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Thursday, September 01, 2005


"...mmmmmm. Delicious"

I got home from work and decided to just chill out and watch one of my favorite movies of which there are many. However, Nicolas Roeg and John Boskovichs' adaptation of Sandy Bernhard's fantastic Broadway Show, WITHOUT YOU I'M NOTHING, never ceases to amaze me. Certainly, Ms. Bernhard had a strong hand in this adaptation or 'reinvention' of the show to the medium of film --- but it does have "the feel" of something which Nicolas Roeg would be involved.

Where the play was so funny, the film is just strange and full of what I can only define as a sort of self-contempt held by Bernhard. Her obsessions with pop culture and fantasies which revolve around that are turned inside out by her desire to celebrate her "outsider" status -- and, yet, a sense of somehow being embarassed by her Jewish heritage and wishing she were more connected to African Americans. Throughout the film we follow a beautiful young woman of color as she does the mundane which Bernhard mimics on a shabby night club stage filled with a disinterested black audience which appears at various times thru the film to either be bored, annoyed or confused by what Bernhard is doing on the stage. No one laughs at her jokes. No one claps. And, in the final scene which was so celebratory on stage --- Sandy Bernhard strips and dances to "Little Red Corvette" by Prince. ...to an empty nightclub save for one audience member --- the young woman who we have followed throughout the movie.

The sounds of Prince fades away to be replaced by a dramatic swelling of orchestrated music. The beautiful young woman who seems to be all that Bernhard wants to be is writing something on the table with her lipstick. Bernhard watches, naked, from the barren stage as this woman walks out of the night club. ...and, then the camera reveals that the woman has scrawled, "Fuck Sandra Bernhard" --- and, with that, the film ends. Odd and unforgetable.

As with everything Bernhard does in performance, stand-up, music and writing you're left wondering what exactly she was getting at. I think part of her charm is that you never quite know if she's joking or trying to say something she feels is important. You sometimes wonder if she is making fun of you --- or herself and her own compulstions and confusions. Are her rants real? Does she love Sylvester, Nina Simone, Madonna, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Andy Warhol, Jodie Foster, Patti Smith or any of the fashion designers of whom she speaks? Or does she hate them. Is she jealous or annoyed? All lines get blurry and you never quite know where she might take you next. And, why would she opt to make a film in which she performs for an audience who dislikes her? And, why end it all so strange? Why was the stripping which was a celebration of her sexuality and dedication to believing that she is hot no matter what the conventions of society dictate turned into something pathetic and strange?

Who knows? But, I love it.

The film was a major bomb and did more harm than good to her career, but it stands up well with time. And, where else can you see Sandra Bernhard and John Doe scat to an old country song? Or see her dressed in full over-the-top African attire performing Nina Simone's "Four Women" ??!!?? ...only in this film.

When I saw this movie at the Midnight Show in Beaumont, TX I left the cinema quite frustrated. Now, I watch it and I just love it. As all things "Sandy Bernhard" --- it is cool. Like her gardener once asked her and inspired the title of her most recent book, "May I kiss you on the lips, Miss Sandra?"

CORRECTION!!!! As I was riding the train into work this morning it struck me that I had made an error in this post and in my thinking. Bernhard did not strip in the original run of her B'Way show from which this film was created. I was confusing her infamous Playboy spread and racy cable special where she first revealed an interest in showing her body. The magazine pix and the special came out around the same time as the film. Just thought I would mention that. However, the ending of the film still puzzles me.


Blogger Jon said...

Sandra has got to stop stalking me- I know she lives in the West Village, and I've seen her too many times with her partner and child. I mean, if she wants my autograph, all she has to do is ask ^_^

3:49 AM  
Blogger Underling said...

I have got to see this movie now. Just added it and bumped it to the top of my netflix queue.

3:44 PM  
Blogger matty said...

Jon -- No! Just give her a hug. That's all she wants out of life! And, really -- isn't all any of us really want?

Underling -- I hope you like it. I HATED it when I first saw it. However, for me, it seems to have aged like a sort of fine wine. ...but more than a little sour.

10:34 PM  
Blogger matty said...

...or would that be 'bitter'?

10:35 PM  
Blogger joe said...

hmmmmmm... do I'm not sure I want to see this. or do I? or maybe I've already seen it. it does sound familiar.

7:47 PM  

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