When it comes to this special and often chaotic thing called life, love might not rule the world (though it should), it does charge the soul and fuel so much of what we seek. Why? Because it’s a need that is usually presented to us as a want, but the two are intertwined like a DNA strand built out of light and flesh. Because of this, love can be the ultimate jigsaw puzzle that is harmonized by its multitude of pieces. Each one is terrifically and sometimes terrifyingly unique, but we could not have the bigger picture without it.
When an emotion is as all encompassing and intoxicating as love, what better way to explore and celebrate all of its assorted nooks and crannies than with the medium of cinema. The obvious stride would be to highlight all those hoary chestnuts that tend to explore love at its most clean and inauthentic. However, Henry Chinaski hated obviousness and so do I. Real love is enjoying a heart beat amidst all the dirt, blood, yelling, singing, lust, dancing, tears, and triumph. Nothing in this life is ever truly neat and tidy so why should art and love be?
In keeping with l’amour and the candy-colored-cherry-red sheen of modern-day Valentine’s Day, this box of silver-screen-sweets will be a small but luxurious, melt-in-your-medulla sampler. Now, it’s time to untie the velveteen black bow and dig in…
Love can be a wild emotion by itself, but what a potent beast it grows into when you toss in ingredients like an unbridled brilliant artist, a puff-chested ego-hard, a fuck-ton of LSD, and a hammer.
Especially the last two.
Do not try this at home, kids, but instead leave it to the professional in the form of Rip Torn in the 1970 underground Norman Mailer film, Maidstone. In character, Torn went off script and attacked director/co-star Mailer, for real, with a hammer. He maybe (meaning probably most definitely) was tripping balls, but that is besides the point. Torn cared about the direction of the film and cared enough both about the art and Mailer that he took self-expression to its natural though admittedly, aggravated assault conclusion.
Granted, this tactic only works literally in this scenario with these two guys for three very good reasons. Rip Torn was and forever is, a wild-eyed actor who possessed raw, jewel-like charisma that could never quite be touched. Norman Mailer was, for all of his innate intelligence and talent, a violent egotist who once stabbed his then-pregnant wife and would go on to be continually bested by better men and minds. Also, if the way Rip Torn smiles at Mailer while saying, “Up yours,” doesn’t make your heart race a little faster, then check your pulse because you’re either dead or Norman Mailer’s ghost.
From hammer to hearth, Jorg Buttgereit’s underrated follow-up to his ever-controversial debut feature film, Nekromantik, fittingly enough titled Nekromantik 2: Return of the Loving Dead (1991), continues the journey into a love that dare not speak its name…mainly because it is gross and illegal in most places. While necrophilia is an understandably taboo subject matter, Buttgereit interjected gallows humor and subject matter from the first film and mixed it with the most unlikely duo: a musical number and even a dab of sweetness.
The fact that a movie about necrophilia has a musical number alone certainly makes me love the world a little bit more. Even better, is the song in question, “Scelette Delicieux.” Its heartfelt torch song quality would make Zarah Leander blush, while the fact that its title loosely translates to “Delicious Skeletons” makes my heart go a-pitter-patter!
Now, on the much lighter side of song, dance, and L-O-V-E, we have the 1995 Indian action/comedy/musical Muthu. For starters, this entire movie is a two-hour plus thrill ride that never comes close to wearing out its welcome by being sweet, hilarious, and wholly bananas. Having charisma bomb Rajnikanth starring as the titular Muthu amplifies the enjoyment factor of this extravaganza, as we see him kick ass metaphorically and literally while accidentally falling in love with a bratty but gorgeous theatrical actress that has also caught the eye of his master. Hijinks and misunderstandings ensue, as do tonal whiplash and then bad guys getting whipped by Muthu’s lash!
Muthu the film has a number of great musical numbers, but the opener is especially a stunner, including a three-way shot of our man singing. If there was justice, there would be a picture of Rajnikanth under the word “charming.” Muthu is a joy bomb all around!
From sweet-cheeked romance and adventure to a far more earthier and searing journey, we got to Henry Paris aka Radley Metzger’s 1977 adult classic, Barbara Broadcast. Everything Metzger created possessed a sheen of class mixed with his impeccable eye for mesmerizing beauty. Anyone can frame an image, but it takes true talent and vision to create one that captures your mind long after it has left your physical gaze. Barbara Broadcast is no exception, with the highlight not just in Metzger’s catalog, but in all of erotic cinema, is the scene between the film’s intrepid reporter, Roberta (the eternally magnetic C.J. Laing) and one of the kitchen staff, played by the ridiculously handsome Wade Nichols.
The passion made between these two in the back of said kitchen is viscerally tangible. The natural background sounds of the oblivious staff coupled with the rolling steam make a normally mundane setting suddenly forbidden and almost mystical. The way these two even just look at each other is hotter than 99.9% of the raunch you will find in your travels. Next time there’s a power outage, pray your local utility provider will use a handy dandy copy of Barbara Broadcast to their breakers and your home will be like Christmas on speed.
From the pruriently profane to the sacred, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s midnight-movie masterpiece El Topo (1970) features one of the most heartbreaking examples of romantic life in its pure and divine form. Jodorowsky’s spiritual tale of our titular criminal who finds redemption, humility, and love, while trying to help out a group of ailing and handicapped people who had been shunned previously by the local townspeople, is like so much the man has crafted and spun, heavy, brutal, beautiful, and riddled with universal truths. It is among these outcasts that El Topo finds true affection and love with Mujercita (Jacqueline Luis), a beautiful dwarf woman. Together, they manage to make it to town and collect money by busking, all with the aim of helping and eventually freeing their brethren still stuck in the large cave.
The “respectable” and able-bodied townspeople are the living definition of vile. They are racist, foolish, and thoroughly dangerous as the willfully ignorant can be. The contrast between their grotesque behavior and actions with the saintly aura of Mujercita and El Topo hits with a guttural whomp, especially in the scene where they have our two make love for money. While the crowd vultures howl and leer, Mujercita tells him gently, “I love you. They do not exist.”
A thousand award-show-baits can only dream of ever possessing such uncompromised heart and emotion.
To cap everything off, whether it’s The Fleshtones telling us “You Gotta Love Love” or Aleister Crowley noting that, “Love is the Law,” love may not be all we need but who would want an existence without heart, passion, and care? I think the main couple (in the most l'amour fou way possible) in Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) nailed it while giving ultimate romance goals when they said, “Our love can destroy this whole fucking world.”