Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Loveless (1981)

Given that they have countless options at their disposal to convey to others that they're not a bunch of squares, I was repeatedly surprised that the characters in The Loveless weren't constantly collapsing under the sheer weight of their own coolness. And I'm not just saying this because they're wearing leather jackets in Georgia... in the summertime (the hottest weather I've ever experienced was in Georgia). These cats have the market on coolness cornered, and no small town is going to cramp/undermine their style. Whether they're lighting a cigarette or dragging a comb through their greasy hair, everything they do has the potential give off an air of cool. In a way, I kind of feel sorry for those saddled with the task of being cool nowadays. I know, nothing's technically been cool since at least 1985, okay, maybe 1986, but that doesn't stop people from trying. I see them all the time. Why, just the other day, I was watching this guy on the bus stare at his state-of-the-art smartphone, looking away only to take the occasional sip from his corporate latte. I'm afraid to say it, this pathetic display was the furthest thing from cool. I'd even go as far as to say that this guy practically oozed lameness.


Now, I'm not saying smoking cigarettes and drinking vending machine Coca-Cola from glass bottles is cooler than what the guy on the bus was doing, but... Wait a minute, that's exactly what I'm saying.


Of course, all this talk about cool might sound a tad strange coming from someone who's supposedly not the biggest fan of the 1950s aesthetic. But I do have a soft spot for the greaser lifestyle. If you don't believe me, I have three torn ticket stubs from the thirtieth anniversary re-release of Grease to prove it. And the soundtrack album... and the remastered VHS and a poster.


However, whereas Grease is a light-hearted romp filled with mirth and shit like that, The Loveless is a dead serious slice of greaser angst served up in a stark and straight-forward manner. That's right, I said, "greaser angst," daddy-o. You got a problem with that?
  


Propelled by a rockin' soundtrack (Eddy Dixon's "Relentless" is the bee's knees) and a star-making turn by a fresh-faced Willem Dafoe (To Live and Die in L.A.), the film may be short and sweet, but it nails the look, feel and attitude of the era.


Granted, the film, written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery, is a tad slow in places. However, you gotta love a film where Willem Dafoe's drives his Harley-Davidson along Route 17 while narrating lines like, "I was ragged... way beyond torn up." and "The endless blacktop is my sweet eternity."
  


Fresh out of storage (meaning, fresh out of prison), Vance (Willem Dafoe) is the coolest motherfucker currently living on planet earth. He knows it, his biker pals know it... Hell, even the squares who desperately want to destroy his way of life know it.


When we first meet Vance, he's driving on his beloved blacktop. While helping an ultra-smoking hot milf (Jane Berman) change the tire on her T-Bird, we learn that Vance doesn't do a whole lot. Oh, sure, he can change a flat tire in the Georgia heat dressed head-to-toe in leather in a few seconds flat, but he's not interested in staying in the same place for very long.


After waiting longer than usual to be served at a nearby diner, Vance asks Augusta (Elizabeth Gans), the sexiest waitress in all of south-east Georgia, using his most derisive tone, "People live here"? I half-expected her to shoot back at him, "What are you rebelling against"? But she doesn't. She just says something about her dead husband.


Since it would be insane for someone who looks like Vance to travel through 1950s Georgia all by himself, he's brought along a few friends. They're not with him at the moment, but they should be cruising on by any minute now. In the meantime, Vance enjoys his coffee and eggs.


Okay, here come some of them now. My first impression of Davis (Robert Gordon) was, Dave Gahan circa Speak and Spell called, he wants his look back. As for La Ville (Lawrence Matarese), his sideburns looked like hockey sticks.


On the other end of the spectrum, Debbie (Tina L'Hotsky), or, I should say, "Sportster Debbie," who rides on the back of Davis' Harley, is the gold standard when it comes to biker chicks. Tough yet elegant, the feisty blonde doesn't take no crap from anyone. Not that the people in this wretched armpit of a town would dare give her any... crap.


If you must know, the reason they're spending so much time in this place is because one of their bikes needs fixing. However, as you can clearly see, all their bikes seem to be running fine. The bike that needs repairing actually belongs to Buck (Ken Call), and wouldn't you know it, here he comes now (his broken bike is on the back of a truck).


Oh my God. Who is that riding with Buck? I think I'm in love. He's so pretty. Am I crazy, or Ricky the most beautiful man who has ever lived? I know, my taste in men can be somewhat, oh. let's say, off-kilter (Roger Watkins in Last House on Dead End Street is my ideal man). But seeing Ricky, his leather cap tilted to perfection, for the first time sent my brain into a homoerotic tailspin. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I was unable to get out of this tailspin. In other words, I remained enamored with Ricky for the duration of the movie.


Played by Danny Rosen (Downtown 81), Ricky is not only cooler than Davis, La Ville and Buck, he gives Vance a run for his money. Seriously, everything about him is cool. Everything from the way he walked (a snotty shuffle) to the way he talked (he reads aloud from the classifieds at one point) churned my butter in the right direction.


This might sound a little gay, but if I saw him dancing to "The Anvil" by Visage, at The Hellfire Club (in New York City's Meatpacking District), I would wait until the song was over, approach him, in a non-threatening manner, of course, and ask him if he would like go shopping for leather pants in the East Village.


What? You didn't think I was going ask him to let me tug on his cock, did you? I'm not a total slut.


While the boys and Debbie hang out at Johnny's Garage (and play some weird knife-throwing game), Vance picks up some teenage hellion in a red Corvette. Or did the teenage hellion pick up Vance? Either way, Vance takes Telena (Marin Kanter, Ladies and Gentlemen - The Fabulous Stains) for a ride. And by "ride," I mean, a ride in her Corvette and sexual intercourse at a local motel (it's a double entendre). They also pick up two cases of Dixie and four bottles of Thunderbird for his pals.


The exchange between Vance and Telena that leads to their ride together highlights the reason I dug this movie so much. Vance: "What does a bum have to do to drive this thing? Telena: "Turn the key."


Maybe Vance is cooler than Ricky. I mean, I doubt Ricky could have pulled that off, bagging Telena the way he does. But then again, I don't think Ricky is all that interested in women. If you know what I mean. What I mean is, I think he prefers to fuck men... in the ass. *fingers crossed*


The movie, while not as gay as I've made it out to be, tries to hetero things up a bit by having Augusta do a sexy lingerie dance at a local dive bar. As you might expect, all I could think about as I watched the seams on the backs of Augusta's stockings shimmer in the sleazy glow of the bar's neon lights, was Ricky. Don't get me wrong, I loved Augusta's routine, it's just that Ricky cast a spell on me.
  



As far as pacing goes, The Loveless could have, well, picked up the pace in places (there are huge chunks were nothing really happens). However, you're not going to see a more gorgeous film. Everything, from the props to the clothes, to the hair and the music was spot-on in terms of authenticity. Of course, given that the film is a hyper-stylized take on the 1950s aesthetic, some might dismiss it as wankery. I, on the other hand, ate up every inch of this film's shaft-like housing with gusto.
  



Oh, and I'm no math whiz, but if Monty Montgomery (who played "The Cowboy" in Mulholland Drive) was born in 1963... that means he was 17 years-old when he produced, co-wrote and co-directed this movie. That can't be right, can it?

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