Saturday, November 17, 2007

kinski- lifespan (1974)

Our third Kinski film is another odd one, and another one in which the Olivier of Germany's primary purpose is to lurk about at the edges of the action, glaring sinisterly at the main characters. Unlike to total non-sequiter of "Le Orme," Sandy Whitelaw's "Lifespan" (1974) gives Kinski's character more of a purpose, and the film in general sort of winds up making sense, but it's still mainly very pretty, ponderous Eurotrash, this time with a bit of kink thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, it's neither as pretty nor as ponderous as "Le Orme," but it still makes for a pretty fun ride through the mountains of madness as it follows the mind-bending adventures of a young scientist (Hiram Keller) and his search for a deceased mentor's immortality formula. Kinski plays Ulrich, who is also on the trail of the formula, and Tina Aumont is is Anna, the kinky lover they both share.

This is a distinctly, oddly international production, by an American filmmaker, made with English, American and Dutch money, and shot in Amsterdam. It was Sandy Whitelaw's debut feature as filmmaker, and though he's had a long career as a subtitler, he's only directed one other movie (1997's "Vicious Circles," with Ben Gazarra). Whitelaw co-wrote the screenplay with Judith Rascoe (who wrote the film adaptation of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," as well as "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Endless Love") and Alva Ruben (who has no other credits according to imdb). Star Hiram Keller had a fairly brief but interesting career, making his debut in "Fellini Satyricon" in 1969 and in 1973 appearing in Antonio Margheriti's "Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye" with Jane Birkin. Female lead Tina Aumont also appeared in a Fellini film ("Cassanova" in 1976- interestingly enough, she was also in an adaptation of "Satyricon," also Italian, from 1968, directed by Gian Luigi Polidoro) and was in Joseph Losey's mod-tacular "Modesty Blaise" (1966) with Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp, as well as some pretty impressive Eurosleaze numbers, including Sergio Martino's excellent "Torso" (1973), with Suzy Kendall, "The Divine Nymph" (1975), also with Terence Stamp, Tinto Brass' nazploitation epic "Salon Kitty" (1976), with Helmut Berger and one of my favorite character actors, John Ireland, the unfortunately titled "Holocaust 2" (1980) (itself something of a lower-rent knock off of "Salon Kitty") and Jean Rollin's "Two Orphan Vampires" (1997), with Brigitte Lahaie. She also appeared in "Man, His Pride & Vengeance," by "Le Orme" filmmaker Luigi Bazzoni, also with Kinski.

The musical score, interestingly enough, is one of very few composed by minimalist and electronic pioneer Terry Riley.

In the end, "Lifespan" is a modest cinematic challenge, and only a nominally rewarding one, yet it is quite intelligent and at times the visuals are fairly striking. The characterization is a bit problematic, and as the lead, Keller isn't especially compelling or all that likable. Still, "Lifespan" has some charm and the ideas it presents about immortality and the quest for immortality are interesting and still prescient today. Kinski, as usual, has very little to do, though he's more integral to the plot here than he was in "Le Orme" or "Circus of Fear," and he has one funny sex scene, performed in a mask from a Nazi production of "Faust." After being interrupted by a phone call, Kinski exasperatedly exclaims to Aumont, "Now I've lost my concentration!" It's genuinely kind of goofy and funny, which is welcomed because the rest of the film is a bit dry and self-serious (and if you like voice over narration, man, you're in for a treat with this one). In all, I can think of worse ways of spending just under 90 minutes than watching "Lifespan," but given that the world is such a horrible place full of violence and despair, that's not really saying much. But watch it anyway, or don't.

Up next, Kirby's "Kamandi" and, most likely, more perplexing, decadent European Kinski films from the 1970s...

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