Sunday, April 23, 2017

Kamikaze 1989 (Wolf Gremm, 1982)

Damn, it's cold! Who knew the winters (hell, the springs, too) in Canada could be so chilly? Speaking of which, whose bright idea was it to continue removing my arm hair throughout the winter months? Brrrr. What's that? Yeah,  dysphoria is a real thing and it doesn't simply go away once it starts getting colder. I know, I could just put on a sweater... Wait a minute, if I had a leopard print blazer like the one Rainer Werner Fassbinder sports as Polizeileutnant Jansen in Kamikaze 1989, that would solve all my problems. What I mean is, if I owned a leopard print blazer, I could express myself through fashion and remain warm at the same time. Win-win. Anyway, this West German film, based on the book, Murder on the Thirty-first Floor by Per Wahlöö, about a 50-something detective working in a grim yet stylish totalitarian state is a... Huh? You're telling me Rainer Werner Fassbinder isn't 50-something. He was actually 37 when he shot this? Really? Wow, kudos to the makeup department for making Fassbinder look so much older than he really is. You say he's not wearing makeup? Hmm. Well, let that be a lesson for all you kids out there. If you continue to smoke and drink booze to excess, you'll end up looking like Rainer Werner Fassbinder does in this movie. Don't get me wrong, the movie is a visual/audio feast to behold, it's just that Fassbinder doesn't look so good. It's true, he would die soon after filming this Wolf Gremm-directed movie. But still. It's a stark reminder to take better care of yourself.

When Polizeileutnant Jansen tells Anton (Günther Kaufmann), a fellow detective, to: "Refrain from unnecessary remarks" for the very first time during the first of their many conversations, I thought: Huh, that's a nicest way I've ever heard to tell someone to shut the fuck up. When he instructs others to "Refrain from unnecessary comments" and "Refrain from unnecessary questions," I thought: I love this guy. Sure, his scraggly beard was mildly triggering. But as far as being an onscreen detective goes, I dig Jansen's style.

In his defense, he does make a, if feeble, attempt to trim his scraggly beard at one point.

Nevertheless, telling people to refrain from using extraneous phrases while saying words out loud while wearing a leopard print jacket and leopard print trousers is, you have to admit, pretty bad-ass.

Did I mention that the handle of his snub-nosed revolver is leopard print as well? Yeah, well, it totally is.

It should be noted though that Jansen's kooky blazer game isn't limited to the gruff detective. No, it would seem that the entire country of Germany, which has apparently unified in 1989, has gone kooky blazer mad.

In fact, I don't think I spotted a single drab, ho-hum or bland blazer during the entire film's running time.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the film's wardrobe department didn't plunder the wardrobe of The Apple, as a lot of the outfits worn throughout Kamikaze '89 had a distinct disco science fiction vibe/stench about them. And, as you know, The Apple was shot in West Germany, well, West Berlin. Which makes my theory even more plausible.

Actually, if I had to compare Kamikaze '89 to just two movies, I would have to say, The Apple and Blade Runner are the two that spring to mind immediately. Yes, there's some A Clockwork Orange sprinkled here and there as well. But the tone and look are purely The Apple and Blade Runner. Which, of course, is a good thing.

A hard-boiled detective story set in a garish cyberpunk universe, Kamikaze '89 will have retro futurism enthusiasts scrambling to suck on their inhalers. Granted, the story itself is a tad convoluted. In other words: Refrain from unnecessary complexities.

Let's see, the plot involves a plot to blow up the head quarters that belong to a ruthless tyrannical entity known simply as "The Combine." Brought in to help solve this mystery is Polizeileutnant Jansen, a cop who is considered to be the best in the business. Sure, he's a little rough around the edges, but if there's anyone who can penetrate the shadowy confines of The Combine, it's Jansen.

Of course, the further he penetrates these confines, the more confusing things become. While the confusion that inevitably comes might be a turn off, the film is never not interesting to look at. Nor is it never not interesting to listen to, as the soundtrack by Edgar Froese is a synth-lovers dream.

Along with top-notch production values, a fascinating lead performance by Fassbinder... Wait... Fascinating? Fassbinder? That was totally not on purpose. Ugh. Where was I? Oh, yeah. The film looks and sounds amazing. Highly recommended.

(What about those gender non-specific assassins?) Yes. Thanks for reminding me. Yeah, these assassins try to rub out our unhealthy-looking hero at one point and they do so while wearing ski-masks and stockings.

Well, one is wearing black fully-fashioned stockings, and the other is wearing what looks like black fishnet pantyhose. I can't believe I almost forgot to mention that scene. I'd go as far as to say it alone makes this film worth watching. But like I said in the above paragraphs, there's so much to savor in this film.


  1. I had to watch this last night after seeing it was on Amazon Prime. It's hard to follow a plot when most of the major events happen off screen. Seriously, who did he save in the end and why did they still die??

    1. I was obviously too distracted to follow what was going on.