SALON KITTY

[a contemplative review. appeared in FLUX magazine 65: ‘sex, lifestyle, death’]

SERIOUS FREAK SEX

 

THIS IS A serious movie. Very serious. Quite sad, in a way, that it has somehow ended up in the ‘porn’ pigeonhole, or even in the so hysterically called ‘exploitation’ niche (as if the rest of the movie industry were in fact based on altruism :). This complete misconception certainly stems from the nerve it hits, which with its dark, shocking cocktail of power and sex reverberates deeply in our collective psyche, so that people could easily feel intimidated, even ashamed of themselves, for possibly opening up to it – perhaps even liking it – and they therefore have to resort to scapegoating it instead. Another reason could be its blatant political impact, its shrill post-68 outcry of anger against a continuously repressive environment, which might have been simply ‘too much’ for many political corners and therefore reason enough to belittle and suppress it.

In any case, for those who haven’t seen the film, briefly the plot: In a 1936 Berlin, the Nazis have the splendid idea to set up a high-class brothel, in order to spy on its clients and gather all sorts of embarrassing information about them. The idea involves not to use professional hookers and then train them in ‘intelligence’ but instead to opt for girls, as suggested by ‘himself’, the Fuhrer, who display an unshakeable faith in national socialist ideology – and then train them in both, servicing sex and sucking off vital political clues. So far, all of this actually happened. Brass then wrote a story of true love in-between where one of the girls, Margherita, falls for a German pilot and he really falls for her, too. But he’s subsequently being annihilated by the Nazis after telling his lover about his decision to surrender to truth instead of killing another bunch of people for a mere political lie. This is all centred around the strangely elevated power freak Wallenberg who’s in charge of setting up the whole thing. Within his underlying, secret belief not in ideology at all but purely in power, he also feels that he can find love through blackmail and sexual enslavement. In the end, as it is usually the case with power, the sword has always got two sides and it is only a matter of time until it eventually turns against him.

With Salon Kitty Tinto Brass unfolds an eerie tale of messed-up and messing-up people, stuck in their manmade human tragedies, as they play along ‘games’ related to power, in a world of blind belief, hatred and fear. The naked human, whether physical or psychological, is the canvas upon which the wickedness and perversion of the political agenda unfolds. The seamless interweaving of cabaret songs, seedy boudoirs, Nazi stuff, true love and ‘fucked-up’, explicit sex scenes is absolutely priceless. As a director, Brass’ psychological insights and attention to emotional details are staggering and not many in the industry can claim to see equally far – or deep for that matter (except perhaps someone like Todd Solondz with HappinessPalindromes and Storytelling or Julia Davis with her powerful British comedy series Human Remains and Nighty Night).

FRAMEWORK FOR FUCKING

THE MOST FRIGHTENING aspect of Salon Kitty is its depiction of how sex can be ‘institutionalised’ so bloody easily, in order to meet any whatsoever surreal political ends. If it hasn’t already been before, in a movie like this it becomes perfectly clear again that romantic / sexual love is the ultimate system-subversive trait of us humans and therefore has to be carefully kept in check. Sex / love can be ‘allowed’ or ‘sanctioned’ only within a particular framework for fucking which political (slash religious) systems hand down to its people. Of course, somewhere down the line, love in itself is such a deep-rooted force that it always has to be at least insinuated as an incentive to carry on with our lives. Like winning the lottery, it is the dream-come-true for those of us who’re really ‘lucky’ in life, whilst in reality it hasn’t got much to do with luck at all, but mainly emotional health, confidence and maturity. But even health and maturity, in a screwed-up, viciously grinding-away system, does not guarantee fulfilment of such an actually modest human need. You could easily end up on a meat hook instead (like Margherita’s lover) because your jealous comrades scapegoat you for their own political and therefore personal failure. Or quite literally as a ‘hooker’, a neurotic repetitor, if you erratically attempt to escape the world of your brainwashed parents. Since whether you do what they tell you or just the complete opposite doesn’t make much difference in terms of the psycho-mechanical laws of destiny.

The scene where the women are being lined up in the huge Nazi gym, saluting naked with Heil Hitlers, before the SS guys are marched in to test their feasibility for providing uninhibited sexual favours, while the ‘authorities’ play some demented propaganda tunes on the grand Steinway, is easily one of the most startling I’ve ever seen. It is being closely followed by another one (censored for most of the movie’s history) where some of the girls undergo further testing in sterile, kafkaesque prison cells, having to please all sorts of ‘real freaks’ in order to show their blind determination to the political cause. Sometimes, having been born into a ‘liberate’ climate, the impact of blatant political force is quite easy to forget. And yet, even today, in a way we still are trapped in a world of sexual / emotional abuse – and that is exactly the deep nerve this movie is hitting. Only that today, instead of concentration campssocialism / communism / dictatorship and brainwashing / propaganda, the abuse is being masqueraded as broken homes,capitalism / consumerism or one of the many other contemporary ways of abuse / prostitution for economic, corporate, personal, political, intellectual – or even religious ‘causes’.

But the most underlying message of Salon Kitty is how power, in the end, will always be corrupting people, why power is so attractive to already corrupted people in the first place – and above all, why it is so incredibly sad, for power-freaks having to resort to killing, breaking and raping in order to create the illusion that they are being loved by someone (or even by many, haha) – although they deep down bloody well know that this is not at all the case. Obviously, there is an element of power involved in any form of sexual attraction – taken, being taken et cetera – but the separation between sex and love, in other words the assertion of power to achieve intimacy with another person, is psychologically an irresolvable dilemma. Perversion, or better ‘deterioration from core humanity’ (for when it comes to sex itself, according to Brass, there is no such thing as perversion) is without a doubt the ugliest manifestation of our tragic human condition. Its mechanics compel that anything healthy and pure must be defiled and destroyed in order to keep the dream / madness alive, feed it with ever more blood and despair.

Perhaps therefore the movie for its time did go too far, and this is the reason, why after his hassle with trying to make Caligula work, Brass left any political messages completely aside in his later work, almost overnight, in order to put his attention entirely on sex itself with the production of real, honest Erotica in which he purposefully avoids “using sex as a metaphor for something else”. For such a talented person as Brass this must have been quite a radical step to take. But in another way also probably quite a reasonable one. Sexuality has just been repressed for too long throughout our history and keeping this repression alive is what provides some of the strongest hooks for any system built mainly on power. What is therefore needed, more than anything else before ‘real’ political awareness can happen, is plain simply sexual / emotional healing. And this is exactly what Tinto Brass’ later work offers. The permission to explore sexual / emotional self-expression for those of us who’re kind of stuck in boring or otherwise institutionalised love lives. Once we are free to open up fully to the right person, at the right time, without getting hurt or abused or otherwise ‘fucked’, we can still dig out another movie milestone from the dusty archive, Michelangelo Antonioni’s incredible Zabriskie Point (which is, interestingly enough for such a cinematographic masterpiece, very difficult to get hold of at the time of writing) and proceed with matters of personal political responsibility from there.


 

London, April 2008
© 2008, all rights reserved


SLICE OF REALITY

this is the first sample of ASTROLOGY writing which i’m putting online hereby. it is an excerpt from the preface of THE LANGUAGE OF GROWTH, a book i’m currently working on. the text has been used as the intellectual backbone for a ‘micro lesson’ i held at city & islington college in london, yesterday morning.

“we astrologers feel that there is a ‘meaningful logic’ behind the movement of the PLANETS in our solar system which deeply affects us as human beings. by somehow ‘relating’ to our endocrine and nervous systems, the planetary CYCLES thereby establish a framework which we have come to refer to as FATE. behind FATE, we feel, lies a certain programme, and the goal of this programme – the game plan, or MEANING of it, if you will – is to reach a genuine state of HAPPINESS – brought upon through a healthy and mature dedication to the individual and collective GROWTH of HUMAN POTENTIAL.

on one hand we are asked to grow INSIDE ourselves [MOON] where we find out who we really are as a person. by digging down deep into the core genetic TRUTH [PLUTO], we carefully learn to accept the fact that we are evolutionarily trapped into a state of ANIMAL NATURE. as soon as we have come to terms with being this lonely, vulnerable creature who desires to merge with other such vulnerable creatures we can eventually become CONTENT as human individuals. we can then emotionally and spiritually open up to other content people without fear of being rejected or otherwise hurt.

but at the same time we all continuously grow OUTSIDE as well [SUN]. we expand our reach into the world around us and with an ever increasing lightness and confidence express our true inner SELVES like worry-free, innocent CHILDREN. we want to unleash our dormant potential, so that we can all be STARS in the end, in our own individual drama called LIFE. the SKILLS to achieve this, as western, PSYCHOLOGICAL ASTROLOGY sees it, are represented by the PLANETS in our CHARTS.

and all the way through this spectacular concept of LIVING we humans also experience another somewhat sad and strange concept: TIME PASSING slash AGEING [SATURN]. we feel we are caught up in a REALITY we have to submit to, a PRISON, ruled by JEALOUSY and DECAY, which we cannot seem to escape. we astrologers believe that only through the existence of PAIN are we humans compelled to get ‘our act’ together and eventually PLAY a more confident, active and fun part in our own individual SLICE OF REALITY.”

reinhard schleining
london, 17th april 2007

© 2007, all rights reserved

to find out more go to –> www.systemicastrology.com

about what i do

When I try to summarize what I’m doing then I feel that I’m producing some kind of ‘cultural-spiritual code’ with my work which I’m spelling out to be read and understood by as many people from as many backgrounds as possible. While Words are my starting point and ultimately main focus, I do like to indulge in the freedom to float seamlessly between both cornerstones of my work: Writing & Drawing. Doing this, embedding Gnosis / Knowledge into Images and Words (Gnosticism), means passing on Encoded Wisdom to be decoded by fellow seekers of Beauty and Truth – according to their  own level of Understanding and Attainment.

In an attempt to pinpoint what subject matter interests me then I think I’d have to say it’s  mostly about People and Reality. Following an inherent quest for Truth and Love, I’ve been to a great deal looking at the world through the lens of Humanistic Psychology and Psychological Astrology. More recently, this lens has eventually zeroed in to be the Great Law of the Cosmos (or Dafa in Chinese), a law encompassing both the Dao and the Buddha School. It is thus, that Cultivation has proven itself to be the true basis of whatever I do – and have been doing all along – and that therefore the Unfathomable and Supernatural, rather than the Tangible and Explicable, is more often than not providing the answers that I’ve been looking for.

In any of my work, I want to delve deep into both the Beauty and Mystery of Human Life and Human Experience and come back to the surface with the Trophies of what I’ve seen and still can see – the Stories, the Images – but at the same time I’m also extremely fascinated by the Darker Side of our Reality and – albeit even scarier – of Ultimate Reality. The behind-the-scene workings of Fate and Destiny, the ‘political’ aspects and psycho-mechanics of human relationships, the intricate power games between men and men, women and women and – on the highest, most subtle and most mysterious level – between women and men. And the ultimate pointlessness of our human suffering and the ludicrous ‘struggle’ for relevance which continue to tear apart our hearts and our planet – essentially just perpetuating the so-called psychological ‘Cycle of Abuse’.

But also Humour is quite an important element of my work.

Influences:

Li Hongzhi, Hans Kueng, Rabbi Hillel, David Bohm, Eric Berne, Robert Graves, Douglas Reed, Jonathan Franzen, Bret Easton Ellis, Julia Davis, Charles Bukowski, Pauline Reage, Michel Houellebecq, Vladimir Nabokov, Todd Solondz, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luis Bunuel, Lars von Trier, Ingmar Bergman, Alexandro Jodorowski, Trevor Brown, Stu Mead, Ferocius, Moebius, Robert Crumb, Steve Bell, Geoff Darrow, Gottfried Helnwein, Gustav Klimt, Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Piet Mondrian, Paul Gaugin, Jan Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco de Goya, Leonardo da Vinci, Pieter Breughel, Hieronymus Bosch, Giotto, Medieval Book Illustrations, Egyptian Art, Cave Drawings, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Shakyamuni, Hermes Trimegistos, (to name only a few) …

reinhard schleining
london, january 2012