Hardcore Collection Remastered Blu Ray
Hardcore Collection Remastered Blu Ray
From 1984 to 1993, Richard Kern made a ton of violent, aggressive, and visceral low budget underground films, featuring murder, rape, and mayhem. They were all recently remastered and released on Blu-Ray...
These films featured Lydia Lunch, Lung Leg, Henry Rollins, Sonic Youth David Wojnarowitz and many others.
Richard Kern - Hardcore Collection Blu-ray Review
You'll know it when you see it.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 11, 2017
Perhaps only Supreme Court junkies will recognize the case name Jacobellis v. Ohio, a 1964 decision which kind of shockingly revolved around the Louis Malle film The Lovers, an outing which was deemed provocative enough back in the day to be labeled "obscene", but which will probably strike today's audiences as verging on the downright quaint. Though the film was originally released in 1958, it was an "art house" showing in Ohio in the sixties which led to a sizable fine for the theater owner Nico Jacobellis, who exhibited the film, a fine levied against him by Cuyahoga County based on its view that The Lovers was pornographic. Ohio's state Supreme Court upheld the fine when Jacobellis appealed the decision to them, which in turn moved the case up the "food chain" to the United States Supreme Court. It's here that the story gets really interesting, for while the United States Supreme Court voted 7 to 2 to overturn the conviction, the justices themselves (including the dissenting voices) could not agree on a rationale for their individual opinions. That led to an almost comical array of supposed reasons why Ohio's initial umbrage wasn't warranted, with some justices averring that the First Amendment itself was enough of an underlying foundational element, but with other justices attempting to come to a less generalist motivation for their decision. Perhaps the single most famous quote to come out of the whole fracas, though, belonged to Justice Potter Stewart, who voted with the majority but who came to that decision based on his own personal view of what was obscene and/or pornographic and what was not. Potter famously wrote:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [note: i.e., hardcore pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.
Which brings us in turn to the collected works of Richard Kern, a provocateur if ever there were one, and a man who was one of the founding members of what later became known as the Cinema of Transgression. That very description should be a telltale clue as some of the envelopes and/or buttons Kern pushes in his short films, many of which depict sex acts, including but not limited to masturbation, intercourse and what some would probably see as physically abusive (if seemingly consensual) activities. Is it pornography? Maybe you'll know it when you see it.
Kern, both in an extended interview included on the Blu-ray as a supplement, as well as some online interviews that can be found by enterprising Googlers, talks about his early days in New York's East Village, when experimental filmmaking brought a number of future luminaries like Lydia Lunch (who is in a lot of these films) together. Kern was sick of pretentious "auteurs" who seemed to think that length and languid pacing made for great Art, and with a coterie of devotees decided that short, to the point, (often 8mm) outings were the way to go. The results are often intentionally shocking, with seemingly "forbidden" subjects like what amounts to phone sex, rape, BDSM and other provocative topics trotted out in grainy color and black and white for viewers' supposed delectation. There's an undeniably smarmy, low rent quality to many of these films that make them instantly memorable (maybe even unforgettable), though it's questionable just how "Arty" these offerings really are.
While it's not as provocative as some of the other short films in this collection, one of Kern's better known efforts, Goodbye 42nd Street, serves as a perhaps fitting symbol for Kern's relatively short-lived "hardcore" career as well as changing cultures morés. (Kern has moved on to still photography, where his subjects are often naked women.)Goodbye 42nd Street captures the unseemly essence of midtown Manhattan at exactly the point when so-called "nudie palaces", drug trafficking and piles of trash on the street gave way to the "kinder, gentler" (yeah, right) impulses of the Giuliani Era, when Times Square and its surrounding areas were deliberately "cleaned up". Kern's "tour" through this yet to be gentrified region somehow serves as an apt corollary for his own raw and unkempt approach toward film and, frankly, sexuality. But ironically, that very "goodbye" in the film's title hints presciently at what Kern himself seemed to realize — that his youthful provocations could only carry him so far.