Archives for posts with tag: reactionary
Paul Morrissey

Paul Morrissey

Mention Paul Morrissey and movies about transvestites, heroin addicts, and other varieties of lowlife are likely to come to mind; but the director of such films as Flesh (1968) and Heat (1972) holds very different views than one might assume from a first impression of these films and from his professional association with Andy Warhol. “Staunchly conservative, Morrissey still frowns upon the moral and artistic state of America today,” writes Steve Ryfle, who interviewed the filmmaker in 2000. Rather, Morrissey’s vintage films reflect his view that “modern American life was going down the toilet.”1 David Bahr of The New York Times writes:

Paul Morrissey disdains rock music, abhors recreational drugs and thinks even less of liberal politics. When asked his views on sex, he pauses for a moment, looks his inquisitor in the eye and says: “I’m Catholic. I’m with Rome 100 percent.”

Such sentiments may seem surprising coming from a director whose films luxuriate in the libertine lives of heroin users, masturbating transvestites and polymorphous-perverse male prostitutes. Yet Mr. Morrissey – who from 1966 to 1972 directed more than half a dozen movies produced by Andy Warhol, discovered the avant-garde rock band the Velvet Underground and once saw a court label his work “obscene, vulgar and profane” – believes he’s misunderstood, to say nothing of misrepresented.2

Morrissey situates his work outside the counterculture and characterizes it instead as his disapproving reaction to the general collapse of morality as it occurred around him:

There’s something I realized years later, after I had made all the films, although I probably realized it at the time even though I wasn’t conscious of it. At that time, there was this idea that was just coming in – the media was just getting hold of it, and the music world was just screaming its lungs out about how great it was – saying you could do whatever you want. That was really idiotic, and stupid and foolish and silly, unbelievably stupid.

People, by the late sixties, were doing whatever they felt like, and nobody gave a damn.

“I understood that these people were good story material, good subjects to show where life had gotten to, and how pathetic it was,” Morrissey explains.3 Blood for Dracula (1974), for instance, imagines a future-shocked traditionalist vampire (Udo Kier) who despairs of finding virgin blood to drink in the sexually free and easy 1970s, while Trash (1970) depicts the boredom of heroin dependency. “So much of the culture glamorized drugs at the time,” remarks frequent Morrissey leading man Joe Dallesandro. “Paul wanted to show the seedier side, where it all led to.”4 Women in Revolt (1972), which utilizes a cast of transvestites for satirical purposes, mocks the increasingly noisy and confrontational feminist movement of the day. “I thought it would be funny if they were playing women who were converted to lesbianism by the women’s lib movement,” Morrissey says. “The whole women’s thing was so ridiculous. ‘We don’t need men,’ and all that.”5

The director envisioned his Madame Wang’s (1981) as a satire of nonexistent American values and the decline of Western Civilization:

The huge Masonic Temple was a Greek temple, it represented past culture, and it was abandoned and lived in by derelict female impersonators. That was my take on Americans, especially Southern California Americans. They couldn’t care less about anything, except maybe getting up in drag or doing a punk rock show and screaming and throwing themselves on the floor. And the poor Russian agent comes from East Germany and says, “I’ve got to meet Jane Fonda, we’re taking over this country one day, and we have to have all of our operatives in place and I’m one of them.” And everyone says, “great, so what?”6

Morrissey gives the following explication of his comedy flop Spike of Bensonhurst (1988), in which his “pain in the ass” protagonist (Sasha Mitchell) “treats everybody like dirt, and does whatever he wants”:

The little switcheroo, which I thought was the point of the story, was that finally when someone disciplines him it turns out to be the best thing that happens to him. The idea that there are some standards and a sense of order in the world somewhere […]7

Like so many avowed conservatives in American politics, however, Morrissey’s work reveals his complicity in the projects of the culture destroyers even as he professes traditionalism. The mundane drugs-and-drag depravity of his classic oeuvre, while successfully illustrating the emptiness of the revolutions in sexuality and consciousness that had been engineered during the 1960s, also serves to normalize the ascendant dysfunction.

“Life is so second rate now,” Morrissey assesses.

And that idea that life has degenerated to a second rate position was part of the story to all those movies. I still don’t see that as a story element in any other movies – the obvious fact that life today is so much poorer than it was before. And I don’t think you can tell that story unless you’re aware that there’s a difference now. Most people don’t even know there’s a difference between today and before.8

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  2. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  3. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  4. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  5. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 20.
  6. Ibid., p. 21.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., p. 19.

buzzard

Writer-director Joel Potrykus and star Joshua Burge create one of the cinema’s great characters in Marty Jackitansky, as scathing a condemnation of this critic’s generation as has yet dared to bring the pain to the screen. Jackitansky is a loser, but seemingly unaware or unconcerned by this indisputable fact. He “works” for a bank’s mortgage division, but does little to earn his pay and actually spends most of his time devising ways of clipping the company for a quick buck. He orders useless supplies just to sell these back to the vendor for a cash refund, and even thinks he can get away with signing customers’ refund checks over to himself.

Jackitansky, a child of the 1980s, seems to have lost touch with reality sometime during the 1990s, as evidenced by the fact that he plays video games obsessively and yet refuses to use a computer because, as his even nerdier friend Derek (Potrykus) suggests, he is “scared of technology and robots and stuff.” He is young enough to suffer from the same desensitization and nihilism that characterize Generation Y, but too old to be comfortable with the personal technology that defines the social lives of those a few years younger.

Digital technology and an ineffectual public education system have left people like Jackitansky with little or no understanding of rudimentary math or economics. He blows all of his money on horror paraphernalia, and it never seems to occur to him to ration his limited resources once he goes on the run in order to elude the authorities. He thinks nothing, for instance, of eating out or throwing away the bulk of his dwindling cash on one evening in a nice hotel – and ordering room service, to boot.

Jackitansky is almost infectiously likable as an anti-heroic protagonist, his scams indicative of a creative if stupid and misguided resourcefulness and mischievously rebellious streak – at least, that is, until his anarchic revolt reveals itself to be little more than self-absorption and lack of regard for his fellow man. His intensifyingly hostile rudeness toward the admittedly goofy Derek kills any sympathy the viewer might have harbored until the point when Jackitansky finally becomes insufferable. Hoping to avoid detection by the authorities, he crashes in Derek’s father’s basement. Rather than being grateful, however, he dismisses his friend as a “fuckin’ loser” and even has the nerve to complain that his couch “sucks”. Buzzard progressively darkens in tone as the viewer begins to understand that Jackitansky is driven not by merely merry pranksterism, but by genuine junk-food-fueled psychopathy.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this journey into the nightmare realm of cubicle jobs, adult virgins, and institutionalized alienation is:

4. Reactionary! Jackitansky, a representative socialist, has had his head filled with vague notions about the unfairness of capitalism. Consequently, he has no compunctions about cheating a “crap mortgage company” out of an honest day’s work or threatening or even attacking a small businessman (Joe Anderson), whom he accuses of “corporate thievery”, for standing in the way of one of his idiotic schemes. “I’m gonna strangle you and rape your fuckin’ face off,” Jackitansky tells him, unaccountably adding, “You’re the reason people get mad and die.” At the same time, not much can be said for an economy that reduces Derek, a man who appears to be in his late twenties or thirties, to living at home with his father. One could, if one chose to find an anti-capitalist message in Buzzard, interpret Jackitansky’s parasitic hustling as merely an echo and reflection of the unproductive vulture economy responsible for the subprime mortgage collapse.

3. Media-critical. A Freddy Krueger poster enlivens the protagonist’s apartment, the Nightmare on Elm Street films clearly furnishing the inspiration for the deadly weapon he fashions from a Nintendo Power Glove. That he chooses to make this game control into a weapon for use in the real world, too, indicates a dangerous confusion of reality and the virtual world of glorified violence. Jackitansky’s given name, Marty, carries for this reviewer associations with two other famous Marties of the American cinema: Ernest Borgnine’s conversely sympathetic role in the 1955 film of that title, and Martin Scorsese, a godfather of trivialized movie bloodshed. Jackitansky, unlike Borgnine’s Marty, allows his self-pity to drive him to lash out at others, with whom he is unable to empathize. Significantly, he wears a T-shirt advertising Demons (1985), an Italian horror classic about demonic creatures emerging from a movie screen to do their evil in actuality.

2. Anti-white. The Jewish-looking Jackitansky, asked about his unusual name, replies that his ethnic background is “White Russian”, an answer that verbally reinforces the character’s presumptive whiteness vis-à-vis the non-whites he encounters during the film. Blacks appear as orderly, clean-cut, honest workers, whereas whites are lazy, crazy, socially awkward, and criminal. A blond convenience store cashier (Alan Longstreet) cheats Jackitansky out of a five-spot. Others, such as Derek, who has “party-zoned” his father’s basement, or those who aimlessly vegetate at a hip-hop performance, waste their lives.

1. Anti-Y. Generation Y, as personified by Marty Jackitansky, has no work ethic whatsoever. It has been made self-absorbed and autistic by spoilage, instant gratification, and pop-cultural depravity.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Beloved Sisters

This German film tells the presumably somewhat true story of two sisters, Charlotte (Henriette Confurius) and Caroline (Hannah Herzsprung) von Lengefeld, and their shared love for Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter), a charming poet of frail health and uncertain fortunes. The offbeat romantic scenario and the performances are intense and largely engrossing, the love scenes erotic without being obscene; but costume drama buffs expecting another Pride and Prejudice may be put off by the gradually darkening tone of the film, which takes on the character of a tragedy without ever becoming a tearjerker, however. Beautifully staged and photographed, with a few quirky stylistic choices such as having characters address the camera directly, Beloved Sisters is unique and never feels like a run-of-the-mill Austen-derivative programmer.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Beloved Sisters is:

6. Pro-choice. “Do you want to have the child? … Why?”

5. Anti-Christian. A mother whose bastard child is of an uncertain paternity is compared to the Virgin Mary. Schiller also recites from one of his writings dealing with the inhumanity of the Inquisition.

4. Feminist/pro-gay. The sisters, who share Schiller sexually, also dress as men in order to attend one of his boys-only lectures. Caroline longs to be “a free woman, a single woman.”

3. Anti-marriage. Beloved Sisters depicts multiple unhappy unions, with marriage described as “tragedy”. Caroline’s husband is an “evil elephant” who “wants a dozen children, but only because he won’t come into his father’s inheritance otherwise.” Consequently, he “keeps pestering” her. The sisters, says Wilhelm (Ronald Zehrfeld), sent Schiller “not to paradise, but to the solitary confinement of marriage.” An incident in which a woman who fakes her death to escape her boring husband and run away with her lover demonstrates “international flair”.

2. Reactionary! Initially, Schiller is a naïve radical fired by the ideals of the Enlightenment. “I think humanity will evolve through knowledge and the sight of true beauty,” he says. Later, in the bloody wake of the French Revolution, and after having heard the horror stories of his friend Wilhelm, who has witnessed the carnage of the Terror firsthand, Schiller has more sobering thoughts. “Shouldn’t we have known, Wilhelm?” he asks. “Yes,” his friend replies. “Everyone who rang the bell for renewal should have known.”

1. Racist! That a movie – a German movie, no less! – would have the nerve to present a primitive, pre-multiculturalist Europe as something other than a totalitarian nightmare, and a place, indeed, of great natural charm and civilizational order, is a crime that this critic cannot forgive. Internet bigots obsessed with those supposed Cologne “attacks” will no doubt find much to admire in this dainty, escapist portrait of a racially homogenous society.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY FOURTEEN

The Gambler

Mark Wahlberg is Jim Bennett, a professor of literature with inherited wealth, good looks, style, and brilliance, but who, for enigmatic reasons, “likes to lose” and seems to be determined to ruin himself. “You are the perfect example of how a person can start off with no problems whatsoever and then go out of their way to make sure that they have all of them,” diagnoses one of his students. Bennett’s poison of choice is gambling and consequent debts to gangsters. The current of self-destruction that runs through The Gambler would make it an unpleasant film to watch if not for its hypnotic quality.

It is difficult not to discern in this movie a metaphor for European civilization’s self-immolation and its potential for resurrection. Indebted to Jewish, Asian, and black gangsters to the tune of something like $500,000, his survival, thanks to his own reckless regimen of self-loathing, depends upon an urgently needed combination of fortune and will power. Will Bennett ever catch a winning hand – and, if so, will he be satisfied with it? Finding out is an idiosyncratically entertaining and anxiety-ridden experience, though the “fuck”-saturated dialogue, one should mention, will not appeal to every viewer’s taste.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Gambler is:

7. Immigration-ambivalent. “Do you have a problem – wah, wah, wah – like some little fuckin’ girl – wah, wah, wah – or some Somali who can’t process that there’s no food where they live?” This ambiguous statement might suggest either that Somalis are stupid – and therefore undesirable as immigrants – or that they are validated in seeking better lives for themselves in the West.

6. Class-conscious. “Poor people stay poor people,” alleges one of the songs on the soundtrack.

5. Sexist! “Please, tell me you hit your wife harder than that, you fuckin’ pussy.”

4. Reactionary, dispelling egalitarian myths about the power of education. “If you’re not a genius, don’t bother.” Bennett suggests that his bored students are angry over “unequal distribution of talent” and tells them, “If you don’t have the magic, no amount of wishing will change that.” He goes on: “When you leave here today, call your parents and tell them you apologize for wasting their time and more importantly wasting their money, sitting in this classroom learning absolutely nothing.” Genetics is described as “a cruel motherfuckin’ mistress.”

3. Racist! “You know, they expect me to pass you regardless,” Bennett confides to a star basketball player (Anthony Kelley) taking one of his classes. “They want me to give you a passing grade so you can keep going out there and bouncing that basketball around.” Frank, John Goodman’s Jewish gangster character, uses the derogatory term “schwarze” to refer to blacks.

2. Anti-American. “The United States of America is based on ‘Fuck you!’” This position of power, however, has been “lost forever”, and King George III, in retrospect, “looks like a fuckin’ birthday present.” Bennett says of his condition, “If I get to nothing, then I can start over.” He demands an extreme – victory or death – just as western man, presented with no healthy outlets for his manly and his honorable impulses, will fall into dissolution and lose his will to live.

1. Anti-Semitic! Bennett emancipates himself from his cycle of self-destruction by freeing himself from the grip of the Jew Frank, a disgusting blob with an amateur interest in psychoanalysis, whose clout derives from debt, and who threatens the protagonist as follows: “You will get me not just what you owe me from your family. You will get me their accounts so I can have them vacuumed from Russia. You jump off a bridge, you can do it knowing I will kill your entire bloodline.” He expects Bennett to repeat the words “I am not a man” – to verbally castrate himself, in effect – as a condition for one of his loans. For the curious, The Gambler was written by William Monahan, who also penned the screenplay for the great populist Mel Gibson thriller Edge of Darkness (2010).

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook 

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