Jan 24, 2018

Naked Tango

While Paul Schrader is, at least to some extent, a failed filmmaker in the sense that very few of his films have been monetarily successful and, more importantly, he oftentimes fails when it comes to translating his screenplays into fully realized films (indeed, it is no coincidence that he is best known for his screenplay for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver), his older and lesser known brother Leonard, who only managed to direct a single feature during his somewhat sad life, is indubitably an artistic failure that was never able to reach anywhere near his full artistic potential.  Although surely no masterpiece, Leonard's sole feature Naked Tango (1990) is undoubtedly a intriguing film worthy of reexamination and a cinematic work that reveals that the auteur had the potential to be just as subversive and innovative of a filmmaker as his much better known younger brother. Probably best remembered among cinephiles and film historians for penning the Academy Award nominated screenplay for the poof prison flick Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) directed by Argentine-born Brazilian Jew Héctor Babenco and based on a novel by Argentine novelist Manuel Puig (whose work played a crucial influence on Naked Tango), Leonard—a draft-dodger that spent most of his life living and working in Japan after fleeing there in a successful attempt to avoid the Vietnam War—is undoubtedly a depressing example of misspent intellect and artistic talent.

To anyone that is familiar with the somewhat sleazy but highly entertaining book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (1998) by Peter Biskind, it is easy to understand why the elder Schrader, who died under dubious circumstances in 2006, is all but forgotten yet his younger brother Paul has managed to direct a new film every year or two ever since his debut feature Blue Collar (1978) about forty years ago. Indeed, as Paul, who managed to snag the sole credit for their first Hollywood collaboration—the screenplay for Sydney Pollack's somewhat uneven The Yakuza (1974)—confessed in the book, “I had always treated Leonard badly. Taking sole screenwriting credit on THE YAKUZA wasn’t very nice. Treating him as an employee wasn’t very nice. Throughout all that, he had one thing that I didn’t have, which was Japan. And then came MISHIMA, and I stole Japan from him.” Apparently, The Yakuza credit and Japan were not the only things that Paul stole from his brother, or as Biskind somewhat questionably argued, “Ironically, his best film as a director was his first, BLUE COLLAR, which he more or less disavowed. Says Leonard, ‘My brother finds BLUE COLLAR embarrassing. One reason is, he hadn’t yet developed his polish-jewel CAT PEOPLE style. The other is, he didn’t write it.’ Meaning, of course, that Leonard wrote it.” Of course, the brothers, who both spent their younger years fetishizing the virtues of suicide and even had a number of paternal uncles and cousins commit suicide, have a number of things in common, namely their obsession with sex and death and especially a seemingly seamless combination of the two.  Notably, nearly a decade before directing his first feature, Schrader acted as co-director of the unintentionally entertaining and unquestionably exploitative leftist agitprop doc The Killing of America (1982) co-directed by Sheldon Renan. More or less a glorified snuff film featuring various pieces of classic true crime stock-footage, the somewhat deluded documentary now seems like a sick piece of leftist moral posturing when compare to the director's uniquely unhinged sadomasochistic melodrama Naked Tango. Like many of his brother’s cinematic works, Leonard’s film wallows in sex and death, but also dance, which is ultimately depicted as the height of orgasmic embrace and an activity that is driven largely by sheer sexual magnetism. 

 Featuring suicide, rape, murder, prostitution, homosexuality, Jewish organized crime, flapper fetishism, abattoirs, oedipal gangsters, and a delightfully dichotomous combination of high and low kultur that manages to combine the Symbolist paintings of Teutonic maestro Frank von Stuck with the gritty film noir sleaze of Howard Hawks' pre-Code guido gangster classic Scarface (1932), Naked Tango is undoubtedly an ambitious failure of sorts, but it is also a preternaturally engulfing failure and arguably one of the most elegant ‘bad movies’ ever made. An unintentional experiment in high-camp excess that attempts to juggle elements of film noir and classic melodrama and pays homage to both the short career of Latin heartthrob Rudolph Valentino and and the surreal sadomasochism of late era Luis Buñuel (indeed, Fernando Rey does not star in the film as a cuckolded judge for no reason), Schrader’s film certainly deserves comparisons to a number of subversive arthouse ‘mad love’ themed films, including Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1972), Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1974), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s swansong Querelle (1982), and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) and Wild at Heart (1990). In terms of its mongrelized cultural pedigree and dubious execution, the film also has much in common with the similarly flawed yet nonetheless underrated Orphic Belgian-Dutch-French co-production Mascara (1987) directed by Patrick Conrad and starring Charlotte Rampling and Michael Sarrazin. Undoubtedly, like Mascara, Naked Tango is what Manny Farber would have described as ‘termite art’ as a cinematic work that, for better or worse, attempts to exterminate pre-existing boundaries, exhibits undeniable artistic audaciousness, and wallows in economy of expression, among other things. In terms of being a somewhat arthouse-ish psychosexual thriller set in a culturally confused Buenos Aires, Argentina that makes various overt cinephiliac references to classic Hollywood movies, Schrader’s film also has some somewhat superficial similarities with the homoerotic Argentine-British film Apartment Zero (1988) starring Colin Firth and Hart Bochner. Despite its somewhat glaring artsy fartsy qualities, Schrader’s flick might be best summed up as a carefully culturally marinated combination of G. W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929), Dirty Dancing (1987), and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984), albeit sans any sort of tangible commercial appeal. 

 Aside from an extremely rare out-of-print VHS, Naked Tango has, somewhat curiously, never been released in the United States in any other home media format. Although just speculation, I can only assume that the film was at least partially buried by its mainstream Hollywood distributor due to its less than flattering depiction of Jews and Jewish history. Indeed, the film is based on the real-life Jewish organized group Zwi Migdal and their international trafficking of young Jewesses from the shtetls of Eastern Europe for sexual slavery during a relatively long period that began in the 1860s and did not end until 1939 after an ex-prostitute named Raquel Liberman started a campaign that ultimately led to their downfall. Somewhat shockingly, the film does not feature a single redeemable Judaic character and instead is full of grotesque Jewish caricatures, namely a cowardly and craven young pimp with an obscene Oedipus complex and his similarly malevolent money-grubbing madam mommy. Incidentally, the film was produced by Jewish producer David Weisman—a protégé of Otto Preminger—who previously produced Paul Morrissey less than philo-semitic mafia satire Spike of Bensonhurst (1988). Notably, Schrader and Weisman previously had a quite monetarily and critically fruitful collaboration with Kiss of the Spider Woman, which seems to be a little bit too polished when compared to the visceral elegance of Naked Tango. Of course, Schrader only acted as a screenwriter on the previous film, but it seems that Weisman somehow expected the first-time-auteur to recapture the same success, albeit with a less than semitically sensitive twist. Naturally, a film about Jewish sex slavery would not be complete without a voluptuous seductive Jewess like Mathilda May of Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985) fame and her supple Khazar milkers (while I typically find Jewesses to be innately grotesque, May is a half-breed and it seems her Swedish genes have done her well in both the titty and derriere department).

It should also be noted that various mainstream film critics criticized Naked Tango when it was released due to its less than philo-semitic approach to depicting history.  For exampled, assumed chosenite Ralph Novak complained in his September 16, 1991 review for People magazine that, “Great emphasis is placed on Morales’s Jewishness, for no clear reason.”  Of course, Novak is either being willingly ignorant and/or he did not do his homework, as the film is based on a well-known real-life kosher crime syndicate.  Additionally, the Jewish pimp played by Esai Morales hardly seems like a Jewish caricature in terms of physical appearance and certainly does not resemble a cunning gremlin like infamous real-life mobster Meyer Lansky.  In short, Naked Tango is probably too aesthetically flattering when it comes to depicting Judaic pimps and gangsters.  It seems that film specialists and academics are also unaware that it exists, as it does not get a single reference in Russell Campbell's book Marked Women: Prostitutes and Prostitution in the Cinema (2006), which has been marketed as being the definitive text on the representation of female prostitution in cinema history. Incidentally, the book, which covers everything from New German Cinema to retro Swedish pornography, does dedicate a number of pages to Taxi Driver, which of course Schrader's brother Paul is famous for penning.

 Admittedly, while I don’t know shit about any form of dancing or ballet, I do have a certain inexplicable fondness for a number of idiosyncratic dance and ballet flicks, including (but certainly not limited to), Max Reichmann’s experimental Das Blumenwunder (1926) aka Miracle of Flowers, Swiss auteur Daniel Schmid’s debut feature Heute nacht oder nie (1972) aka Tonight or Never, Ingmar Bergman's somewhat obscure avant-garde short De fördömda kvinnornas dans (1976) aka The Condemned Women Dance, the sod serial killer oriented Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men (1989) and other Physical Theatre Company DV8 production related films, Rosa von Praunheim’s bizarre neo-Expressionist Anita Berber biopic Anita: Tänze des Lasters (1987) aka Anita: Dances of Vice, and even total senseless trash like Lucio Fulci’s dance-giallo Murder Rock (1984) aka Slashdance and mercurial guido auteur Peter Del Monte’s abortive arthouse neo-fairytale Etoile (1988) aka Ballet starring a rather young and nubile Jennifer Connelly. Indeed, I also regard the ‘danse macabre’ scene in Belgian master auteur André Delvaux’s Un soir, un train (1968) aka One Night... A Train as being among one of the most startlingly haunting scenes in cinema history. While I personally find tango music to be rather aesthetically disagreeable, it is an innate and imperative ingredient in what is ultimately a mostly delectable, yet sometimes bittersweet, cinematic cuisine that manages to combine an eclectic collection of ingredients, including Jewish gangsters, cabaret, proto-fascist aesthetics, Expressionism, Franz von Stuck, Rudolph Valentino worship, flapper sluts, and the perils of elegant excess, among other things. An erotic arthouse flick disguised as a trashy quasi-musical with a somewhat hermetic period setting, Naked Tango is arguably a grand artistic failure but it also indubitably the dead serious expression of a sick failed artist’s wounded soul, thereupon making it a quite apt first (and last) feature for Schrader.   Indeed, while Schrader may have only been able to direct one feature film during his life, he at least has never directed anything as hopelessly embarrassing as the incoherent shabbos goy tier shoah shit show Adam Resurrected (2008) or the totally worthless Nicholas Cage vehicle The Dying of the Light (2014) like his younger brother.  Additionally, Mathilda May makes for a much more appealing prostitute than Richard Gere in Schrader's somewhat uneven Bressonian crime-romance American Gigolo (1980).

 While the film’s young and beauteous heroine Stephanie (Mathilda May) might be quite easy on the eyes, it is somewhat hard to sympathize with her plight as she is, quite simply, a spoiled little bitch that dares to wallow in self-pity because she made the obvious mistake of marrying an old fart simply because he was a rich and respected judge. Indeed, Stephanie socially cuckolds her husband Juez Torres (Fernando Rey)—a man that seems to genuinely care for his wife despite having nothing in common with her—at the beginning of the film while they are vacationing on a cruise by dancing with a handsome young waiter, who initially mistakes her spouse for her father. While her husband purports to be a legendary tango dancer and she herself loves to tango, Stephanie is clearly disgusted at the thought of any sort of physical contact with Juez; be it sexual or otherwise. When Juez dares to berate her for her rather obnoxious quasi-slutty public behavior by declaring, “Stop making a scene. You’re acting worse than a whore,” she throws a rather childish fit, storms out of the dance hall and then heads to the deck of a ship where she is somewhat shocked to witness a beautiful nubile young girl stripping off all of her clothes and then committing suicide by jumping overboard. Clearly not the sort of person to miss the opportunity to exploit a good tragedy, Stephanie immediately decides to fake her own death and trades places with the mysterious dead girl by stealing her clothes and then leaving her own items at the scene of the glorious suicidal plunge. Upon discovering the dead girl’s journal, Stephanie discovers that the deceased was a a Jewish mail-order bride from Poland and that she is traveling to Buenos Aires to wed a kosher chap. Unfortunately for Stephanie, her mysterious husband-to-be is actually a sly pimp and gangster named Zico Borenstein (Esai Morales) that runs a stylish whorehouse with his obscenely overbearing and equally morally bankrupt mother (Cipe Lincovsky).  In short, Stephanie unwittingly goes from riches-to-rags, though she ultimately also goes from being a dishonest whore that married for money to becoming an honest enslaved pussy-peddler that does not even get to keep the money that her she actually earned via whoredom.

 Upon arriving in Buenos Aires, Zico—a fairly young man whose counterfeit suaveness is only rivaled by his well hidden cowardice—acts like quite the prim and pristine gentleman and even provides Stephanie with a very expensive diamond ring. Although he intends to turn her into a servile sex slave that makes him cash with her gash, Zico also talks up the local neighborhood, even bragging in regard to his corrupt little ghetto, “You’re going to be very happy here. It’s so much better than the old country. We are very proud of our Jewish community. Before we go back, I’ll introduce you to our kosher butcher, the grocer, the banker, the doctor . . . everyone with money. I mean, everyone important. You’ll be surprised at how fast they make you feel at home.”  Notably, Stephanie makes no attempt to pretend she is Jewish and Zico does not seem to suspect that she is a duplicitous shiksa that has her own dubious agenda, thus somewhat ironically making them the perfect couple as far as deceptive behavior and morally bankruptcy are concerned. Also, somewhat ironically, it is ultimately a man that initially displays nil interest in fucking her that makes her feel the most comfortable in her own pearly pale skin. Of course, as woman that married an old fart that she has no physical or emotional chemistry with, Stephanie certainly sees it as beneath her to peddler her pussy at the behest of a kosher nostra gangster for a mere couple of shekels that she will not even be able to keep herself. Luckily, Stephanie will at least finally meet a mensch that eventually falls head over heels in love with her in his own preternatural yet highly flattering fashion, thus naturally reaffirming her regret in regard to getting stuck in a loveless marriage. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Naked Tango—a film where two somewhat unhinged weirdos with sadomasochistic tendencies discover the ecstatic highs and crushing lows of visceral mad love—does not have a happy ending, at least not in the conventional sense.  In short, the (anti)heroine discovers that raw passion always has a hefty price, even when you're a busty little bitch that could have virtually any man you want.

 When Stephanie first meets her great love ‘Cholo’ (Vincent D'Onofrio)—a pathologically cryptic yet hyper hip tango maestro that is high on his own idiosyncratic brand of swag—she is wielding two knives and is fully prepared to defend herself, as she has just stabbed her (pseudo)husband Zico and a grotesquely obese jeweler named Bertoni (played by famous Yiddish actor Zero Mostel’s fairly unknown son Josh Mostel). Indeed, on their wedding night, Zico attempted to consummate the marriage by forcing a completely unwitting Stephanie to smoke the lard ass jeweler’s seemingly ungodly awful choad. Of course, Stephanie, who had no idea that her husband was a pernicious pimp, naturally resisted and thus was forced to stab both Zico and Bertoni in the process. Proving to be the only man that can control Stephanie, Cholo literally grabs her by the pussy and the lifts her up in the air, though he is in for somewhat of a shock when he immediately develops a completely electric erotic attraction while she is attempting to stab him, as if he can immediately sense, like an ancient vampire, a fellow unhinged tango fanatic. Although practically worshiped by virtually every single woman (and even some men) in the area, Cholo loathes sex and seems to see tango dancing as a substitute that is much purer and authentic than actual coitus. Indeed, as a flaming fag hairdresser named Gastón (Patricio Bisso) states in regard to Cholo’s preternatural proclivities, “We’d all give our long lost cherries to sleep with him but he sleeps with horses. He’s never given any girl a second look.”  With Stephanie, Cholo gives her a whole lot more than a second look and he ultimately pays the greatest price for it.

While Zico attempts to coerce Cholo into killing Stephanie since she is a witness-cum-perpetrator in the murder of the mafia-connected jeweler Bertoni and thus can get them in trouble with a ruthless outfit of Italian gangsters known as the ‘Black Hand,’ he cannot break his almost immediately self-destructive obsession with her and instead immediately proceeds to focus on transforming her into a sort of designer whore of his dreams. Indeed, after forcing her to get a dark black Louise Brooks-esque flapper hairdo and to take the exotic whore name ‘Alba,’ Cholo—a suave and romantic yet seemingly sociopathic sicko that commits violence and murder with a certain unrivaled finesse that is comparable to his tango moves—cannot stop his rather deleterious obsession with making love with Stephanie via tango. On top of refusing to shove his almost mythical member in her clearly warm and ready snatch, Cholo also curiously forces Stephanie to wear a blindfold while they dance. In fact, Cholo is such an obsessive lunatic that he also has his own personal three-person tango band that he also forces to wear blindfolds, as if these almost phantom-like elderly musicians, who act as a sort of Greek chorus for the film, are too lowly and aesthetically handicapped to appreciate his perversely penetrating phantasmagoric dance moves. 

 As a result of her role in the death of mob-connected lardo jeweler Bertoni, Stephanie’s life is threatened by both yid pimp Zico and the Black Hand mobsters, so it is a good thing that Cholo becomes absolutely infatuated with her.  Indeed, while best buds with Zico and an associate of sorts with the goombah gangsters of the Black Hand, Cholo does not have to think twice about going to war with both just to defend Stephanie. In fact, after saving her from some somewhat intellectually disadvantaged guido gangsters, Cholo declares to Stephanie, who he has personally rechristened ‘Alba,’ in an almost sinisterly sensual fashion, “I’m sorry. This won’t happen again. Don’t worry, Alba. I’d never let anyone else kill you.” Instead of killing Stephanie, Cholo forces her to do the tango blindfolded sans clothing. While Stephanie is also a tango fanatic of sorts, she much rather have Cholo’s cock and practically begs him for it repeatedly but, unfortunately for her, he sees sex as sickening.  A somewhat paradoxical chap that radiates a certain alluring degree of machismo and androgyny, Cholo is clearly the man of Stephanie's dreams, at least as far as sheer sex appeal is concerned.

When Stephanie cries to Choko while lying naked in pimp Zico’s bed, “I don’t know what sex with you is,” he replies, “Yes, you do. All sex is the same. It just leaves you more sad. The beauty you’re born with does not count. The only thing that counts is the beauty you make.”  If Cholo was an intellectual, one can certainly imagine him saying something in the vein of Georges Bataille like, “Nudity is only death, and the most tender kisses have the after-taste of the rat.”  Incidentally, Stephanie's eventual premature death while involve her nudity.  As Stephanie learns, real beauty to Cholo is doing the tango in a blood-drenched abattoir while sticking a dagger under your lover’s throat. Of course, Stephanie never gives up on attempting to coerce Cholo into jumping her bones, which he eventually does after murdering some pathetic wop gangster. Needless to say, Cholo does not shy away from pounding Stephanie’s puss while her buxom bare ass is sitting on broken glass. In short, the fact that Jewish and guido gangsters are trying to kill them only adds more passion to Stephanie and Cholo’s quite literally lethally lurid love affair. Unfortunately, being a woman, Stephanie still has strong survival instincts and an insatiable thirst for material things, so she eventually betrays Cholo and goes back to her wealthy judge husband, but not before burning a building down and quite selfishly risking the lives of many innocent people in the process, thus underscoring her sense of quasi-sociopathic greed and self-worship. Naturally, Cholo refuses to let Stephanie go and she cannot deny her undying love for the twisted tango maestro, so it is not long before they are reunited.  Needless to say, the lovers are doomed.

 In the spirit of classic European ‘impossible love’ myths like Tristan and Iseult and Orpheus and Eurydice and film reworkings of such perennial stories like the Jean Cocteau-penned Vichy era classic L'Éternel retour (1943) aka The Eternal Return directed Jean Delannoy, Naked Tango naturally concludes in a tragically romantic fashion with the leads being completely destroyed because of their quite impossible forbidden love. Indeed, when Stephanie decides to once again betray her husband and choose Cholo over him, he finally loses his patience and opts to killer her in what can only be described as a crime of cuck passion. Of course, when the judge shoots Stephanie, Cholo immediately retaliates and does so by suavely and quite effortlessly throwing a knife through the old fart's swarthy decrepit Latin neck. In the end, the judge’s henchman—corrupt local Prussian-esque cops that shoot first and ask questions later—unleash a storm of bullets on Cholo and Stephanie as they quite literally take their last dance together. As a symbolic act of both true love and heroic defiance, Cholo uses his last couple moments alive to raise Stephanie lifeless body in the air as if he is trying to vain to send her off to heaven while his feet are just beginning to feel the warmth of the pits of hell.  As individuals that were clearly not built for marriage or kids that indubitably reached the zenith of their love for another, Stephanie and Cholo could not have left this world together in a more appropriate fashion.  Luckily, Cholo manages to execute Zico as revenge for his betrayal shortly before his own death.  Quite symbolically considering the neurotic maternal spirit of Ashkenazi Jewry, Zico's mother seems to be the only one that survives the blood bath and now she can keep all of the whorehouse money for herself instead of splitting it with her pimp son.

 As history certainly demonstrates from Samson’s harlot of Gaza to Heidi ‘Hollywood Madam’ Fleiss, Jews and prostitution go together like peas and carrots, yet Naked Tango is probably the only film that dares to take a fearless and less than politically incorrect approach to the subject. Notably, in her book Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany (1995), Maria Tatar noted in regard to the literary tradition of Jews and prostitution, “Jews came to be linked not only with the perpetrators of sexual murder, but with the victims as well. Like the prostitute, the Jew is seen to represent a serious threat to the moral, fiscal, and sexual economy of the social body. As Sander Gilman has pointed out, both prostitutes and Jews have been liked by what is seen to be a sexualized relation to capital—they have ‘but one interest, the conversion of sex into money or money into sex.’ Unable to find value in transcendent spiritual matters, their interests remain fixed on the material and financial. More important, prostitutes and Jews, because of their spiritual corruption, are considered carriers of sexually transmitted diseases, a view clearly articulated in Hitler’s MEIN KAMPF.” Ironically and somewhat cynically, the protagonists of the film, especially female lead Stephanie, are ultimately destroyed as a result of abandoning material consumption for visceral true love. Interestingly, the leads are ultimately victims of greed and treachery of a Jewish pimp in a film that, quite unintentionally, lends authority to Uncle Adolf's words, “Particularly with regard to syphilis, the attitude of those who guide the nation and the state can only be described as total capitulation […] The cause lies primarily in the prostitution of love […] This Jewification of the spiritual life and mammonization of the mating instinct will sooner or later destroy all of our descendants.” Of course, the protagonists die before they can even produce descendants despite their eventual abandoning of both literal and spiritual prostitution.  Indeed, were it not such a debauched film, Schrader's debut feature could be mistaken as an homage to the classic high-camp melodramas of National Socialist auteur Veit Harlan.  Naturally, the fact that it was directed by a lifelong leftist and draft-dodger that previously directed liberal anti-American agitprop makes Naked Tango seem like an all the more inexplicable cinematic work, so it is really no big surprise that has been tragically consigned to the celluloid dustbin of history.

While Naked Tango certainly seems a little bit culturally mongrelized due to its glaring international cast and mostly pleasantly preternatural period setting that oftentimes more resembles Weimar Berlin than Buenos Aires in terms of aesthetic spirit, the film is indubitably deeply rooted in both cultural and social history and reflects Schrader's sagely understanding of art, cinema, and literature as indicated by the film's use aesthetic influences ranging from Manuel Puig to German Expressionism. Indeed, aside from being inspired by the real-life Jewish sex slavery outfit Zwi Migdal, the film follows in the tradition of certain forgotten Jewish art, or as explained at the Jewish Virtual Library, “Yiddish literature of the early 20th century contains a number of powerful portrayals of the social and personal costs of widespread prostitution including Sholem Asch’s GOD OF VENGEANCE and Perets Hirschbein’s MIRIAM. A 1908 performance of the latter in Buenos Aires led to a bloody public riot.” Of course, the almost gothic-like Jewish ghetto setting seems to be largely window dressing for Schrader’s eclectic aesthetic obsessions. After all, I doubt many Hebraic whorehouses have stained glass windows modeled after some of Franz von Stuck’s greatest paintings, including Die Sünde (1893) aka The Sin and Sphinx (1904).  Somewhat ironically considering the film's degenerate Jewish setting, von Stuck was apparently apparently Adolf Hitler's favorite painter.  Notably, when Aryan Christ Jung wrote in his book Symbols of Transformation (1956) in regard to von Stuck's paintings, “The mixture of anxiety and lust is perfectly expressed in the sultry atmosphere of these pictures,” he certainly could have also been describing Schrader's film.

In a January 07, 1990 interview with John M. Wilson at the Los Angeles Times in regard to the production of the film, Schrader demonstrated he was personally obsessed with romance, arguing, “For me, the essence of romance, for all its high-octane fuel, is for romance to burn itself out. In the ashes of romance can grow a more mature, a different kind of love. The more chance you have to take romance all the way to the end, the more chance you have to be ready for the next phase. Most of us only have the courage to take it halfway.” Of course, the lovers in the film go all the way in terms of their love and pay the ultimate price for it, but as Schrader stated in the same interview, “Most romances keep the element of death hidden under the table. I wanted to put it square in the middle of the table.”

It seems that Schrader, who apparently liked the emotional of security of knowing that he was always sleeping with a loaded weapon under his pillow and thus could kill himself at any time, was a somewhat tragic self-destructive individual who was a slave of the Todestrieb. While putting together Naked Tango in the editing room, Schrader even expressed a certain irrational excitement in regard to the artistic uncertainty of his film, stating, “This is why I love it—every choice, every step, every moment is crucial. I love to be in that position, where I can win or lose, because it means that what I'm doing counts.”  Judging simply by his statement, it makes one wonder whether or not Schrader was attempting to sabotage his own career by making a film about rather unsavory Jewish pimps and gangsters while working in the hyper Hebraic realm of Hollywood. Of course, despite his brother Paul ultimately directing the film, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)—a somewhat experimental biopic of the great Japanese novelist and neo-fascist Yukio Mishima—was ultimately Schrader's brainchild and an expression of his own romantic and self-destructive tendencies.  Knowing this, I can only assume that Leonard was the more subversive and intelligent of the two brothers, but sadly it seems he was an underachiever that was too antisocial and just plain mentally ill to establish a filmmaking career that was extensive as his own little bro.  It seems that Schrader was also somewhat lazy, as he spent the majority of his life as ‘script doctor’ which, to quote the failed auteur, allowed him to obtain, “big money for a short amount of work.”  Unfortunately, Naked Tango was ultimately such a huge failure that it is all but totally unknown in Schrader’s own homeland and currently unavailable in any home media format, though it seems to have developed some minor success in Europe and Argentina.

Still, I doubt that Schrader would have ever been capable of developing any sort of big mainstream success.  Indeed, as a strange introverted intellectual that seemed to suffer posttraumatic success as a result of strict and totally movie-less Dutch Calvinist upbringing, the failed auteur probably did not relate to most people.  Additionally, I am not surprised that the man that directed Naked Tango also once candidly confessed, “I would be sitting alone in some room at three o'clock in the morning with a loaded gun, thinking about blowing my brains out.  It was not, ‘I'm having a bad day, I wanted to kill myself’; no, the desire, the need, felt as real as a fucking table. I want to do this, and I never want to do this. I'm three seconds away from it, and I'm three million years away from it. I felt the fever of two things inside me fighting. I was breaking out in a sweat, my temperature was going up from the intensity of it. Sometimes I would just stare at the wall, trying to quiet the heat down, but sometimes the heat kept building, and that's when I was looking for the gun. Triggered by something physical, like I couldn't sleep. I found out that if I stuck the barrel in my mouth, like some infant's pacifier, I could fall asleep. It worked for two or three weeks, and all of a sudden, it didn't work. I'd been sucking on an empty gun. I knew if I loaded the sonofabitch, I was gonna sleep tonight.” While Schrader was apparently not a fag since he was married to a Jap chick, somehow it seems fitting that his real-life, as demonstrated by the above quote, sometimes resembled a scene out of Jean Genet's sole film Un chant d'amour (1950) aka A Song of Love.

-Ty E

Jan 5, 2018

Barton Fink

While I would not exactly call myself a true Coen Brothers connoisseur, I feel confident enough in my appraisal of their somewhat uneven oeuvre to say that Barton Fink (1991)—a cinematic work that has been eclipsed in terms of popularity by probably half a dozen or so of their other, oftentimes glaringly inferior, films—is their unequivocal magnum opus. Indeed, fuck the autistic acting and quirky Cagisms of Raising Arizona (1987), nauseatingly nice Amero-Swede musicality of Fargo (1996), and sophisticated sunbaked stoner humor of The Big Lebowski (1998), the Coen brothers’ 1991 period piece, which is set in 1941 on the eve of America's entry into World War II, has the most to offer in terms of sheer aesthetic potency and curiousness, thematic intricately, meta-cinephilia, and eccentric esoteric Judaic self-loathing. A virtual ‘Jewish Eraserhead’ featuring John Turturro portraying a sort of kosher commie intellectual equivalent to the David Lynch protagonist Henry portrayed by Jack Nance in terms of obscenely absurd haircut and Fremdscham-inducing awkwardness of character.  In fact, the film was even executive produced by Hebraic cineaste Ben Barenholtz who was responsible for popularizing Lynch’s debut feature by screening it as part of the midnight movie circuit. Indeed, the film even features a number of blatant Lynchian shots juxtaposed with ambient noise, not to mention the fact that it is arguably the brothers’ most hermetic film. While undoubtedly somewhat overlooked compared to many of the Coens’ other films, it managed to snag three major awards at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, including the coveted Palme d'Or, thus underscoring its somewhat preternatural arthouse quality. Of course, as a film that dedicates much time to ruthlessly mocking both egomaniacal far-leftist Jewish intellectuals and the distinct Ashkenazi immigrant flavor of the Hollywood's Golden Age studio system, it is easy to see why modern academics and film critics seem to suffer amnesia when it comes to discussing the film and comparing it to the filmmakers’ other work.  Needless to say, Barton Fink makes for a great double feature with the Coen brothers' most overtly Jewish film A Serious Man (2009) and one can only hope that the siblings will finally get around to achieving their projected goal of directing an adaptation of Michael Chabon's hyper Hebraic detective novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007), which they have already adapted into a screenplay.

Notably, Jewish American film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote an entire article entitled Crass Consciousness featured in the August 23, 1991 issue of the Chicago Reader where he expressed in his strange misreading of the film a certain highly personalized uneasiness, complaining, “A final point should be made about the broad, comic-book-style Jewish caricatures in the film — Barton, Lipnick, Geisler, and Lipnick’s assistant Lou Breeze (Jon Polito). Spike Lee was lambasted on the op-ed page of the New York Times and by Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice (among other places) for Jewish caricatures in MO’ BETTER BLUES that employed one of the same actors (Turturro), occupied only a fraction as much screen time, and were if anything less malicious than the caricatures in BARTON FINK. So I assume the reason Lee was singled out for abuse and the Coens won’t be to the same extent is that the Coens happen to be Jewish. For whatever it’s worth — speaking now as a Jew myself — I don’t consider any of the caricatures in either movie to be racist in themselves, and it seems to me somewhat absurd that Lee should be criticized so widely for something that the Coens do at much greater length with impunity. Being white, having the minds of teenagers, and believing that social commitment is for jerks are all probably contributing factors to this privileged treatment.”  The grandson of a wealthy businessman that owned a small chain of movie theaters in Alabama, Rosenbaum notably comes from a far-leftist background and was involved with the organizing of angry negro communists during the civil rights era.  Although just speculation, one can only assume that he takes personal offense to the less the flattering of the eponymous protagonist—a Jewish leftist writer like himself—and his hypocritical quasi-Marxist politics.  While Rosenbaum makes the assumption that the Coens are just philistine jerks that are simply too selfish and immature to embrace the oh-so precious social justice warrior lifestyle, Barton Fink demonstrates that the brothers have a keen understanding of the Jewish leftist mindset and all of its hypocritical idiosyncrasies.

Notably, in his book The Jewish Mystique (1969), Dutch-born American sociologist Ernest van den Haag, himself an ex-commie activist that spent nearly three years in one of Mussolini's prisons, made the wise observation in regard to the questionable nature of Jewish left-wing activism, “Since the Jews suffered for so long from oppression by dominant groups, laws, and traditions, their sentimental identification with minorities, underdogs, the poor, the humiliated, the shunned, the maltreated, the outlawed is quite understandable. Yet, explanation is not justification. And unfortunately, the Jews have not used their intellectual powers to analyze Utopian, reformist, and revolutionary doctrines as effectively as they have used these powers to analyze traditions and ideologies supporting the status quo. Wherefore, within the Jewish cultural establishment, Jewishness as an entrance ticket has tended to be fused with vaguely leftist, pro-underdog attitudes. Jewishness alone merely gets you into the lobby.”  While they might use somewhat aberrant humor as their weapon of choice as opposed to some turgid academic text, the Coens demonstrate with Barton Fink that they are, quite unlike Rosenbaum, the sort of genuinely intellectual curious Jews that a great sage like van den Haag could have appreciated.

 Although one of the more intellectual and culturally refined film critics that America has produced as a protégé of iconoclastic artist and film critic Manny Farber, Rosenbaum seems to suffer from the stereotypical Judaic trait of a lack of self-awareness, especially on the collective racial, as opposed to personal, level. Not surprisingly, the eponymous protagonist of Barton Fink—an ostensibly ‘revolutionary’ far-leftist that, despite being a pretentious navel-gazing prick intellectual that has probably never did an hour of real physical labor in his entire life, claims to be fighting for the so-called “common man”—is plagued by a certain infuriating degree of a lack of self-awareness, but luckily reality eventually ruthlessly smacks him in the face in the form of a literal fiery holocaust of sorts and a grotesquely obscene Semitic studio mogul that reminds him that a communist is really just a failed kosher capitalist that seeks power via different, albeit similarly materialistic (and anti-goyim), means. While Rosenbaum describes the characters in the film as “comic-book-style Jewish caricatures,” I think they more clearly represent perennial post-religious Jewish archetypes that most Jews, like Rosenbaum, probably wish did not exist yet are ultimately quite clear to anyone that is familiar with Hollywood—both of the past and present as Harvey Weinstein has recently highlighted with his Philip Roth-esque sexcapades in shiksa-defiling.

In fact, the Jewish lack of self-awareness is depicted in a cleverly allegorical fashion at the conclusion of the Coen brothers' A Serious Man in a scene at the end of the films where a group of young Hebrew students absurdly stand helplessly as a tornado begins to make its way in their general direction. Undoubtedly, Israeli-born jazz musician and anti-Zionist activist Gilad Atzmon probably said it best when he wrote in his review of the film, “The Coen film ends with a chain of scenes initiated by a tornado alert given during a Hebrew class in a Jewish orthodox school. The young Bar Mitzvah kids are ordered to evacuate the class immediately. Next we see the storm rapidly encroaching towards the boys and girls who are now standing in the open school yard. Paralysed by awe, perplexed they gaze towards their own inevitable disaster. They stare at it, they are hopeless on the verge of impotence. Their elder teacher is right behind them, frantically struggling to find the right key for the synagogue shelter. The key to life should be in his hands, but he is obviously not going to find it. At the same cinematic time Larry Gopnik, the protagonist of the film, receives an urgent call from his doctor, his X-ray diagnosis is back. Apparently, something is horribly wrong with his body. Prior to the call, Larry was obviously totally unaware of his affliction and is thrown into a state of profound shock. Allegorically, this is the meaning of Jewish detachment and alienation according to the Coens. The People of the Book consistently fail to detect when something is going horribly wrong. They somehow fail to anticipate the storm that is coming or brace themselves for its devastating impact. They fail to interpret some minor signs of resentment before it turns into a tide of hatred. And even when they do manage to notice a rise in antagonism, they somehow employ the wrong strategy to placate it. As we often read, Jewish ethnic campaigners and institutions (ADL, AJC, BOD etc’) are always flagging up statistics, they prefer to present numbers of ‘anti Semitic’ incidents instead of wondering why these incidents occur in the first place.”  In Barton Fink, the eponymous protagonist also fails to process danger after unwittingly befriending a serial killer who he initially pisses off after complaining to the front desk of a hotel they were both occupying despite said serial killer also being the sort of goy “common man” that that he oftentimes speaks so reverently about.  Of course, as the Coen brothers reveal, the working-class is nothing more than a mere abstraction to the protagonist, or so he assumedly learns when it is already too late.

Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that the Coen brothers are such great filmmakers is their sort of razor sharp racial self-awareness and intricate and nuanced approach to the Jewish question, whether it be the exploiting a goy's empathy by an insufferably slimy bookie Bernie ‘chisellin' Little Yid’ Bernbaum and his femme fatale sister Verna in Miller's Crossing (1990), the completely spiritually cuckolded Milius-esque neocon Jewish convert Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, or the titular kosher cuckold and his cryptically corrupt Minnesota community in A Serious Man. While it is indubitably true that the Hebraic duo have created their own fair share of uniquely unflattering goy bad boys and unsavory shiksa sluts, it can certainly be argued that the Coens’ most pathetic and repugnant characters are swarthy Israelites that love the smell of their own kosher farts. In Barton Fink—a film with a protagonist that was modeled after kosher commie playwright and screenwriter Clifford Odets who, not unlike the film's protagonist, left for Hollywood after the production of his play Clash by Night (1941) in the 1941–1942 season—the viewer is exposed to the innate hypocrisy and phoniness of the bourgeois-bred Jewish Trotskyite intellectual and how such a figure is even more loathsome and grotesque than the miserly ‘happy merchant’ archetype. Indeed, after watching the film, it is easy to see why Uncle Joe Stalin went to such absurd extremes to have an ice axe driven into Trotsky’s diseased gray matter, as there is no greater threat to a real lumpenprole revolution than a comfortably smug intellectual in unstained worker’s clothing. Of course, the great irony of the film is that it was directed by two intellectuals that look like they could by the dope-smoking grandsons of rabid postmodern rebben Trotsky. Indeed, forget Lubitsch and his all the more cynical protégé Billy Wilder, the Coen brothers are the two true kosher kings of subversive Semitic comedies. While racist alt-Israelite Douglas Rushkoff—a bombastic dork with an unintentionally humorous god complex that once bragged regarding his race, “In a sense, our detractors have us right, in that we are a corrosive force . . .”—proudly argued in his book Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism (2003) in regard to the innately iconoclastic nature of Judaism, “Iconoclasm destroys all man-made symbols and leads to abstract monotheism, which in turn leads to an ethos of social justice,” the Coen brothers go all the way and smash both Judaism and its post-religious metaphysical affliction of SJWism.

 Notably, in his book The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Jewish self-hatred, and the Jews (2006), right-wing Jewish Zionist playwright and sometimes filmmaker David Mamet makes a somewhat dubious claim in regard to mainstream zio-ganda flicks like Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993) and Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002), stating in a somewhat paranoid (yet quite stereotypically Jewish) fashion, “I wrote, years ago, that Holocaust films are ‘MANDINGO for Jews,’ and that the thrill, for the audience, came and comes from a protected indulgence of anti-Semitism: they get to see us killed and to explain to themselves that they feel bad about it.” Judging by his quote and by the fact that he is also a Jewish writer, I would love to hear Mamet’s thoughts on Barton Fink, which, on top of featuring a number of greedy and/or otherwise grotesque Jewish characters, features a Judaic writer protagonist that probably epitomizes everything that he  abhors in his race as a mensch with strong Zionistic tendencies. In the same book, Mamet complains in regard to his kinsmen, “Why do some Jews reject their religion and their race? For two reasons: because it is ‘too Jewish’ and because it is not Jewish enough.” While I have to assume that Mamet would deride the Coen brothers’ film as the work of unabashed self-loathing Jews, I would certainly argue that—for better or worse—it is, culturally speaking, one of the most innately Jewish films ever made as a cinematic works that follows in the grand culturally kosher tradition of Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Hermann Ungar, Carlo Michelstaedter, Harold Pinter, and David Cronenberg in terms of being an intricate and highly idiosyncratic expression of Jewish neurosis, albeit of the slightly more immature sort. Despite the fact that they work in very different (sub)genres, the Coen brothers are somewhat comparable to Canuck body horror maestro Cronenberg in the sense of their subversive post-Talmudic intellects and somewhat detached affinity for the curiously morally depraved and/or preternaturally pathological. Similarly, just as only a member of god’s chosen tribe could have directed a werewolf flick as dementedly darkly humorous and shoah-stained as John Landis' An American Werewolf in London (1981) and a film as unabashedly perverse neurotic and aesthetically autistic as Todd Solondz Palindromes (2004), only a Jew (or two Jews, in this case) could have dreamed up a film as intrinsically and intricately Jewish despite being a film where the word “Jew” is only used once and “kike” is flagrantly used about half a dozen times. 

 Although a decidedly distastefully swarthy four-eyed geek with an eccentrically elevated jewfro, titular protagonist Barton Fink (John Turturro)—a pretentious playwright that just received somewhat of a hit with a painfully banal social realism oriented play entitled ‘Bare Ruined Choirs’—seems to secretly believe that he is the most revolutionary writer since Marx, so naturally he is somewhat hesitant to take a job offer as a scriptwriter under contract at a big Hollywood studio named Capitol Pictures. Despite his semi-cryptic commie sympathies, Fink finds a $1,000-a-week contract to be rather appealing since it is 1941 and he is somewhat unsure what to do with his life, or as he complains to his manager with a certain glaring lack of self-confidence and authenticity, “I’m not sure anymore. I guess I try to make a difference.” Immediately upon arriving in Hollywood, Fink is greeted with an ominous atmosphere when he meekly checks into a quasi-gothic and painfully dilapidated Art Deco dump named Hotel Earle—a building that clearly has seen better days, as if it lost what was left of its initial extravagance the same year that a janitor tossed the cut footage from Erich von Stroheim’s magnum opus Greed (1924) into a MGM studio dumpster—that is run by a eerily emasculated and and merrily masochistic bellhop named ‘Chet’ (Steve Buscemi) who seems to derive great pleasure at the thought of shining the shoes of his hapless tenants. Despite the sorry state of the rotting hotel, Fink, who refuses an offer from his studio to pay for a nicer hotel, seems to have an instinctual and almost ascetic attraction to the building, as if he knows that it is his own little special piece of purgatory where he will have a spiritually luminous experience and be forced to truly find himself and mature as both a man and artist. Assigned to pen a script for a b wrestling movie that he has nil interest in, Fink is, not surprisingly, almost immediately plagued with writer’s block, as if he cannot bear to write something that he believes is so innately beneath him.  Indeed, while Fink acts like he has a great big hard-on for the working man, he cannot even be bothered to take interest in the perennial prole sport, but luckily a jovial fat bastard will soon give him so much needed pointers.

 As Fink discovers in a rather rude fashion, Capitol Pictures, like most studios of that era (and today), is an almost 100% kosher studio that is lorded over by absurdly rude and grotesquely loudmouthed chosenites. Unfortunately for Fink, he is forced to work with a cynical producer named Ben Geisler (Tony Shalhoub)—a character clearly inspired by revolutionary Judaic Hollywood producer Irving ‘The Boy Wonder’ Thalberg (Camille, Mutiny on the Bay)—who makes it quite clear that he cannot stomach the pansy pretenses of artsy fartsy NYC intellectual types like the protagonist. Although the studio’s founder and head Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner)—a grotesque beast of a man that bears a striking physical resemblance to MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer (who, like Lerner’s character, is also a Belarusian-born Jew) and possesses a revoltingly arrogant and bombastic personality worthy of disgraced Miramax cofounder Louis B. Mayer—takes an immediate liking to Fink, the hapless screenwriter will soon discover that the obsession while ultimately lead to his artistic downfall. While Lipnick does everything he can to kiss Fink’s ass, including literally kissing his feet and gleefully stating, “The writer is king here at Capitol Pictures. Don’t believe me, take a look at your paycheck at the end of every week. That’s what we think of the writer,” he also reveals himself to be a megalomaniacal mad man by boasting with a certain degree of otherworldly chutzpah, “I’m bigger and meaner and louder than any other kike in this town.” Undoubtedly, there is a certain sickly sardonic irony in the fact that Lipnick loves throwing around the classic anti-Semitic slur “kike,” as Fink will ultimately become the victim of what a Jewish (anti)hate group like the ADL might describe as stereotypical ‘financial canards’ in terms of the ruthless abuse of business power and materialism that the protagonist will suffer at the hands of the studio head. Indeed, Fink might to be a self-deluded prick and hypocrite that loves the smell of his own farts despite incessantly pontificating on his ostensible respect for the “common man,” but he does seem to have a certain genuine respect for art and the process of artistic creation. As for Lipnick, he seems to pride himself on profiting handsomely from incessantly producing formulaic philistine motion-picture entertainment for the most mindless of knuckle-dragging goyim, hence the popularity of the sort of kitschy boxing pictures that his studio regularly defecates out. Supposedly illiterate and relying on his meek assistant Lou Breeze (Jon Polito) to read scripts for him, Lipnick judges a film’s quality as to whether it is “fruity” or not. Needless to say, Fink’s script is ultimately judged to be “fruity,” but first the protagonist must go to virtual metaphysical hell and back before he can create what he will eventually personally judge as his greatest work. 

 Despite being a quasi-hipster-esque Jewish NYC intellectual that only works with other Jews, Fink somewhat ironically develops a relatively close and tender relationship with a bawdy and somewhat boorish goy insurance salesman of the rather rotund sort named Charlie Meadows (John Goodman). Not surprisingly considering the Fink’s somewhat strange luck, his friendship with Charlie develops under somewhat awkward circumstances after he calls the front desk of his hotel to complain about the fat mensch for making too much noise while he is trying in vain to write. When Charlie swings by his hotel room to make amends for the noise, Fink initially seems somewhat scared but eventually gets the gall to bring up his favorite subject, himself, and arrogantly remarks when his new friend asks about what kind of writing he does, “Strange as it may seem, Charlie, I guess I write about people like you – the average working stiff, the common man.” Indeed, Fink practically suffers from diarrhea of the mouth and won’t let Charlie speak as he is pathetically pontificating about stereotypical commie gibberish, including stating that he wants to, “create a theater for the masses based on a few simple truths, not on some shopworn abstractions about drama that don’t hold true today, if they ever did.” While working stiff Charlie—a rather agreeable insurance salesman that proudly proclaims that he loves working with the public—selflessly offers to help Fink with his writing and chimes in with remarks like, “Hell, I could tell you stories,” Fink just continues to passionately proselytize and spout bullshit that he doesn’t even truly believe like, “The hopes and dreams of the common man are as noble as those of any king.” Of course, whether he wants to admit to himself or not, Fink sees himself as a sort of messianic king of abstract intellect and he cannot help but treat virtually everyone he meets as if they were servile paupers that are lucky to be in his presence. 

 One day while taking a leak at a urinal at a local restaurant, Fink hears the gratingly grotesque sounds of a drunk puking his guts out in a nearby stall, so naturally he is delightfully shocked to discover that the shameless dipsomaniac in question is his writer hero W. P. Mayhew (John Mahoney)—a character inspired by William Faulkner—who also works as a Hollywood screenwriter, or as he states himself with a certain inebriated elegance, “All of us undomesticated writers eventually make our way out here to the great salt lick. That’s probably why I always have such a powerful thirst.” While Fink somewhat breaks character and gleefully proclaims to the elder writer like an excited schoolboy with a fan-boy crush, “You’re the finest novelist of our time,” the protagonist will soon discover that his great hero is a deranged boozer and pathetic artistic fraud who has his long-suffering servile secretary-cum-girlfriend Audrey Taylor (Judy Davis) ghostwrite all of his work for him. While Audrey proudly proclaims to love Mayhew, who is old enough to be her father, and even demonstrates it by passively accepting his constant verbal and physical abuse, that does not stop her from eventually seducing Fink when she is supposed to be helping him write his screenplay. Rather unfortunately, the next morning after their carnal session, Fink is absolutely horrified to discover Audrey’s bloody corpse lying next to him.  Rather absurdly, Fink only discovers that Audrey is a lifeless corpse after he makes a valiant attempt to swat a mosquito that is feasting on her cold unclad body.  Luckily, Fink’s good old buddy Charlie, who was able to hear the ill-fated lovemaking session the night before via a pipe, is curiously more than willing to help get rid of Audrey’s corpse, though Mayhew’s dead body is, somewhat strangely, also found a couple days later.

Needless to say, Fink, who has no other friends in Hollywood, suffers a virtual emotional breakdown when Charlie informs him that he temporarily leaving town. Somewhat unfortunately, Fink makes the mistake of giving Charlie the address of his parents and beloved “Uncle Maury.” Unbeknownst to Fink, who, despite his ostensible formidable intellect, is plagued by a certain socially autistic naïveté, Charlie is a deranged serial killer and his real name is the chillingly Teutonic Karl ‘Madman’ Mundt. Indeed, Fink is somewhat taken about when a wop-American cop named Detective Mastrionotti (Richard Portnow) and his kraut-American partner Detective Deutsch (Christopher Murney), who both insult him from being a Jew, inform him that Charlie is a crazed killer and show him a goofy mugshot of his pal.  Notably, before leaving town, Charlie shows Fink some wrestling moves and even violently pins him down on the ground in a manner that is probably more passionate than the protagonist's coital encounter with Audrey.  While Charlie undoubtedly demonstrates that he could probably effortlessly kill Fink with his bare hands, he opts to teach him a lesson in respect and humility instead.

 Before leaving town, Charlie drops off a dubious wrapped package that looks like it would be a nice fit for a decapitated female human head and asks Fink if he would be so kind enough to watch it for him since the box ostensibly contains everything that is important to him. Somewhat inexplicably, the package, which manages to spark his curiosity, seems to cure Fink’s writer block, as he manages to finish his entire script, which he previously only had written a mere couple words of, in a single night. Indeed, not only does Fink finish the script, but he also calls his producer Geisler the same night and proudly boasts that “I think it’s really big” and “This may be the most important work I’ve ever done.” In fact, Fink’s creative accomplishment gives him such a massive ego boast that he manages to cause a small riot at a dance hall after boasting to a group of sailors while possessed by delusions of grandeur and screaming twaddle like, “I’m a writer, you monsters! I create! I create for a living! I’m a creator! I’m a creator! This is my uniform! [points to head] This is how a serve the common man.” As to what caused Fink to act in such an unbecomingly hysterical fashion, a sailor dared to kindly asked to “cut in” and dance with the same girl he was dancing with because he was “shipping out tomorrow” and probably wanted a little female warmth before going to war.  Undoubtedly, Fink probably deserved the same treatment that was unleashed on Kenneth Anger's character in Fireworks (1947) by a couple of suavely dressed sailors, but luckily for him he only received a single punch to the face.  Arguably, in no other scene does Fink’s hypocritical contempt for the so-called “common man” become so unbearably glaring, especially since the young military men are going to risk their lives in a war that involves rescuing European Jewry, so it is only fitting that the viewer receives the therapeutic relief of seeing one of the prole sailors punching him in his loudmouth.  Of course, it will take more than a punch to knock Fink down a couple pegs, as he is a mensch that has a hard time suffering humility.

 If the punch did not bring Fink back to reality and force him to confront his innately counterfeit Marxist metapolitical Weltanschauung, Charlie’s rather abrupt and quite literally explosive holocaust-esque homecoming certainly does. Indeed, not long after Detective Mastrionotti and Detective Deutsch come by his hotel room and prepare to arrest him for mysterious murders that he clearly did not commit (as the menacing detectives make quite clear, they are no friends of the Jews), Charlie announces his arrival by setting the hotel on fire and then dispatching both of the overtly fascistic cops, who are completely unprepared for the final showdown, with a shotgun.  Indeed, after blowing away Mastrionotti and sardonically screaming “Look upon me! I’ll show you the life of the mind!” while running down the inflamed hotel hallway, Charlie, who seems to be fueled with homicidal glory, wounds Deutsch and then finishes him off with a close-contact blast to the brain, but not before relatively calmly declaring with a strange foreboding fatalism, “Heil, Hitler,” as if he is concluding a symbolic ironical performance art routine that sums up the outcome of the Second World War.  Indeed, fat and jovial yet homicidal and unhinged Charlie's scorched-earth routine can certainly be seen as a sick allegorical depiction of America's dubious role in WWII.

Somewhat calmer after killing the cops, Charlie has a little post-rampage chat with Fink where he justifies his pathological homicidal tendencies by declaring, “They say I’m a madman, Bart, but I’m not mad at anyone. Honest, I’m not. Most guys I just feel sorry for. It tears me up inside to think about what they’re going through, how trapped they are. I understand it. I feel for them. So I try and help them out. Jesus. Yeah. Yeah. I know what it feels like when things get all balled up at the head office. They put you through hell, Barton. So I help people out. I just wish someone would do as much for me. Jesus, it’s hot.” When Fink dares to ask “why me?,” Charlie goes completely berserk and screams in his face, “Because you don’t listen!” and then adds, “Come one, Barton. You think you know pain? You think I made your life hell? Take a look around this dump. You’re just a tourist with a typewriter, Barton. I live here. Don’t you understand that? And you come into my home and you complain that I’m making too much noise.” Luckily, Barton seems to truly listen to another human-being for the first time in his entire life and seemingly sincerely declares in almost a whisper, “I’m sorry,” to which Charlie gratefully replies, “Don’t be.” While Charlie manages to spare Fink’s life by freeing him from a bed frame that the dead detectives previously handcuffed him to, the sympathetic serial killer also informs him that he paid an unexpected visit to his parents and uncle in NYC. On top of everything else, Charlie also confesses that he “lied” about the wrapped package and simply declares that it is “not mine.” Needless to say, Fink subsequently has trouble contacting his parents and uncle over the telephone.  As for Charlie, who previously expressed a desire to be put out of his misery, one can only assume that he commits suicide via avant-garde self-immolation, as he simply goes back to his room while the hotel is burning down.  Of course, one can only speculate that Fink managed to give Charlie the comfort and security he needed to commit suicide after managing to temporarily put aside his ego and apologize for his rude behavior.  Needless to say, all the pain and suffering that Fink suffers probably could have been avoided were he not a insufferably narcissistic twat, just as World Jewry probably could have avoided a pogrom or two had members of its leadership respected the wishes of its host population and not double-downed and incited more antisemitism with its actions.  Indeed, it is no coincidence that Charlie declares to Fink, “You're just a tourist with a typewriter, Barton.  I live here,” as the protagonist is surely symbolic of the iconoclastic wandering Jew who, lacking in self-awareness and consumed with unwarranted hubris, proceeds to immediately shit on the place and people he has invaded.

 If Charlie was not able to teach Fink a lesson in humility, fellow Israelite Lipnick, who now demands to be addressed as “Colonel Lipnick” because, as he states with a hint of unintentionally hilarious arrogance, he was “commissioned yesterday in the army reserve. Henry Morgenthau arranged it. Dear friend,” certainly does as he cannot stomach the pretenses of intellectual yids that do not know their place. Indeed, Lipnick verbally tears both Fink and his prized script into pieces, declaring, “We don’t put Wally Beery in a fruity movie about suffering. I thought we were together on that.” When Fink meekly protests, “I tried to show you something beautiful. Something about all of us,” Lipnick becomes enraged and declares, “You arrogant son of a bitch. You think you’re the only writer that can give me that Barton Fink feeling. I’ve got 20 writer under contract I can ask for a Fink-type thing from! You swell-headed hypocrite, you just don’t get it, do you? You think the whole world revolves around whatever rattles inside that little kike head of yours.”  Although Fink seems to think he is some sort of precious intellectual revolutionary that is worthy of being treasured and adored by some kosher literary elite, he clearly does not understand the true harsh reality of the Eastern European ghetto realm of Lipnick, who simply cannot abide his self-absorbed intellectual onanism.

Undoubtedly, the difference between Fink and Lipnick is somewhat summed up by Ernest van den Haag in his book The Jewish Mystique where he argues in regard to the innate difference between poor Jews and their somewhat more spoiled American-born sons and grandson, “His children now can afford the radicalism the father had to relinquish—at least as an active pursuit—to bring them up. The father became a liberal. He was once upon a time radical because he was poor. He felt he had nothing to lose, everything to gain. The children once more are radical—but this time because they are rich enough not to worry about earning money. Whereas the father’s and grandfather’s motive for radicalism was poverty and oppression, the marginal existence they were compelled to lead, the son’s is a product of his parent’s suburban success. The son discovers that ‘money isn’t everything.’ It isn’t. He is bored by money, by making it and by spending it. Money shelters him materially; but for that he had to pay a price: he feels mentally uncomfortable, psychologically anxious, bored, restless, aimlessly rebellious—what is he to do with himself, with his life?” Undoubtedly, van den Haag's description of the “son” certainly describes Fink, at least in a superficial sense.  Maybe if Fink had to do a week or two of real hard labor, he might appreciate his lot in life, drop his unconsciously condescending attitude toward the proletariat and rethink his pinko idealism and fetish for the “common man.” Additionally, while Lipnick seems to be a proud “kike,” Fink seems to be the sort of post-Yiddish kosher cosmopolitan that would argee with Marx's words, “The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.” Indeed, while Fink is certainly hopelessly Jewish in terms of appearance and psychology, he is probably behind on his Talmud studies.

 In the end, a rather defeated-looking Barton takes a walk on the beach while carrying Charlie’s package and is somewhat taken aback when he happens up a beauteous babe that resembles the image a woman in a kitschy beach painting that was hanging in his hotel room.  As demonstrated by his obsessional glaring at it throughout the film, Fink undoubtedly developed a strange infatuation with the painting, so he naturally finds the young lady rather appealing. After Fink asks her, “Are you in pictures?,” and she bashfully replies “Don’t be silly,” and then positions herself on the beach in a manner that, rather surreally, more or less perfectly duplicates the image from the painting, though a seagull randomly drops dead and falls into the ocean, thus assumedly demystifying the scenic splendor that it originally had for the protagonist and thereupon probably adding to his growing cynicism and disillusionment with art and life in general.  In short, both Fink's political and idealism have died an undignified death just like the lone seagull that fell into the ocean.  Surely, Fink has had an exceedingly Ernüchterung experience in Hollywood, but luckily he might rethink his fetish for Trotsky. 

 While Barton Fink was generally well received among all the right mainstream critics up on its initial release, a couple of them were not so happy with the film’s portrayal of certain Hebraic characters. Indeed, as noted by Jew Josh Levine in his book The Coen Brothers: The Story of Two American Filmmakers (2000), Jewish The Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman—a lifelong far-left cheerleader that incidentally co-wrote the somewhat worthwhile text Midnight Movies (1983) with Jonathan Rosenbaum—would complain, “At the period when BARTON FINK is set, the virtual acme of worldwide anti-Semitism, America’s two most potent Jewish stereotypes were the vulgar Hollywood mogul and the idealistic New York communist. . . . BARTON FINK locks these stereotypes in sadomasochistic embrace.” Of course, what Hoberman is ignoring is that these so-called stereotypes are based on real individuals that are far less sympathetic than the characters that the Coen brothers created. Notably, good goy media critic James Wolcott was no less critical of the kosher elements of the film, complaining in his Vanity Fair review, “What makes the movie such an audacious sickie is that the Coen brothers – themselves Jewish – never attempt to make us identify with Barton’s plight. They keep him and his attitudes in a jar.” Judging by Wolcott's review, it seems as if he failed to even watch the movie and/or he could not image a Judaic film character that was not portrayed in a 100% positive light like the insufferably sagely social justice Jewish character Sol Roth portrayed by Hebrew film noir icon Edward G. Robinson in fellow Judaic Richard Fleischer's SJW sci-fi classic Soylent Green (1973), but such groveling shabbos goy thinking goes with the territory when you're a mainstream American film critic. To Wolcott’s credit, he did not go as far as accusing the the Coen brothers of being self-loathing chosenites but instead argued, “I never felt watching the movie that the Coen brothers were indulging in something as obvious and personal as Jewish self-hatred. The movie has too much conscious effrontery. . . .It satirizes the Jewish sense of victimization, without denying that victimization exists.” Naturally, like virtually every Coen brothers film, the Semitic siblings approach their characters in a certain detached fashion, hence one of their greatest strengths as filmmakers.  Naturally, the Coen brothers do not believe that the titular protagonist of Barton Fink deserves the torment and suffering that he ultimately faces, but they also acknowledge that Fink was also at least partially responsible for said torment and suffering due to his arrogance, narcissism, and quite literally laughable lack of self-awareness.  After all, most of Fink's misery could have easily been avoid had he pulled his head out of his ass every once and while.

 While the Coen brothers are probably not exactly stereotypical self-loathing Jews despite what certain Zionistic JDL types might think, they have certainly demonstrated in past statements that they are not the sort of hysterical Jewish leftist agitpropagandists or neocon Zionist war-pigs that can be found working in Hollywood, but instead a sort of American filmic auteur equivalent to great Jewish Viennese satirist and wordsmith Karl Kraus. Indeed, Viennese novelist Stefan Zweig might as well have been speaking of the Coen brothers when he once wrote regarding fellow Austrian Jew Kraus that he was “the master of venomous ridicule.” As the brothers’ films surely demonstrate, they are equal-opportunity offenders who, quite unlike other members of their race (e.g. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), are willing to be just as ruthless when it comes to depicting Judaic characters. Also, like Kraus, who attacked prominent Jewish (pseudo)intellectual movements like Zionism and psychoanalysis and its lead figures like Theodor Herzl and Sigmund Freud, the Coen brothers have also attacked certain Jewish types that they find deplorable, most notably the titular kosher turd of Barton Fink. Needless to say, the siblings are no mindless Zio-bot propagandists, but the foremost cinematic critics of the most repugnant elements of their ethno-cultural group.

As recounted by Josh Levine, despite having an older sister named Debbie that moved to Israel after becoming a physician, the Coens originally refused to visit the Jewish state because they feared it would be like an “armed Jewish summer camp,” which is surely something that no sane individual would want to experience (incidentally, the Coens were practically bribed to travel to Israel in 2011 under the dubious pretense of receiving a million-dollar award from Tel Aviv University, though the two did not do any shilling for Israel while there as demonstrated by Joel's remark, “We grew up in a Jewish community, but we never thought to make a story that deals with Israel. We don’t really know Israel — we write American stories. That's what we know”). Although the Coen brothers got their start in filmmaking working with fellow Midwestern Jew Sam Raimi on The Evil Dead (1981) and the siblings would approach the Zionist fundraiser Hadassah so that they could obtain a list of the 100 wealthiest Jews in their state under the pretense of approaching said wealthy Jews about becoming investors for their debut feature debut Blood Simple (1984), the two were apparently not swamped with Jewish influence growing up and never became part of hermetic Hebraic suburban neo-ghetto culture, or as Joel Coen’s blonde shiksa wife, actress Frances McDormand, once noted, “They grew up pretty isolated as the only Jewish kids around and they’re pretty big on loyalty and dependability,” hence their lack of racial chauvinism. In short, Barton Fink could have never been created by stereotypical American Jews that have fond members of Hillel college events or a Birthright Israel pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Likewise, the film could have never been directed by someone that is deluded enough to take intellectual inspiration from the demented scribblings of Wilhelm Reich or Herbert Marcuse like Herr Fink probably would. 

 While the Coen brothers have completely denied in the past that the film has any sort of specific esoteric allegorical message, Barton Fink is unequivocally a film that begs for deep and creative analysis, especially when it comes to the perennial ‘Jewish question.’ For example, the scene where Charlie Meadows dispatches the kraut and wop detectives—characters that are clearly symbolic of the Axis Powers as indicated by their names ‘Mastrionotti’ and ‘Deutsch’—can be seen as symbolic of the semi-feral white Americans saving the European Jews during the so-called holocaust. Notably, it is interesting that Charlie’s real name is the quite Germanic ‘Karl Mundt’ as German-Americans, somewhat ironically, made up for the largest single ethnic group to fight in the American military during WWII.  I would not be surprised if the Coen brothers—in their jaded kosher cynicism—see the white American goyim saving the Jews as both a sick irony and a potentially dangerous situation, as if they expect the same whites that saved their as being just as capable, if not more capable, of carrying out a fully successful shoah after meeting too many whiny subversive Jews like Fink (after all, the film hints that Meadows aka Mundt has exterminated Fink’s family).   Naturally, it is no coincidence that American Jews were at the forefront of promoting the flooding of the United States with non-whites from the Third World.  Indeed, the so-called Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (aka Hart–Celler Act), which is directly responsible for the browning and third worldization of America, was the demented brainchild of Jewish politicians that include NY Senator Jacob Javits, Congressman Emanuel Celler, Leo Pfeffer (Former President of American Jewish Congress), and Norman Podhoretz (Writer and Member of The Council of Foreign Relations). As to why the Jews would want to the U.S. to degenerate into a third world hellhole, American Jewish Congress (AJC) and World Jewish Congress (WJC) bigwig David W. Petegorsky made it quite clear when he declared in 1948, “Jewish survival can only take place within the framework of a progressive and expanding democratic society, which through its institutions and public policies gives expression to the concept of cultural pluralism.”  Of course, like Fink, none of these Jewish politicians seemed to have the self-awareness to consider that the fruits of their actions might eventually result in an antisemitic backlash.

 Of course, another sick irony of the film is that it is ultimately Hollywood studio mogul Jack Lipnick—a man that cannot help but use the word “kike” in every single sentence—is ultimately a true, if mostly symbolic, savior of the Jews as a military officer and propagandist while far-leftist Fink is never depicted even contemplating the Third Reich, WWII, or European antisemitism despite the film taking place in 1941. In fact, Lipnick even mentions that he is a good pal of Jewish U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. who, on top of working hard to rescue Jewish refuges during WWII, was the creator of the so-called ‘Morgenthau Plan,’ which was designed to completely de-industrialize and more or less destroy German and turn it into what Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels described as a giant potato patch (undoubtedly revealing his completely anti-Christian/anti-American semitic sense of justice, Morgenthau also suggested to FDR in the summer of 1944 that the top 50 or 100 German “arch-criminals” be immediately exterminated upon being captured). Surely, it is no coincidence that Lipnick comes off seeming like a sort of fascistic dictator, as he is like the illiterate hate-child of Martin Bormann and Harvey Weinstein. Surely, as artists and writers, the Coens see Lipnick—a loudmouth philistine that boasts of virtually enslaving writers under contract yet refusing to use their work—as something more monstrous than Hitler. 

 As far as I am concerned, Barton Fink is an unmitigated masterpiece that, cinematically speaking, manages to offer a little bit of everything despite being a period piece that takes place during a very specific time and place.  Indeed, both a mix of kitsch and high-kultur, Lynch and Polanski, Künstlerroman and buddy flick, comedy and horror, antisemitism and philo-Semitism, Art Deco and dime store, arthouse and Hollywood, surrealism and realism, heaven and hell, Southern Gothic and Vaudeville, The Twilight Zone and the History Channel, and the grotesque and gorgeous, the film might not be seen by many film critics as brothers' magnum opus but it would be very hard to deny that it is their most aesthetically and thematically ambitious film to date (I think the Coens might believe this as well as they are considering directing a sequel entitled Old Fink).  In terms of innate Jewishness, the film is only second to the Coens' later work A Serious Man.  Of course, both of these films reveal a rather reluctant and highly self-critical Jewishness, or what David Mamet would probably describe as ‘The Wicked Son’ mindset.  Indeed, as Mamet once wrote, “This is the wickedness of the wicked son.  He feels free to enjoy his intellectual heritage, the Jewish love of learning, and reverence for accomplishment; he enjoys, aware or not, a heritage of millennia of Jewish law and values; he enjoys his very life, which would have been denied him and his ancestors in the Europe they suffered to leave; he enjoys the right to protection from the community he disavows and, through it all, parrots, ‘My parents were Jews, but I do not consider myself a Jew.’”

Although not staunch Zionists, the Coen brothers would never deny their kosher credentials, just as they would never direct a film as personally self-loathingly Jewish and strangely Zionistic as Mamet's Homicide (1991), but I digress.  On the other hand, if he had a greater sense of humor and flare for aesthetics, the great so-called self-hating Jew Otto Weininger might have directed a film like Barton Fink.  After all, Weininger, who lived a lonely and haunted purgatorial existence not unlike Herr Fink before killing himself in the same Viennese rented room that Ludwig van Beethoven died in, believed that “The Jew is an inborn communist” and he saw Judaism as a nihilistic belief in nothing, which is certainly how the religion seems in A Serious Man due to its depiction of mindless rabbis.  Unequivocally 100% kosher in terms of both appearance and psychology and sharing a kohanim surname of the Judaic Aaronic priesthood, the Coen brothers indubitably represent the best in terms of aesthetic and intellectual post-religious Judaism, with Barton Fink indubitably representing a ‘Hebraic Eraserhead’ as a poetically paranoic expression of a Jewish protagonist in an insufferable semi-cryptically kosher world.  Undoubtedly, one of the innate ingredients of Judaism is iconoclasm, which is one of the Coen brothers greatest talents.  Of course, what makes Barton Fink so paradoxically Über-Jewish and antisemitic is that it takes an iconoclastic approach to an intrinsically Jewish world and contains Hebraic characters that are easily more repugnant than those featured in National Socialist classics like Veit Harlan's Jud Süß (1940) and even mischling Fritz Hippler's agitprop piece Der Ewige Jude (1940) aka The Eternal Jew.  Indeed, when watched through a Jew-wise lens, the film offers Nicholas Donin-tier condemnation for Hebraic Hollywood and Jewish left-wing politics yet, at the same time, the Coen brothers' greatest films are more innately kosher than anything ever directed by Mel Brooks or Woody Allen.  In short, the Coen brothers are probably the only filmmakers that can be easily loved or loathed by both Kahanite terrorists and National Alliance members alike.

-Ty E