Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hardcore, and Sometimes Hard to Watch: "The Hardcore Collection: The Films of Richard Kern"



New York City based performance artist and photographer Richard Kern shot experimental films in the 1980's and early 1990's, and this DVD puts them together. All the films are under forty minutes, and fill both sides of the disc.

The short films are reviewed individually:

On DVD Side A:
"Death Valley 69" (1986) 6 minutes (4/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern, Judith Barry, and Sonic Youth
This is a bizarre mix of images combined to make what amounts to a music video. Faked crime scenes, cruise missiles, gun toting band members, a secreted switchblade; it is all funky and the song isn't half bad either. Some of the footage is from the later "Submit to Me" films.

"The Right Side of My Brain" (1985) 25 minutes (2/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Lydia Lunch comes along and puts the "hardcore" in "The Hardcore Collection," and promptly bores the audience to death. This surrealistic poetry reading makes no sense and drags on for what seems like forever. Almost worth it just to see a young Henry Rollins with shoulder length hair.

"You Killed Me First" (1985) 11 minutes (2/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Teen angst is taken to a bloody finale in this badly written and directed short. The actors struggle with ad-libbing, tripping over each other's lines, and the sloppy editing highlights this. A definite letdown, considering the strong ending.

"The Bitches" (1992) 9 minutes (4/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Two competing women seduce a man, and the trio participates in a threesome that ends up reversing gender identities. The black and white film is creepy, and not that sexy, but still good.

"The Sewing Circle" (1992) 7 minutes (2/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Two women sew another woman's vagina shut in living color...I am realizing Kern's performers are as sick as he is...

"X is Y" (1990) 3 minutes (2/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Despite some good sound mixing, this is a pointless exercise in images as attractive women sport guns and rifles. Pointless.

"Fingered" (1986) 24 minutes (3/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Lydia Lunch returns as a phone sex operator who hooks up with one of her clients. They go on a crime spree, memorably kidnapping and terrorizing a young teen girl (Lung Leg). If you take away all the hardcore sex and violence, this has all been done before. Lunch is always watchable, however.

On DVD Side B:
"Horoscope" (1991) 4 minutes (3/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
A young woman reads her horoscope at work, goes home, and fantasizes that she is being fought over by two nude men. It does not help that one of the guys looks like Morrissey! Typical Kern, the film does not follow through on the original idea.

"Submit to Me Now" (1987) 19 minutes (4/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Kern's cast of irregulars combine to act out various sadomasochistic practices before the film delves into gory self mutilation. While it wears out its welcome after a bit, this is still one of Kern's strongest films, with nightmarish images.

"My Nightmare" (1993) 6 minutes (4/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
A photographer (Richard Kern) graphically masturbates to a sexual fantasy of his model, but the real thing shows up and is not as uninhibited as he would like. Explicit sexuality, this time with a payoff that does work.

"The Manhattan Love Suicides" (1985) 36 minutes (4/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
This film is actually made up of four vignettes: "Stray Dogs" has a model trying to get an artist's attention by literally coming apart. "Woman at the Wheel" has a gal and a new car, and how the men in her life won't let her enjoy driving. Co directed and starring Nick Zedd, "Thrust in Me" has a woman committing suicide, and her boyfriend's rather strange reaction...Zedd plays both parts! "I Hate You Now" has a disfigured pot dealer and his girlfriend, who decides to join him in his disability with the help of a steam iron. All four are bizarre, but maybe I have been watching enough Kern by now to actually get them, I think.

"Submit to Me" (1986) 10 min. (4/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
More of the same type of imagery as "Submit to Me Now," and still bloody weird.

"The Evil Cameraman" (1990) 11 min. (4/5*)
Directed by Richard Kern
Kern is himself, putting female models through hell. Kern's final film on the DVD may be one of his best.

The disc extras consist of chapter listings, highlighting each film with cast and credits, and many still photographs from the films.

After a couple of hours of Kern's stuff, I'm worn out. If you are into guerilla and underground film making, this DVD is for you. You can see Kern as either a brilliant artist or a sadomasochistic exhibitionist...or both. If your film tastes run toward the bizarre and extreme, enjoy. (* * * *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Richard Kern - Hardcore Collection