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Richard Kern is a New York City based filmmaker/photographer who during the 1980's created a slew of short films that highbrow critics call "cinema of transgression" and everybody else calls "some sick and twisted s***." By fusing the arthouse aesthetic of Godard with grindhouse horror meets porn, Kern created a look and language for the post-punk subculture that grew (festered?) in the Lower East Side at the time. Appropriately, the soundtracks to his depraved fever dreams were often supplied by local underground acts such as Sonic Youth, Cop Shoot Cop, and especially Jim Thirlwell, a.k.a. Foetus. His performers likewise were local art scenesters such as Lydia Lunch, Karen Finley, the late David Wojnarowicz and the inimitable Lung Leg, whose drugged-out, nervous anti-acting virtually invented the "waif look" that models like Kate Moss would later water down for the mainstream. The films in this collection assault the viewer with sex, violence, sex, and a general atmosphere of scuzz. Did I mention sex? Kern reveled in undressing his punk princesses and putting them in situations guaranteed to make doctinaire feminists howl in protest. In "The Evil Cameraman" a very skinny young adult woman (who nevertheless looks about 13) is bound naked with ropes and tortured by Kern in the title roll. It seems completely awful until you consider that the film depicts Kern as well, evil, a real scumbag. You instead identify with the women and laugh when Kern gets his comeuppance. Likewise, the phone-sex worker portrayed by Lydia Lunch in Kern's masterpiece "Fingered" is completely in control of the pathetic, depraved psychos who call her. She even manages to menace poor hitchiker Lung Leg later on, and the latter's performance is something to behold. Lung doesn't act so much as drift into her "character" like some incredibly strange ghost. By any normal standards she's awful, but as you may guess these aren't exactly normal films. Some, like "Death Valley '69," are music videos that MTV wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole and a hazmat suit. "The Right Side of My Brain" is a psychosexual monologue/rant starring Lydia Lunch during which we get to see way too much of Thirlwell and Black Flag's Henry Rollins. The teeny-tiny "Nazi" is just a striptease by a woman who starts out dressed as a you-know-what. It's contrived and brilliant at the same time. "You Killed Me First," starring Lung Leg as the rebellious teen from hell, with Finley and Wojnarowicz as equally hellish parents, doesn't hold up so well, despite Ms. Leg's weirdly atavistic "performance." Here, contrivance overtakes brilliance by a mile; it's practically unwatchable.

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MVD2846 Films of Richard Kern The Hardcore Collection DVD (1984-1992) $29.95 $26.99