asking her to run the Boston Marathon. And then those times when we actually do go through with it, I don’t know whether to embrace her or embalm her. So don’t tell me that I’m a lousy lay.”  Needless to say, Bobby then proceeds to walkout of the group therapy session, but that does not stop him from obsessing over the fact that his wife refuses to fuck him.

Despite the fact that he is a handsome man with an athletic build and a great provider for his family, Bobby’s preternaturally prudish wife Amy (Annie Potts)—an oftentimes cunty stay-at-home-mom that seems more offended by the mere idea of sex than the average Catholic priest—refuses to have sexual contact of any kind with her fairly loving hubby. Needless to say, when Bobby comes into contact with a sophisticated fashion designer named Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner) that moonlights as fetish oriented streetwalker with the pseudonym ‘China Blue,’ he cannot help but cheat on his wife and reconsider his marriage altogether. When the viewer first sees China Blue, she is doing a sort of bad performance art routine where she pretends to give an acceptance speech for “Miss Liberty 1984” while some random sleaze-bag chows down on her meat-curtain. As an emotionally damaged divorcee and workaholic that is absolutely afraid of intimacy and commitment, Joanna uses her ‘China Blue’ routine to give herself a false sense of control and sexual power, but it is obvious that she is morbidly lonely and secretly longs for something more than just cheap carnal thrills. Needless to say, Bobby eventually shatters Joanna’s delusions of sexual grandeur when he pays for her services and she cums with extra creamy glee. After all, as a certain character stated in David Mamet’s Homicide in regard to the wise worlds of an old whore, “When you start cumin’ with the customers, it’s time to quit.”  While virtually all of her customers act like white knights after fucking her by acting as if they want to save her, only Bobby is actually serious about it, though the female protagonist does have unexpected help from an uniquely unholy holy man.




 Before she ever meets Bobby boy, Joanna is harassed by a quasi-psychotic street preacher named Reverend Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins in arguably the most overlooked role of his career), who regularly inhales poppers (aka alkyl nitrites) in peepshows while guys masturbate beside him in a sort of pay-to-play communal circle-jerk and who regularly carries around a black leather doctor bag containing an eclectic collection aberrosexual sex toys (notably, Perkins designed and/or obtained these toys himself). Upon first encountering Joanna while she is roaming the streets as ‘China Blue,’ the Reverend immediately decides that he and she are the “same” person and that he will be her “holy messenger” and save her from a miserable and lonely life of sin and self-destructive sexual degradation. Indeed, as the Reverend eventually tells Joanna, “All you need to know about me is that I intend to save you. And all you need to do is . . . be there. Stay with me, China Blue. Trust me. I’ll free you.” While he is indubitably a lecherous lunatic of the psychosexually murderous sort that seems like he would rape a rotting corpse if he inhaled enough poppers, the good Reverend genuinely wants to save Joanna from herself and he is willing to sacrifice himself to achieve that goal, even if he does not waste an opportunity to verbally degrade and berate her in the process.  As a hyper hypercritical religious man that seems to see his own life as a lost cause, the Reverend believes that saving Joanna will be his final act of redemption lest he be regulated to hell like all the other sinners in the 1980s neo-Sodom where he dwells.



 Aside from owning a modest electronics store where he is beloved by his handful employees, Bobby also moonlights doing semi-sleazy surveillance work and it is as a result of being hired to spy on Joanna that he learns about her and her secret double-life as a flamboyantly dressed gutter grade whore. Indeed, Bobby is hired by Joanna’s stingy Jewish boss Lou Bateman (Norman Burton) to spy on her for somewhat dubious reasons.  In fact, Bateman has no problem telling Bobby, “I want you to nail her lily white ass” because he believes Joanna is secretly selling unreleased patterns and designs from his clothing company to rival brands, even though he has no real evidence to support his claim aside from his general disinterest of her due to her strong work ethic, seeming disgust of penis, and seemingly nonexistent personal life. Of course, Bobby literally nails Joanna’s ass, but not in the way that Mr. Bateman hoped. When Bobby first sees Joanna while she is working at her day job, he states to Mr. Bateman, “How could someone that looks like that be a criminal?,” but he ultimately learns later that night that she is the kinkiest little hard-working white whore in town. At first, Bobby merely spies on Joanna and films some of her nocturnal excursions, but after having a vicious fight with his wife Alice he eventually gets the gall to follow both his heart and hard-on and procure her sensual services.

When Bobby first goes to see Joanna, he reveals his inordinate sensitivity by warning her “Go slow. I’m just a Boy Scout” and then attempts to ask her who she really is, but she merely replies “It’s not a prom date, sweetie. I’m a hooker, you’re a trick. Why ruin a perfect relationship?” and hands him a Quaalude so that he can “fly” while fucking. To her most pleasant yet perplexing surprise, Joanna really gets into being sensitively banged by Bobby in a variety of positions and cannot believe that she is sharing a seemingly immaculate sex session that involves real visceral feelings and deep intimacy.  As demonstrated by the fact that she passionately sucks his toes and massages his entire body with the utmost sensitivity during foreplay, Joanna seems to have a special affection for Bobby before he even demonstrates that he has a talent for pleasuring her puss with his pulsating prick.  In what is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable and aesthetically pleasing sex scene in sinema history, Russell highlights the orgasmic majesty of Bobby and Joanna's first sexual encounter via kaleidoscopic silhouettes.




 As a woman that has a serious problem with intimacy, Joanna almost immediately starts a fight with Bobby after they have otherworldly sex as a sort of defense mechanism, so he passionately states to her, “Why are we acting like this? I thought fucking was supposed to bring people closer together, not drive them apart.” When Bobby emotionally states, “What we did today . . . You felt it too, didn’t you? You weren’t just acting. You felt what I did. Tell me, please. I have to know,” Joanna cannot deny it, so she changes the subject by asking him if he wants to see her again, but he somberly replies, “Yes . . . but I can’t” and then leaves. Needless to say, when the Reverend shows up right after Bobby leaves and immediately begins berating her, Joanna is more than a little bit pissed and wastes no time in berating the bat-shit crazy holy man, though she is not as tough as usual and is more vulnerable to his venomous attacks.  Indeed, as a result of being made to feel vulnerable by Bobby, Joanna almost completely breaks down when the Reverend declares that he has written her a poem and then recites with a sort of sadistically smug hateful glee that you would expect from a half-psychotic white bourgeois social justice warrior, “Behold this wicked woman. She falls, she mends, she crawls, she bends. She sucks it, fucks it, picks it up and licks it. You can whip her, beat her, maul her, mistreat her. Anything you want as long as you don’t touch her. Shoe her affection, she turns to stone.” Additionally, Joanna can hardly argue with the Reverend when he screams in her face, “Do you know what you are? DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE? A cheap painted slut who makes a fortune selling illusions yet still ends up broke.” As a highly secretive and all but completely emotionally impenetrable S&M oriented hooker with a phony persona that is in stark contrast to her real personality, Joanna naturally never expected that her less than legal profession would lead to her being consumed in the most absurd of bizarre love triangles, but luckily for her both men will ultimately inspire her to reassess her life and inevitably embrace true love over soulless fleeting lust. 



 In between his regular ghetto soapbox sermons where he proselytizes with venom with hilariously bastardized pieces of scripture like, “Their blood have they shed like water round Jerusalem. Like, like, like . . . They fuck and they piss and they shit like the fucking scum they are,” the renegade Reverend regularly spies on Johanna via a fancy makeshift peephole. Indeed, the Reverend is so obsessed with Joanna that he rents out a motel room right next to her China White blue pad that he fills with bizarre pornographic collages that seem like the were inspired by the artistic works of English outsider artist and filmmaker Jeff Keen (Mad Love, The Dreams and Past Crimes of the Archduke). A psychosexually schizophrenic sermonizing sicko that is hopelessly torn between his degenerate sexual fetish(es) and religious faith, the Reverend becomes increasingly mentally unstable after meeting Joanna and it soon becomes obvious that he will soon explode in full-blown insanity and commit a most horrific act of the strangely spiritually transcendental sort.

 Meanwhile, Bobby becomes increasingly annoyed with his snooty sexless wife Amy, especially after she gets a considerably bitchy attitude at a cookout party where the male protagonist does a totally tasteless yet nonetheless humorous “human penis” routine where he acts like an ejaculating cock by spitting tons of milk out of his mouth.  In fact, that night, Bobby gets so angry at Amy's insufferable passive-aggressive bullshit that he yells at her until she finally opens up and meekly confesses that she never enjoyed sex with him and would even fake orgasms to make him happy. At this point, Bobby becomes even angrier and yells in an impassioned fashion to his wife, “What do you think I am. Some kind of machine? That I just need a hole to cum in? I mean, what do you think makes me cum? […] I’ll tell you. I thought it was being inside the woman that I love. And giving her as much pleasure as she was giving to me. You know, the two of us, together.” Of course, Joanna makes Bobby cum in exactly that perfect way that he describes to his wife, so naturally he cannot help but proceed to pursue her in real-life as an actual and person instead of mere cheap whore and fantasy, especially after finally accepting the fact that his marriage with Amy is a lost cause. 




 Needless to say, when Bobby randomly shows up to her apartment and reveals that he knows her true identity, Joanna is more than a tad bit taken aback and acts if she is going to suffer a major panic attack. Luckily, Bobby has a way with words and somewhat lightens her up by stating, “You remind me of this hamster I had when I was a kid. He ran away whenever you tried to touch him. So I wanted to show him there’s nothing to be afraid of. So one day, I just picked him up real fast and I held him […] he shit in my hand.” When Bobby soon leaves in just as an awkward manner as he first arrived, it obvious by the express on Joanna’s face that she is glad he came and wishes that he stayed longer.  Not surprisingly, when Joanna later engages in sex with a young cop and penetrates him in the ass with his nightstick and his skin with her stilettos, she seems to realizes the soullessness of such a fleeting fetishistic encounter, especially after the perverted policeman hatefully spits in her face when she tells him a goofy joke regarding ivory soap being “99 and 44/100% pure” that Bobby once told to her. Likewise, when she attempts to engage in a threesome in a limousine with an uptight middle-aged yuppie couple that complains about their daughter’s Jewish boyfriend not being able to go to their country club, she becomes so agitated that she swiftly aborts the mobile ménage a trio before it even gets past the foreplay stage. Ultimately, it is not until an old woman picks her up off the streets to have sex with her terminally ill husband Ben (Gerald S. O'Loughlin) that Joanna truly realizes the morally bankruptcy and soullessness of her carnal trade and decides to give up her sensually counterfeit China Blue persona for good.  Indeed, when Ben demonstrates his love for his wife by stating things like, “I didn’t want her to do this. I haven’t been with another woman in 28 years. But she insisted” and ultimately refusing to have sex with her because he cannot bear to be unfaithful to his beloved, Joanna is so deeply moved by the dying old fart's untainted love and devotion toward his spouse that she takes off her silly platinum blonde wig and tells the old man that her real name is “Joanna,” thereupon symbolically shedding her prostitute persona. 




 After deciding to leave his wife, Bobby heads over to Joanna’s apartment and tells her, “The first time Amy and I made love, she asked me if I still respected her. Hell, I thought that’s the reason we did it. Well, it’s all over,” but she is clearly still scared of intimacy and commitment and replies, “It’s so hard, Bobby. No man’s ever given me that kind of faith before, that kind of respect. But that hotel is the safest place in the world. I can do anything there, I can be anything I can dream of because it’s not me. Don’t you see? I’d only end up disappointing you.” After Bobby swears to Joanna that he is totally “tough” and can handle anything, especially after being in a sexless marriage for over a decade, the two more or less decide to become an official monogamous couple. Unfortunately, Bobby’s wife Amy, who is the virtual stereotype of a pathetically helpless woman, is not used to not having a man around to do everything for her and thus makes a desperate and highly insincere attempt to get her hubby back. When Amy finally comes to the bitter realization that Bobby is seeing another woman, she naturally becomes extremely jealous and bitchily asks him if his lover has “the morals of a bitch in heat,” but he makes her seem like an infantile puritanical idiot by smoothly retorting, “It may come as a shock to you but sex is one hell of a way to show what you feel.” While Amy tries in vain to demonstrate that she still loves him by making him dinner and giving him a nostalgic symbolic present in the quite literally priceless form of his old high school varsity football jersey (apparently, said jersey used to turn-on Amy when they were high school sweethearts), she cannot deny her sexual apathy for Bobby and eventually literally runs away like a scared little girl. Of course, that is the last straw for Bobby, who decides to completely dedicate himself to Joanna. Unfortunately, the Reverend has big plans for Joanna that involve killer cross-dressing and quite deadly phallocentric weapons. 




 Before Bobby can go and officially declare his complete and utter devotion to Joanna, the Reverend arrives at her apartment to perform “last rites” and to “save her for once and for all.” Of course, considering the fact that he soon hands her a deadly silver dildo named ‘Superman’ and demands, “Kill me Joanna. Give my life value. Give me something to die for! Same me! You are me. One of us has to die so that the other can live,” the Reverend seems to be merely projecting his own desires when it comes to exorcising (or possibly exercising) his demons. Hoping to experience death-by-dildo, the Reverend then gets on his knees and attempts to egg Joanna into killing him by shouting, “Kill my you worthless cunt. I’m all the men who have ever hurt you, who made you feel like shit. Who stole your self-respect and turned you into China Blue. Kill me! Release the rage. Get it out. Get even.” While Joanna seems like she might kill the Reverend, she takes too long, so the Reverend eventually gets up and coldly demands, “Strip, bitch.” When Bobby finally gets back to the apartment, he is disconcerted to discover that the door his locked and Joanna is screaming like a banshee, so he breaks said door down and discovers what looks like a brutal murder scene sans blood. When Bobby sees who he assumes is Joanna cowering on the ground in her iconic China Blue outfit, he gets quite the surprise when his little lady leaps out of nowhere from behind him in holy drag and plunges the dildo into the Reverend’s back during a moment of bittersweet transsexual sacrifice.  In a successful attempt to bait Joanna into killing him, the Reverend acted as if he was going to stab Bobby with a pair of scissors.  Before succumbing to his wounds, the Reverend reveals that his holy work is done and that he is quite satisfied with the results by lovingly stating to the female protagonist, “Goodbye, China Blue.”

In the end in a sassy conclusion that, at the very least, rivals the final words of Kubrick's swansong Eyes Wide Shut, the film comes full circle with a moving monologue from Bobby at the sex group therapy session where he states, “I’m here tonight . . . because I wanted to finally start telling the truth. My wife and I, we’ve split up for good. That’s right. Me, the boy scout. I just never had the guts to admit the truth, that Amy and I had just stopped loving each other. There’s nobody to blame. That’s just what happened. Then . . . I met this woman, Joanna. She saved my life. We’re together now. I’m not sure if it’s gonna work out. We don’t have a whole hell of a lot in common other than the fact that . . . we both need help and each other. The thing, you see, that scared me the most during my marriage was just admitting that I was scared, and letting Amy down. Well, I can’t pretend anymore. I was scares shitless to come back here. I told Joanna. And she took me in her arms and she said, ‘It’s OK to be scared.’ I felt . . . stronger. And freer. And more like a man than I’ve ever felt before in my life. Then we fucked our brains out.” 



 Despite being a cinematic work that, aesthetically speaking, shamelessly epitomizes the 1980s, it is still hard to fathom that Crimes of Passion was released during the Reagan years when Tinseltown had regressed to such a pathetic level that they were virtually mimicking the worst of the Hollywood Golden Age in terms of morality and lack of innovation of any sort. Indeed, Russell’s film is indubitably the antidote to phony 1980s bourgeois melodramas like Robert Redford’s patently pathetic philosemitic joke Ordinary People (1980), as well as extra lame proto-neocon propaganda like Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986) and John Milius’ Red Dawn (1984). In terms of sheer debauchery and both sexual and aesthetic idiosyncrasy, there really aren’t that many 1980s films that Russell's flick can really be compared to aside from the random celluloid oddity like Nicholas Roeg’s Bad Timing (1980), Insignificance (1985), and Track 29 (1988) and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986). Of course, next to Russell’s film, Roeg’s somewhat uneven chamber piece Insignificance seems like a piece of pedantry as created by someone that is more interested in talking about sex than actually engaging in it (of course, the idea of Marilyn Monroe flirting with Albert Einstein is just plain repugnant and surely a hopelessly cucked white liberal's degree, but I digress).




 Notably, when a gay friend-cum-fan once accused Russell of being a “latent homosexual,” the auteur humorously replied, “Fine, maybe I am, who knows. I don’t think anyone knows themselves. We can all pretend, but I have an idea what I am. I’m me!,” so it is interesting that Crimes of Passion manages to be one of the oh-so rare cinematic works that can unequivocally be described as rampantly heterosexual high-camp in the best sort of way. Of course, one cannot deny the film’s crypto-queer influence in the form of screenwriter Barry Sandler and star Anthony Perkins, who both acted as sort of secondary auteurs to the film. Indeed, aside from portraying an unforgettable unhinged character that is like a rock-bottom version of his titular character from Psycho, Perkins designed his own insanely idiosyncratic set pieces, got high in real-life inhaling poppers like the stereotypical degenerate promiscuous faggot, and even became a ‘real’ Reverend after sending $10 and an application to the so-called Universal Life Church (in fact, when Russell got married to his second wife Vivian Jolly, Perkins was responsible for blessing the union). Needless to say, it is a sad irony that Perkins ultimately died of an illness that was caused by the same reckless sexual debauchery that plagued both his character and the film’s female protagonist, but then again knowing this fact only makes for an all the more potently perverse cinematic experience.  Undoubtedly, there is no doubt to the viewer while watching the flick that Perkins is having so much fun playing, as if it is his dream role.

As revealed in the fairly mundane Sandler penned movie Making Love (1982), monogamy is not really a gay virtue, thus making it all the more seemingly inexplicable that Crimes of Passion—a rather pro-monogamy/pro-intimacy film that makes a clear distinction between true sexual intimacy and soulless fucking—was written by a gay man (somewhat strangely, Sander’s most recent effort was writing the negro horror-comedy Knock 'em Dead (2014) directed by David DeCoteau). 



 Thankfully, Sandler revealed his inspiration for the screenplay in an interview with Queerty, stating, “I started writing it at the tail end of the ‘70s and we were living in an age of rampant sex, particularly in the gay community. This was before AIDS so everybody was fucking around and having sex everywhere you looked. You’d stop at a red light to cruise the guy next to you and you’d end up back at his place. Yet I was thinking there was a story there about how people use sex to avoid intimacy and replace having to work at a relationship. It was so out there and so accessible. I thought that if I could take that theme and concept and weave it into a story — not a gay story, because I’d just done MAKING LOVE. I wanted to do something that would speak to gay people but would speak beyond that as well. I used whatever utensils I had as a writer to come up with the story, as twisted as it may be. It wasn’t based on any one person. It sort of evolved in a strange way. It was initially a two-character piece with China Blue and the reverend, who was originally a shrink. It’s probably the script of mine that took the longest to evolve. A lot of that had to do with studios who were afraid to touch it. Beyond that I just kept going back to it and add certain layers.” 


 Rather sadly but not surprisingly, Crimes of Passion is, in many ways, more relevant today than when it was first released over three decades ago. Indeed, in an era where many young women have taken countless cocks and thus will probably never have a successful marriage (despite what the feminists say, there is indeed a direct correlation between how many sexual partners a woman has had and her chances of having a successful marriage) and young men are no longer interested in marriage due to the lack of real incentives (after all, you no longer need to marry a girl to fuck her nowadays) and fears regarding divorce court, Russell’s film seems like a rare unlikely voice of sanity in a slimy sea of celluloid swill, but of course its message will probably be lost on most viewers who are probably more interested in obsessing over Über-bitch diva Kathleen Turner sporting a super trashy platinum blonde wig while riding a cop's cock and Anthony Perkins wielding a bloody dildo of death. Of course, the genius of the film is that it manages to use shock humor and sexual debauchery to disseminate a relatively wholesome message about the virtues of monogamy and the perils developing of a phony persona in a manner that can be understood and appreciated by even the most sexually intemperate of degenerates and perverts. After all, it is not often that one encounters a morally sound satirical neo-noir featuring artwork by Art Nouveau illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais (I  must confessed that “Ophelia” is a personal favorite of mine), a narcotizing synthesizer-heavy score by Rick Wakeman that is based entirely on Antonín Dvorák’s New World Symphony (1893), and Anthony Perkins more or less parodying his legendary killer tranny character Norman Bates.

In his relatively popular film reference book The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (2004), David Thomson complains, “The overall need to sensationalize artists and to reduce them to comic-book Freud and TV commercial glamour is justified by Russell as a means to making them more popular.”  Of course, Thomson makes a valid criticism, which is especially apparent upon watching Altered States and Crimes of Passion since neither of these films, quite unlike much of Russell's earlier films, are plagued by these flaws.  Indeed, I would even go so far as to argue that, aside from possibly his magnum opus The Devils (1971), Crimes of Passion is Russell's most immaculately assembled film. I certainly cannot think of another film where the whole ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ motif is actually used in genuinely intriguing fashion and is not used as a pathetic attempt at cheap humanist sentimentalism or Marxist agitprop. As a successful and sophisticated fashion designer that treasures art and is more geared toward love and sexual compatibility than succumbing to the cold female instinct of hypergamy, Kathleen Turner's characters is, quite ironically, the virtual ideal woman, which would explain her sense of isolation; while the male protagonist's sexless wife is the total opposite as a seemingly soulless woman that married solely for material reasons in a film that, somewhat inadvertently, clearly demonstrates why many modern men avoid marriage lest they become cuckolds of divorce court.  As to how a beauteous and cultivated woman could turn into a prostitute, Georges Bataille offered a good idea when he wrote, “Not every woman is a potential prostitute, but prostitution is the logical consequence of the feminine attitude.  In so far as she is attractive, a woman is a prey to men's desire.  Unless she refuses completely because she is determined to remain chaste, the question is at what price and under what circumstances will she yield.  But if the conditions are fulfilled she always offers herself as an object.  Prostitution proper only brings in a commercial element.  By the care she lavishes on her toilet, by the concern she has for her beauty set off by her adornment, a woman regards herself as an object always trying to attract men's attention.  Similarly if she strips naked she reveals the object of a man's desire, an individual and particular object to be prized.”



-Ty E

No comments: