Wednesday, August 4, 2021

6/64: Mama und Papa (Materialaktion Otto Mühl) (1964)

... aka: 6/64: Mom and Dad (An Otto Mühl Happening)

Directed by:
Kurt Kren

I viewed a handful of Kurt Kren and Otto Muehl's early shorts a long time ago when they turned up on a list of disturbing films. While I can't say I was necessarily disturbed by anything I viewed, I was a little grossed out by some of it, so I guess that's something. I recall also being very, very bored with what I was watching, which tends to happen to me when I watch so-called Transgressive Art Films™ made by folks who either have a very high opinion of themselves or are just weird and perverted and feel like sharing that with the world at large for whatever reason. Congrats, I guess? However, I must say these "films" were a little bit different than the norm. As Muehl was heavily involved in the art non-movement Viennese Actionism, he shied away from "commercial" pieces in favor of live performance art "happenings." During these "aktions," Muehl and company would show how rebellious, subversive and artistic they were by doing sexy-time and engaging in gross acts like drinking urine, killing animals and defecating on sheets of plastic before a live audience. However, seeing how much of this live performance art was itself filmed for posterity, none of it really makes a whole lot of sense to me personally.

This plot, dialogue and music-free 4-minute 16mm silent short involves a naked woman who strikes various posses as various substances are poured all over her body. There's strawberry syrup, chocolate, milk, water and powdered sugar. Well, at least that's what I'm going to tell myself it is. It's hard to tell with these freaks. Also visible are eggs being cracked over her nude body, sticking a rose up her ass, throwing dirt on her ass, someone peeing in a cup, the woman sucking on the rubber nipple of a baby bottle, a guy sucking on the woman's nipple, something involving corn cobs, countless close-ups of food-smeared genitalia and, well, I'm pretty sure I saw some bathroom activities occurring on Muehl's creepy, grinning face at certain points. Occasionally a pair of red lips in front of a white background appear. "Experimental" rapid-fire editing is employed throughout and no single frame seems to last more than a few seconds, which makes much of the imagery difficult to make out, something I'm certainly grateful for.

Welp, I reckon I'll just cut to the chase here. While I'm sure this meant something to the people who made it when they made it, this kind of stuff does absolutely nothing for me, even when the desperation to try to shock in the more conservative 60s is palpable. And the fact that real-life sex predator and convicted / jailed child molester Muehl has become an posthumous art scene "It" guy since his death in 2013 does nothing to change that. As the great Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole) once said in John Waters' Desperate Living, "I have never found the antics of deviants to be one bit amusing!" However, there's at least one image here that did have me rolling on the floor. It's when a fully-clothed man has the naked woman bent over and is behind her and there's a big yellow balloon between them. When he tries to thrust, the balloon pops and feathers fly around everywhere, and it's hilariously repeated over and over again. Someone needs to turn that into a GIF.

While Kren is credited as director, Muehl is given credit for the "material action" seen on screen. So I guess I will leave the rest of this review in the better-equipped hands of Austrian author and avant-garde filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky, since this is clearly over my head. He explains, "In 6/64 Mama und Papa, Kren's editing leads to many interlocking continuous shots; central takes recur like a leitmotif, circular motion and networking can be observed throughout the film. Kren painstakingly weaves the fury in front of his camera lens into dense geometrical figures. Shot/countershot sequences alternate, lumping back and forth between single frames, they turn the Actionist turmoil into ornaments, rigid geometrical patterns, the equivalent in time to what Mondrian used to distill on canvas in space." Yeah!

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