Saturday, May 28, 2016

Blow Job – un soffio erotico (1980)

Not to be confused with Andy Warhol’s Blow Job (1963), Alberto Cavallone’s Blow Job is a witchy Italian horror film with a fairly meagre start that escalates into a reality transcending experience that was influenced by Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (1952) and the shamanistic writings of Carlos Castaneda. One similarity between both films is the titular blowjob and its ambiguous nature. Warhol’s Blow Job is a thirty five minute still-shot of a young man’s (DeVeren Bookwalter) face while he is supposedly receiving fellatio, allegedly by experimental filmmaker Willard Maas. Because the sexual act itself takes place off camera, it is never absolutely certain if the fellatio is legitimately happening, which along with conflicting accounts of the filming itself adds a curious air of mystery to it.

The blowjob in Cavallone’s film only makes up a fraction of the movie during the third act and coincides with a mescaline (the main active hallucinogen in peyote) trip, and so the fellatio is also presented indirectly. The mescaline aided “blowjob” sort of doubles as a gateway act to a higher form of perception, but the fascination in this case comes more from how the filmmakers choose to represent “suchness” or “the absolute”, the ultimate nature of reality without reduced awareness. One of our lead characters Stefano (Danilo Micheli) transcends reality, under the guidance of an erotic witch Sibilla (Mirella Venturini), to take a trip through the spirit world, aka tripping balls. It involves dancing and low budget experimental set pieces and was more memorable than I was anticipating it to be.




The narrative setting in Blow Job cycles from a somewhat demure hotel, a racehorse track, a spooky house, a trip into the “absolute reality”, and then back to the hotel again for a gruesome and bizarre aftermath. The shift back to the hotel during the conclusion is unexpected and feels like a return to a less fantastical reality.


It’s a little difficult to make sense of, but looking back at it now; I don’t think the lead characters, lovers Stefano and Diana (Anna Massarelli), ever physically left the hotel setting. Analogous to the it-was-all-a-dream-ending, the entire advancement of the plot in Blow Job could be a representation of a bad mescaline trip, with the witch antagonists, Sibilla and Angela (Anna Bruna Cazzato), representing the essence of the drug. Just as with Dorothy waking up at the end of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and being surrounded by familiar figures from her dream, certain denizens of the mescaline trip world, Sibilla and the butler Alphonse (Valerio Isidori), show up as bystanders to the ending crime scene outside of the hotel in Blow Job, which might make my assertion that it was all drug fueled fancy questionable after all. The police officer even asks Stefano if Diana had taken any drugs, to which he replies, “not that I know of.” I think Stefano is being deceitful here and the appearance of Sibilla and Alphonse during this moment may represent his guilt.


We are first introduced to Stefano and Diana at the hotel Cristallo doing what they seem to do best, living an irresponsible, hedonistic lifestyle. Something about the setting in their room does capture that Saturday morning kind of hangover. We don’t know much about them or the nature of their relationship, other than that they are quite physical, and he’s an out of work writer, and they don’t have the money to pay the sizable bill they’ve amassed staying at the hotel.


The hotel porter (Antonio Mea) informs them by phone that the management insists that the overdue guests pay their bill in full by the afternoon or they’ll be forced to leave and forfeit all of their possessions including their car (the nonchalant way this phone conversation plays out is kind of amusing, as the porter kind of maintains his formal hospitable personality while basically screwing them over). This doesn’t seem to bother them a whole lot; it’s probably just another day for the young and self-indulgent couple. Diana immediately wants to start having sex, but Stefano cannot get in the mood knowing the porter downstairs is waiting to rip him off.

"A lot of people don't realize this, but you can put your weed in there." -Distracting Adam Sandler Reference
Meanwhile, in the room directly above them, an epochal event takes place that sets the story in motion. A pale-looking, distressed woman is being menaced by a floating POV-camera with heavy breathing. She becomes fearful enough to the point of jumping out the window to escape, and during the fall, she somehow manages to shatter and bloody-up Diana and Stefano’s window. The resulting commotion from the scene that ensues affords Stefano and Diana a chance to escape from the hotel with their car and possessions.


They, of course, end up at the horse racing tracks. Stefano convinces Diana to give him the rest of her money so he can bet it on the horses and hopefully fix their money problem. Before he places the bet, Stefano runs into a distressed, enigmatic woman with an eyepatch, Angela, who latches on to him, insisting that he has the key to opening some sort of proverbial gate she must pass through (yes, I thought of Ghostbusters too). Knowing he is financially distraught, she offers to tell him the winning horse if in return he helps her to unlock “the gate” that she so desperately wants to pass through. Stefano assumes that she is literally having trouble opening the front gate to her house, so he takes her up on the offer and, thanks to Angela's witchy intervention, successfully bets everything on the horse called “Moby Dick.” Now obligated but without any real understanding of what it is she wants from them, Stefano and Diana stay with Angela at her isolated gothic mansion where things definitely get stranger.


So what is this gate, and why does Angela covet passage through it? I have likened the witches in this movie to the essence of mescaline. Eventually Diana develops a spiritual and physical connection to the witch Angela, and Stefano likewise develops a similar connection to Sibilla. These connections represent the relationship between the drug and the user. The gate Angela speaks of is a wall that separates us between the everyday familiar reality and the idea of an ultimate reality that drugs, meditation, alcohol, or religious experience help us to realize. We all harvest a desire to temporarily cross this gate to escape the mundaneness of everyday life and enter a higher form of awareness, where there’s only beauty, and time and space become trivial. Angela pleading to Stefano to be the key to grant her passage through the gate is actually the drugs calling out to Stefano and Diana; they are the ones seduced and taken on a journey through the gate; in a sense, they are not using the drugs; the drugs are using them.


While they are staying at the house, things are of course weird and suspect. The next day, without them knowing, Angela uses black magic to incapacitate Diana and make her sick. Stefano is sent away into town to get help. Angela then uses a magic powder to “cure” Diana and “pass the gate that opens into the garden of happiness.” When she comes to, Diana becomes hooked on Angela, as they’ve now become close lovers, but Diana has of course reached a sort of no-turnaround point now, as she gets stranger and more and more hooked on Angela, to the point of never wanting to leave the isolated mansion and return to reality. If this isn’t a metaphor for substance dependence, I don’t know what is.


Despite his greatest effort, Stefano is unable to get through to Diana. Eventually a second witch, Sibilla, enters the house through a mirror to latch her claws into Stefano, eventually helping him reach a state of complete contemplation with an herb-based hallucinogenic drink before the film slowly climaxes to the promised blow job only to reveal it is not a blow job per se but a transcendence of reality that is portrayed through dance.
 
I love what’s achieved during the dance scene, which transitions from phantasmagoric, to ballroom masquerade with a nude Diana dancing arm in arm with Angela as Stefano tries to reach her through the crowd but never quite managing.


Death on a motorcycle shows up, parks her bike in the mansion hall, and removes her leather jacket and helmet to reveal that death is Sibilla in a Walmart skull mask. But she still looks cool and downright evocative. Death joins the dance and touches other dancers, one at a time, who fall dead. This is when I first realized I love this movie.


Further supporting my idea that Diana and Stefano are still at the hotel, where I feel they’ve been the whole time, the hotel porter from earlier makes an unforeseen appearance, before the climax, in the front hall and greets Stefano. The porter has the pale, distressed woman from earlier, who jumped out the hotel window to her death, up against the wall, nude, and upside down. He is indulging in some esoteric act of painting a circle across her butt cheeks and kissing each cheek one at a time. The whole butt cheek kissing thing is beyond me, but I like to think of the upside down dead woman, still bloody but seemingly still alive and smiling, as having the same meaning as a reverse tarot card. When a tarot card is drawn in reverse, the card is supposed to have an opposite meaning. Since the meaning is opposite, she is a dead woman who appears alive. Everything in the world Stefano is in now is deceitful; it is a hallucination, not reality, not real consciousness but altered consciousness.


Mescaline trips can range from euphoric to fearfully unpleasant, with the unpleasant being unbearable to the point that the taker considers or commits suicide. A suicide does occur, which, after the veil of deception is lifted, is related back to the first death at the hotel, where the truth is finally revealed. 

Since it could be seen as a drug metaphor, Blow Job could’ve been more psychedelic and colorful, but perhaps its bleak look and grim ending serve it better as a cautionary tale. A. Huxley’s essay was in support of mescaline over all other drugs; Cavallone’s Blow Job feels more like a warning. 

© At the Mansion of Madness



2 comments:

  1. That is a very impressive analysis. It makes me want to revisit it again. When I first saw Blow Job, I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I remember there was a lot of spiritual mumbo jumbo and walking around in circles but I loved how circular and nightmarish it all was. The creepy breathing contrasting with the 'pornodelic' music, the castle, Death riding on her motorcycle (kinda like Ghost Rider). The surreal ball dance is simply amazing! I wanted to write something about it but I just couldn't put anything into words. I really love your interpretations, they actually make quite a lot of sense. Bonus points for the reverse tarot card bit as well (and the Adam Sandler reference :D).

    The history behind the production is also quite nightmarish. Apparently, one of the producers committed suicide during production. The original title was "The Nude Witch" which makes the Blow Job title all the more baffling but interesting with the bait&switch nature of it. Given its obscurity, it's essentially, as one reviewer called it, a film without an audience. Additionally, the print I saw actually cut out the blowjob scenes!

    Cavallone is certainly an interesting director. Nearly all of his films are mostly unavailable on video save for a few recent DVD releases and a lot of them were circulated via bootleg telecine scans (including Blow Job). I quite enjoyed Zelda though a lot of fans consider it disappointing because it was too sober or commercial. But I prefer to watch that than the "transgressive" scatological stuff that they seem to praise Cavallone for (IMO). The lost Maldoror looks pretty insane though. Hopefully someone finds it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure what it was about Blow Job that made me want to delve into it and try and "figure it out". It took me a while to be driven to finally watch this one, probably because of its repellent title. I was going to just take a couple of screen grabs and maybe a write a sentence or two on it for FB, but I liked it and thought it seemed like a challenge. I really wish they would've called it the nude witch.

      I agree that Blow Job is a film without an audience, in fact, as the article I linked to puts it, it was apparent that Cavallone "never really cared about the audience." Like Poselli sometimes, Cavallone just seems to creatively indulge without worrying if the audience will get it or not. I might seem like I get it, but there's a good chance I don't. I could be way off with the reverse tarot card. I couldn't help saying something about it since the scene is very esoteric in nature but also kind of funny.

      I did watch Blue Moon, which would be another challenge, but I think the author from the article I linked described and interpreted it well enough.

      I don't doubt that we probably saw similar prints with the blow jobs cut out. It seems like there's one at the beginning with Diana and Stefano but there's an obvious cut. Likewise there's some obvious omitted material during Stefano's respective sex scenes with Sibilla and Angela. Since an uncut version doesn't seem available yet, there's no telling what was cut and if there really were hardcore fellatio scenes edited out. I would like to know, because if there are, my transcendental interpretation of the blow job, between Stefano and Sibilla, might become nullified.

      Zelda sounds and looks interesting; I might have to take you up on the recommendation.

      Thanks for the compliments, Terence. This one was a challenge but also gratifying, even more so if you were impressed by it.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...