It’s one o’clock on a sticky Wednesday morning and I haven’t been able to sleep. I’m all hot and bothered, praying for any kind of release from wakefulness, and there’s nothing to do but put this churning mind in neutral and let my feet sneak me out of the house. There’s a little place these dirty feet of mine know by Central station. In a twenty-five minute stroll they get me to a steel doorway with its spluttering neon tube and gum-pocked turnstile. With great cunning my toes fish money out of my pocket, disturbing me not at all. Without me knowing (I swear) they pass the grubby blue ten-dollar bill to my sleepy fingers, paying the sallow gatekeeper before trotting me down some worn stairs. Once down there I’m half aware again. Goodness me, am I here? Yes, I am!
I feel around sweatily in the dark and flop down into a rancid seat. I’ve landed on my ass in the basement, hoping for a piece of my favourite genre, the Puerto Rican Prison Pic. The scenario of the PRPP varies but the theme is always the same. Hapless hunky inmates, brutalized by their big white prison guards, turn the tables and show those sneering starchy uniforms who the real funky bosses are. The bad nasal acting evaporates after a while and equilibrium is restored. It invariably ends in joyous delirium, a carousel of manly merriment for all involved where everyone ends up a homeboy. But (oh bugger!) I’m late or the show times were wrong. The closing credits, accompanied by monotonous grooves on a cheap Casio keyboard and drum machine, are rolling on Live Hard Or Die. It’s a typical Chandler Waxwurst production, featuring the brutal and languid Rusty Springstains in combat with the astounding undercarriage of legendary Latin former soap star Don Quidique. Hot Damnation! I’ve missed it.
The joint I smoked fifteen minutes earlier (it must’ve been my toes that rolled it, put it in my sleepy mouth and lit it) is beginning to take effect, my eyes and ears prick with sense data, my brain is now a nervy horse flaring his nostrils. A few shadowy figures lurk in the background and hover in the squeaky cigarette-burned seats to my right and left. Something quite different unfolds itself on screen.
The dialogue is Swedish, and subtitled. As the forest scene opens two tall blond travellers have come to a sort of clearing and have collapsed on the moss. They lie quietly listening to their own breathing. The camera zooms in to a close up of tanned skin, golden chest fuzz, and the sound of heartbeats. The forest is wild and impenetrable. Eskil the vessel of God gazes at Eugen the noble. Eugen gazes back at Eskil. “Soon dawn will come, but the heat continues to hang over us like a smothering blanket” says Eugen dreamily. Round one starts with a delicate stroke around a nipple, and two fingers snailing down a polished belly of steel.
“Mmmmmm. These are like wild strawberries from the forest,” murmurs Eskil. “I have never seen such large ones. How they smell!”
They look up. A workman in the forest is watching. Hadrian the raven-haired is leaning against a tall tree. “I feel that something is going to happen to me, but I don’t know what,” he whispers to himself as we gaze up at his foreshortened chest, lips and aquiline nose.
Fifteen minutes later the scene ends with three bangs and a whimper. The strawberries have been polished off and all the cream lapped up.
The actors are superbly chiselled Nordic gods of chilly countenance. The director (I missed his name, is it Lars von Queer? Or perhaps it’s the notorious transsexual auteur Ingrid Bergdorf-Goodman) must love art, because now the lads are in a palace garden, grouped on a marble terrace under a pavilion of Ionian columns standing in a parterre of roses and yew trees. Arne the eagle and Andreas the strong have joined Eugen, Eskil and Hadrian. The five are grouped as naked statues in a Nazi Academy of Art pose d’un tableau vivant heroique. The camera circles the pavilion to strains of Schubert, and then moves in for the kill as the action gets going. Stylised arm wrestling and head holds become sweatier groping further down the virile chain of command. The sculpture has come to life, like some wobbling perpetual motion machine.
They’re like a vision of Munktell’s Swedish Steam Engine of 1853 sculpted in meat. The wet blanket of neoclassicism has been ripped aside to reveal great glistening cylinders huffing and puffing, with greased pistons pumping away at rubber gaskets. The camera surges in and rears back, the action broils as though in an oven. Now the tableau transforms into a carcass of beef on a spit tended to by adoring cooks, pounding and basting, licking and tasting. The hole where the meat had been skewered is like a tight little mouth opened in slack-jawed amazement. After another fifteen minutes of vigorous ministration balls and whistles all go off at once. The five of them whirl that smothering blanket of heat and hurl it sticky and damp right off the screen at our faces flickering in the dark. The scene fades into a lactic mist, to the heavenly lengths of poor syphilitic Schubert.
The camera pans across the broad parterre to a pair of old palatial doors. Eugen, still the beautiful and lonely nobleman, greets Eskil, now playing a delivery boy. You may imagine the clipped, quietly modulated Swedish, “ah, Eskil, arriving as you always do, when the warm melancholy evening sinks into the sadness of night.” They gaze into each other’s icy blue eyes like two cool hells yearning for heaven.
Eugen and Eskil have this 18th century chateau to themselves. It seems deserted apart from them. They walk from room to room. There is only emptiness and a quiet echo. Outside, the rain is heard roaring noisily.
The boys have wandered into a huge, taffeta walled drawing room, and set themselves down on a yellow silk covered empire chaise longue.
“Your smile is like brandy. Your eyes like blackberries.”
“And your manhood, like a great brain sausage.”
A zipper is heard grinding its gears slowly down to the ground.
“Ahhh, Eskil you are so perfect, in your perfect imperfection.”
“Why do we torture ourselves this way Eugen?” They collapse into each other’s heaving skins, chewing tongues for thirty-five seconds. The third glorious duel has begun.
And the music! This round of the action is carried on wings of song, a chamber version of Chopin’s piano prelude in B minor. Lento Assai, with clarinet, flute, cello and piano querulously warbling away. The music, interwoven with every subtly understated thrust and gobble, rises and falls in sad, sad strains. Da-de-da-de dumm, dah, de-daaah. Up, two, three. Down, two, three. The actors’ bodies sway in peachy-cream pie-in-your-face slow motion against the mustard silk taffeta. In, two, three. Out, two, three.
I can’t help giggling at such paradox, a koan of Calliope and carnality, of Erato upending Eros. Back down here in the smelly seats my nervy horse brain tells me that the guys groping away in corners are glancing at me sharply. I think they think I’m laughing at them.
Suddenly there’s a rat-tat-tat of guns, and five tall slender Swedish soldiers burst in. Birger the rescuer and Enar the warrior now accompany Andreas, Arne, and Hadrian. Eugen and Eskil unshackle their engines. Eugen rises from the chaise longue and demands, with insinuating hauteur, that the soldiers strip. The men are cocked in a Swedish standoff, the steam still rising from the muzzles of Eugen’s and Eskil’s guns. Their fate is sealed. Heat and gravity drags them all down together on the Aubusson carpet in a mad, mad whirl of manhood. They’re like seven golden seals brawling gloriously on a silk tasselled beach.
And over it all, like a troubled Baltic sky the narrator intones . . . “The hot day has become night. Singing and howling can be heard from the distant inn. In a hollow near the forest, the light still lingers. Now, a soft gleam of light strokes the hilltops, a last reflection from the red clouds over the sea. The plague is spreading along the west coast. People are dying like flies.”
There’s a final close up to the noble lips of our two heroes. “Who watches over us Eugen? Is it the angels, or God, or the Devil, or only the emptiness?“
“Oh the emptiness, the emptiness Eskil.”
Milky fountains splutter and flow.
Herre Gud, such art, such impeccable, exquisite taste! This is porn to be pondered, Cinema Perversité for the delectation of philosophers and cultured gentlemen. Could it even be possible that in a hushed, sky blue and gilt rococo recess by the back stairs of Stockholm’s Royal Palace, a certain descendant of Queen Victoria would be titillated unto his little death by this offering? If not amused?
Ahh, but it didn’t do it for me. I sit there in the sweaty gloom, fending off the darting, farting shadows, not yet exhausted enough to let my feet take me home to sleep, waiting for what comes up next. Some new offering from Ballywood? Or a sardonic Sardinian romp? Where the hell are Rusty Springstains and Don Quidique when you need them? Up on screen a didgeridoo begins droning under the tinny chords. Saliva! Australian Outback? No, just a trailer. The drums start beating. It’s Saliva! Vanuatu – Island of Fire. I settle back. A trio of good sex, coconut oil and bad music is a form of homo-pathic medicine. It will cool me down eventually.
This essay first appeared in the monthly magazine Black Lamb, which can be seen at http://www.blacklamb.org