Monday, August 2, 2010

mondo weirdo

[jungfrau am abgrund]
(1990, carl andersen) b&w

while sexual repression isn't exactly a subject i can identify with, it still fascinates me. until a few decades ago, sexual dysfunction was considered the root cause of almost every social ill and psychological disorder known to man. psychologists and jewish mothers alike probably owed much of their personal rhetoric to sigmund freud. frigidity and nymphomania were deliberate crimes of passion in much the same way as... actual crimes of passion... (okay, okay). the point is, sex was and has always been at the forefront of everyone's mind, and the mediums of film and television couldn't escape the burden of social responsibility placed on them to uphold conservative moral standards. suddenly, perfectly normal, married couples were cluttering up their love nests with sets of twin beds, and the sexiest thing you could have seen on t.v. was a passionate kiss on the mouth or maybe the sensual removal of a long glove. a strictly american film could get away with more direct suggestion of sexual encounters, but mostly flirted with the taboo in light-hearted comedies (the seven year itch), and without posturing truly lent itself to scandal (splendor in the grass). and so it was in this environment that the mondo film flourished. according to wikipedia, (in case you're unfamiliar) a mondo film is "an exploitation documentary film, sometimes resembling a pseudo-documentary, usually depicting sensational topics, scenes, and situations. common traits of mondo films include emphasis on taboo subjects such as death and sex, portrayals of foreign cultures that have received accusations of racism, and staged sequences presented as genuine documentary footage." the presentation of these subjects behind the facade of a respected form like documentary film-making was an important part of the evolution of film as we know it today. an average moviegoer could watch reputedly authentic scenes of rare african rituals or witness raw, unadulterated nudity without any shame and still keep an air of moral indignance. after all, the films depicted far-off foreigners and one one-off weirdos, no one they'd ever realistically encounter and so they were safe to enjoy it all from a great distance.

although, stylistically, carl andersen's mondo weirdo is clearly situated within the cinema of transgression movement of the 1980's, that background on mondo is necessary because of all andersen's filmic efforts (i was a teenage zabbadoing and killing mom, among others) mondo weirdo is the only one that attempts to bill itself the way mondo films did, as a "real account" of an obviously fictionalized case. mondo weirdo: a trip to paranoia paradise is exactly what it sounds like it would be. it's a bizarre, transgressive fairytale about erotophobia and vampirism, an homage to german expressionism, a twin sister to the works of richard kern and nick zedd, and is practically a kissing cousin to contemporary mondo, although only its title merits its inclusion in the genre: while it seems at first glance to be documenting the inner workings of a young psychotic girl, and maybe giving us some insight into what could happen if we were too vulnerable to our own secret desires, it's hardly rooted in actual psychology. fortunately for me, it's really just a strange, but entertaining artsploitation film that mostly relies on messy symbolism or hardcore pornography to relate its subject matter...that would definitely appeal to fans of the mondo genre or zedd/kern's transgressive shorts. it's a gritty exploitation film that exploits...exploitation documentaries and sets itself apart by playing on those long held and deep set fears that breed sexual taboos. whether they're presented as ideas or situations, we're afraid that even acknowledging our desires means that we could lose our sense of identity. anderson's moral in this story? not submitting to our desires could literally drive us insane.

the film opens with a bizarre but essential bit of narration from a "dr. rosenberg", a psychoanalyst with an obnoxiously thick german accent. in broken english he provides us with some significant case details concerning his patient odile, who has suffered from what he believes to be one of the most extreme cases of distorted sexuality he's ever encountered. odile, only fifteen years old (and honestly, old enough), encounters some lesbians at a rock concert who have sex in front of her, and begins to experience a bit of cognitive dissonance. uncertain of her own sexuality, she quickly sinks into a deep psychosis. also unable to eat or sleep, her vivid daydreams lead her to believe that the girls aren't lesbians, but are actually "bloodthirsty wampires" (god, i love germans) intending to rob her of her innocence. the doctor explains how she comes to resolve her fears without any outside help by...well, succumbing to them, really. her daydreams finally stop, and once again, cunnilingus solves a problem a girl can't always solve by herself. rosenberg warns us that this film isn't for the squeamish, and, "should you seem to have problems sharing this world of nightmares and bloodily cruel events, please leave the auditory. leave the auditory... now." since the accent fails to lend him any credibility whatsoever, i feel that warning should be easy enough for most people to ignore.

the first real scene involves a shower, although there's no chance of anyone getting clean. odile, supposedly played by jess franco's own daughter, jessica "franco" manera, offers up a disturbing spectacle that either stands to make her father very proud or completely ashamed when she starts tasting her own free-flowing menstrual blood. although the suggestion turns out to be more disgusting than the act, it's still a pretty hard act to follow and gives us our first glimpse into her mind state (i guess she's fucking crazy before she even meets these lesbians). modell d'oo provides the industrial/new-wave style score that starts off strong and provides great energy and an atmosphere that would have suited a modern day grand guignol show just as well, as it chugs along, literally driving the action of the film and inspiring the characters to be as aggressive as it is. unfortunately modell d'oo never put out an album, but at least their music can be enjoyed in this film.
odile makes her way to a rock show where modell d'oo are playing to an audience made up of two women that consider their set just mood music for foreplay, i guess. decked out in leather and lace they tease each other, the band, and anyone else within view by posting up together on a small table in the middle of the club and fingering each other and engaging in other various (although very brief) hardcore acts. after catching the action for a moment or two, odile's hallucinations pretty much immediately overwhelm her. while at the bar she blankly stares at the barkeep (later credited as 'the incredible barkeeper') pouring himself a shot and swatting a gigantic fly, which seems particularly symbolic - since odile, like a fly trapped in spider's web, watches transfixed as the barkeeper gets blown by a woman behind the bar. haha okay, so maybe it's not a perfect metaphor, but it works.

in a sort of minor nod to old german expressionism's geometric sets, the camera splits to a suggestive triangular screen where we watch the band playing, the girls getting it on, and odile either dancing or just plain spazzing out. during this time she predictably manages to catch the attention of the lesbians (elizabeth and ilona), considering she's just been acting like a creep and staring at them the whole time, and they approach her, flirting with her and touching her. this is very much a silent film for the most part but there are a few speaking bits and they aren't subtitled (unfortunately) and in this particular scene, odile is hardly participating. she twirls her hair as the girls speak to her and is visibly uncomfortable. she lets their voices float over her and the camera takes a few sickening nose dives to reflect her disinterest or just plain disgust and she finally backs away after a book drops to the floor next to her. an intertitle appears after this scene, harkening back to silent era films, that reads "the girls tell odile freaky fairy tales about the blood-thirsty hungarian countess elizabeth bathory".
the next day she walks by a store window and seems to see sex everywhere. a television set on display with no working picture plays a straight sex scene starring the barkeeper, especially for her. a nearby mannequin transforms into a real girl who gets eaten out by another girl. it's kind of like a pornographic twilight zone episode (and too bad there aren't any of those). as she walks away from the store a van pulls up and a middle-age man coaxes her inside (don't german girls know anything?) and she's led back to his apartment where he begins to molest her, until ilona appears suddenly, and kills him. later on, passing the same store window, the display mannequin (which becomes a reoccurring figure) cries blood. the hour long film plays out like one long, scary music video, as the soundtrack pounds away and we basically spend the entirety of the film watching crudely shot sex scenes or murders set to music. odile is propelled forward by her visions from one sex scene to the next that become increasingly claustrophobic as they play out, with elizabeth, ilona and the barkeeper featured prominently in most of the hallucinations. the hallucinations themselves are sometimes slow-moving, but during violent sequences where she's attacked or chased, actually manage to dredge up real suspense.
she's a passive figure in her own nightmares; haunted by fragmented images of other people having sex, witnessing murders, and in one instance even watches ilona slitting her own throat in front of her, but she starts to play an active role and becomes a passionately involved participant herself, and sometimes even the aggressor, sucking off a guy in a club and even walking up to ilona and kissing her (all fantasy, of course).
an intertitle midway through introduces two new characters and suggests a confusing switch to an almost straightforward vampire story - "after a carcrash (off-screen) arthur & franz are looking for a helping hand. but..." and of course, they stumble upon the lair of the lesbians (just an average home, actually), and they offer to let the poor guys spend the night. once in their temporary room alone, arthur and franz fuck to the sound of several clocks ticking away, for whatever reason. sound is featured heavily between every song, obscuring any natural sounds and helping to create an unsettling atmosphere (like, having a telephone ring full blast while odile isn't able to pick it up). franz later sneaks off alone and discovers a book about elizabeth bathory in the girls' library. at the same time, odile, seemingly in a different library, sees elizabeth and ilona overtake a man and drink his blood.
there's no refuge for her anywhere, even hiding out in the bathroom she manages to walk in on a man masturbating in the stall who grabs at her (strangely enough, she also sees the girls masturbating but they make no move to attack her.) it seems as though the women are as fascinated by odile as she is of them, and though the film seems to suggest one of the girls is really elizabeth bathory, the men are still more dangerous than the vampiric women, either constantly assaulting odile or trying to rape her. elizabeth invites odile to an awkward dinner but they soon make their way upstairs where countless orgies occur between elizabeth, ilona, arthur, franz and odile exploring all of the possible pairings at some length.
eventually it all ends in murder as the men are killed (and in one outrageous scene a man's penis is cut off with a razorblade and odile picks it up and examines it for a while before gingerly placing it back on the body)
elizabeth and ilona get theirs too (before one of the men dies he stabs ilona and accidentally impales elizabeth).
odile, buried underneath all of her partners, slips out and washes all of that blood off, looks at herself in the mirror and finally decides to face her fear and return to the club. the original club scene plays again, except this time odile happily takes her shirt off and joins the girls and the end reads "the end...or a new beginning". which is really pretty satisfying if you don't think about s.t.d's. highly recommended if you're a fan of the subject matter.
:: posted by skirt, 11:39 PM


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go, go second time virgin (1969)
mondo weirdo (1990)
badi (1981) / e.t. de vagina (1995)
mosquito the rapist (1977)


bobby soxx - learn to hate in the 80's 7" (1981)
trumans water - the singles 1992-1997 (2003)
neva - individu (1987/2009)
feederz - jesus 7" (1980)
mr. airplane man - self-titled ep (1998)
nothing people - late night (2009)
come - don't ask, don't tell (1994)
the tights - bad hearts 7" (1978)
cheveu - like a deer in the headlights 7" (2009)
esther venrooy - shift coordinate points (2006)
the trashies - space jam (2011)
mutter - du bist nicht mein bruder (1993)
minimal man - the shroud of (1981)