Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rammstein’s Pussy

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the misfortune of being invited to a screening of Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist”, the film that “scandalized” Cannes, opened the “serious film” section of the Toronto International Film Festival and is now the hot topic of debate at the far more intellectual New York Film Festival.

"Grotesque masterpiece” or "offensively misogynistic" --- which ad blurb will sell more tickets? Would including rusty scissors with the Deluxe DVD pack be too much?

After mulling over my own reaction to the film, which was far from positive, I think I’m just happy that Von Trier is finally getting professional help for the severe depression that apparently plagued him to a debilitating level through production.

This is an enormously talented artist capable of powerful and challenging work. It would be rewarding to see him able to do that without being distracted by the demons he’s been fighting.

That said, I wondered if much of the most controversial content in “Antichrist” was an artist coping with those demons, doing what he felt was necessary to engage his audience or breaking through the cultural noise to get his work noticed in the first place. I’m speaking, of course, of the lead actors’ genitals.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with sex scenes on film even the ones where things get explicit. I did a ton of them as an actor myself. Most of those sequences were designed to titillate or explore sexual issues, and the making of them had little to do with actual sex.

Part of that is because sex on film is mostly about getting sprayed with glycerine so you look sweaty, ice cubes between takes to keep nipples erect and contorting bodies into positions even the Kama Sutra never imagined to accommodate the camera.

Therefore, I don’t know if that’s really Willem Dafoe’s dick or Charlotte Gainsbourg’s kitty doing the heavy lifting in “Antichrist”, or if Von Trier used stand-ins, stunt players or prosthetics. What mostly concerned me was how needlessly tacked on the explicit shots all seemed.

It must have felt that way to Von Trier as well because he delivered what he termed “Catholic” and “Protestant” versions of his final cut. The latter being the more explicit --- and, of course, the only version purchased for film festivals and distribution.

But hey, we all know what really sells, don’t we?


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There used to be very clear lines demarcating what was mainstream, soft core and hard core and artists made their own decisions about which of those fields they wanted to work. Sometimes their decision came with condemnation or negated the possibility of moving from one realm to another. Porn stars didn’t do guest spots on TV shows and if an “A” list actor strayed too far into other territory he wasn’t “A” or even “B” list anymore.

In fact, it was often possible to track a performer’s decline as they moved from high budget films to lower levels to soft core. Nobody seemed to go the other way without plastic surgery and a change of identity.

Nowadays, Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson appear pretty much anywhere either plying or implying their original porn skills. Television’s top rated comedy “Two and a Half Men” does entire episodes revolving around the hiring of hookers and porn film imagery permeates just about every successful series and film.

Porn culture has very clearly established a significant foothold in our industry. The general reaction to “Antichrist” makes me think we haven’t reached the point where explicit sex is expected by a mainstream audience. But it’s certainly far from being outright rejected.

And that makes me wonder where we’re going to have to go next.

Where producers used to negotiate for nudity or the parameters of using a body double, will we soon need to be defining which sex acts our actors will participate in and with whom they will or won’t do them?

Will young actors be told that in order to work at their craft they better get used to screwing whoever plays opposite?

And will we all have to go down the same path the Porn industry has been forced to take since it more or less gained respectability 30 years ago by depicting sex in a more and more graphic and degrading way?

I believe I got some insight into the answers to those questions a few day’s ago, when an advertising and promotions website sent me a music video entitled “Pussy” by one of Germany’s most successful Rock bands --- Rammstein.



Rammstein has garnered immense international success with such hits as “Du Hast” and “Engel”. They’ve been nominated for Grammy Awards and are known for a stage show and pyrotechnical display that rivals everybody from “Kiss” to “AC/DC” and has been witnessed by millions of fans. They’re as big as you can get in their homeland and well up there everywhere else.

And now they’re doing Porn.

Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve always thought Rammstein’s music was kinda Heavy Metal as performed by The Tubes. And surfing through television channels in Europe will inevitably bring you into contact with German made pornography, which can best be described as --- in a word --- blunt. In most of their explicit sex, he’s a storm trooper and she’s Poland.

But while Rock ‘n Roll has always been about sex, from Howling Wolf promising “Smokestack Lightning” to Chrisie Hynde splayed across the hood of a Chevy to most of what debuted this morning at the iTunes store, the majority of it has been “suggested”, left to your imagination or presented in a manner where how much you 'get it' defines how cool you really are.

Not anymore.

And you know that the bar has either been raised or lowered, depending on your perspective.

In order to compete, does Gene Simmons have to start doing a little more with that tongue?

Does Angus Young finally lose the shorts --- literally?

Because no matter what they and others have achieved or created and might come up with in the future, somebody else is going to be getting all the attention by following Rammstein’s example.

I’m afraid we can’t dismiss all this as just a blip in the zeitgeist. Youtube may be able to keep taking the Rammstein video down as fast as it’s posted. But other competitive sites don’t seem to have a problem accepting the traffic --- and neither do their advertisers.

I think this is a game changer. Anytime a mainstream artist, be it Willem Dafoe or Rammstein, decides a certain approach will find them an audience, that decision resonates through the rest of the culture.

Maybe I’m wrong. But I’d appreciate knowing where my logic has gone askew.

Therefore, here’s Rammstein’s “Pussy”. Definitely NSFW and probably out of place in a lot of other environments too. You can find it here if Blogger asks me to maintain a certain decorum or my own sense of what should be on this site gets the better of me.

But somehow I don’t think I’ll be getting too much direct feedback from readers asking me to remove it.

Because this is where we are. And this may be what many of us have to become to survive.


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would not consider myself a prude, and I've watched (and appreciated) films with nudity and sex, but when I can tell I'm not going to appreciate a particular work, I simply don't watch it. I will not be seeing "Antichrist" and I won't be clicking on the video link either.

I guess there's a pretty good chance that the producers of such material will win out, and that it will become the norm, but right now, when they worry about loss of market share, I'm one of the people they've lost.

Anonymous said...

I watched it and it was just god aweful. I've lost a lot of respect for RAMMSTEIN.

Hanh said...

Your thoughts on where society is going with this theme was in fact what Rammstein used as a reason, in a way, to justify their video (as mentioned by the guitarist in an interview.) He pretty much said what you did, that the subject matter has always been "suggested" ...this time the band just went with all the way with it.

For the video itself, to me it's not so gratuitous as it is shocking, which the band are reknown for. After I got over my shock then I began to see the satire, but I'm not sure if other people will.

I also am not sure if the bar has been raised or lowered...something to think about.

Martin said...

Rammstein is one of my favorite bands, but watching this video has too made me lose a great deal of respect for them. There's a difference between cleverness, and cheapness. The premise of the video is somewhat clever (ie. the satire), but do we really need to see all of it? I cringed watching it, not thinking that it was going to be so profane. But the way the world is going nowadays, it was inevitable. Where I go to school, all of my peers sleep around and abuse substances- this is apparently day to day life for most of the world's population.

Anonymous said...

Hey Martin,

Um, where do you go to school, if I might inquire? :P

Anonymous said...

All these comments such as "I've lost respect for them as a band" Oh for christsakes! They are grown ass men, Till is almost 50 and a grandfather. If they want to play and joke, so what? Its just a short little music video, not a full length film. With exception of Richard Krupse I beleive - all of the other guys were using "stunt doubles' wth pretty decent cgi effects. If you don't like- don't watch.

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