Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hog Heaven (Is a Place Where David Byrne Never Happened)

(Written August 27, posted October 2.)

I am nostalgic for socialism. I've walked the streets of its northern redoubts, combed through the detritus scattered in the wake of its slow desiccation in the East. Believe me, in those distant, inclement zones where ideals persist, folks live better than us. (Maybe even in Cuba, despite crippling shortages of Chanel Précision Ultra Correction Serum.) They have less stuff, granted, and each citizen is taxed a kidney to fund the weaving of the social welfare web, but they enjoy bountiful arts budgets, longer vacations, better (though considerably less prolonged) sex, much nicer restaurant ambience, and the satisfaction derived from begrudgingly providing crucial services for the aimless, pitiful, downtrodden, and malcontent.

America could have become this sort of demi-paradise if everything hadn't gone to shit in 1969. Fucking Nixon. Fucking Reagan...

In remembrance of foiled futures, First Run Features have released The DEFA Sci-Fi Collection, a restored, unedited trio of East German outer-orbital melodramas that put the ZOOM back into Communism. (If retrospection foists a caul atop one's senses, then please, call me Sugar-Coated Comrade Josef Bonham. Limbless though I may be, my erection has yet to abate. I've been looking for these films for a long time.)

Kurt Maetzig's Der Schweigende Stern (The Silent Star), which for decades drifted through sub-portals of American pop consciousness as First Spaceship on Venus (in a mangled, expurgated version, bereft of context and nuance, though still oddly compelling), kicks as much ass as it did when I first watched it 2,000 years ago at the bottom of a crazed double bill at the Cook Theater in Adel, GA. (It was paired with The Brass Bottle, a wan Tony Randall vehicle which may have been the basis for NBC's I Dream of Jeanie. Ideological incompatibility was the least of BB's faults, and perhaps its sole virtue.)

Why was DEFA so awesome? State-run. Massive budgets for films that would have been relegated to exploitation status in the West. Sick sets and special effects. Hot blonde scientists, not just hot blonde moon maidens. (Or, in the case of Der Schweigende Stern, a ball-twisting, no-nonsense researcher portrayed by Nippon hottie Yoko Tani.) And, most importantly, coolness in infinite supply.

The other films in the set, Hermann Zschoche's taut 1972 cosmo-realist procedural Eolomea and Gottfried Kolditz's 1976 sehr fremd huh?-fest Im Staub der Sterne (In the Dust of the Stars) also merit your attention, and make increasingly insistent demands on mine.

Would that any of this could have been... Finland is colder than Jack Abramoff's inert, faux-obsidian soul, but it (or its neighbors) remains a likely destination for yours truly. As for the remainder of the day, I'm glued.



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