Monday, August 11, 2008

Café Flesh (Rinse Dream, 1982)

The temptation to awkwardly provoke your genitals with nonsensical grabbing and hapless taunts will no doubt cross your feeble thought-making machine as you savour the salacious splendour that is Café Flesh, a poetic slab of high end erotica for the post-nuke crowd. I, on the other hand, am not you, I'm me, and had no problem neglecting my usual indecent inclinations as I took in Rinse Dream's gleaming lump of salivating bawdiness. You see, the story is crafted in such a way, that there are times when you can't wait for the sex to end. And while that may sound like the kind of kooky-talk that would have gotten you killed in my parents' kitchen back in the day (my mother was a staunch supporter of consensual copulation during my days as a peppy young person), it's absolutely true. The scenes that didn't feature Sex Positives invading each others personal space weren't as involving as the film's astute narrative. Sure, the scene where a guy dressed as a house painting rat milkman plunders the fleshy confines of his a leggy housewife with his tail and whiskered snout, as three bone-wielding babies look on from the relative safety of their highchairs, was as perplexing as cinematic liquid exchanges get. But in terms of sci-fi pornography set in a post-apocalyptic netherworld, you can't anymore cerebral than this. And believe me, I've looked long and extremely hard.

Unfolding, like I said, in a post-apocalyptic netherworld, Café Flesh takes place in a universe where 99% of the population are considered Sex Negatives - people who are unable to engage in the physical act of love (they become sick if they even try touching another human being). The radioactive dust from a recent nuclear war has rendered them sexually inert, so in response to this inconvenience, the Sex Negatives force the Sex Positives (the 1% left unaffected by the fallout) to perform bizarre, surrealistic sex acts for their amusement.

These acts are performed in a smoky nightclub setting, complete with a sarcastic M.C., elaborate sets, props, and external oozing. The meat of story, however, involves two Sex Negatives named Nick (a delightful Paul McGibboney) and Lana (Michelle Bauer), and their struggle to cope with the whole "no sex" thing. You see, Nick's grown tired of the sex watching scene, and Lana, well, she just wants to be able to rub up against someone without vomiting.

A well-hung cornucopia of contorted Cold War cunnilingus and strident straddling, writer-director Stephen Sayadian (Rinse Dream), along with director/storyboard artist Mark S. Esposito, writer Jerry Stahl (a.k.a. Herbert W. Day), costume designer Polly Ester (Party Doll A Go-Go!), cinematographer Francis Delia (F.X. Pope) and camera operator Fred Gonk, have made a film that the will satisfy the needs of the unwashed raincoat crowd, nihilistic weirdos with a penchant for black nylons, and anti-social conservatives.

The way it balanced that fine line between sleaziness and stylishness was like watching a tasteful ballet in crotchless panties. I mean, the guy with the giant pencil for a head may have soiled the garter belt of a shapely co-worker on a desk in front of an oil field backdrop, but at least he practiced his technique beforehand with a strenuous flurry of perfectly timed dry humps and herky-jerky dance moves. I'm surprised his pelvic rhythm wasn't compromised by his naked secretary, who kept asking him if he wanted her to type a memo. In addition, it didn't hurt that the film's imaginative production design (Paul Berthell), I loved the use of zebra-print furniture, and smooth camera work were top-notch in terms of creativity .

"Do you want me to type a memo?"

The cast is uniformly brilliant. Yeah, that's right, they're all brilliant. I'm sure a statement like that might shock some people, but I'm serious, the acting is quite excellent. Hell, even the extras brought their 'A' game. (I loved the way the editor would periodically cut to the Negatives sitting in the crowd, revealing a first-rate mélange of new wave faces.) The loquacious Andy Nichols (Night of the Living Babes) gives an amazing performance as Max Melodramatic, the grudge-filled, sardonic M.C. at Café Flesh. A Sex Negative with a healthy sense of fun, Andy spews out the film's warped and extremely wordy dialogue with a nonchalant ease.

The multi-talented Michelle Bauer (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), credited here as "Pia Snow," is tantalizingly naughty as the Lana, a Sex Negative with a secret. Watching her slowly come to grips with own sex positivity was a hypnotic spectacle. I found Miss Bauer's masturbation/revelation scene, and, not to mention, her empowering march towards lust fulfillment, to be two of the most emotionally draining scenes I have ever seen. The self-love scene in particular is helped greatly by its use of eerie synthesizers and strange droning sounds (the score was composed by Mitchell Froom, who also did the music for Dr. Caligari).

A menacing Dennis Edwards (The Little Mermaid) gives good creepy as a determined Enforcer (black clad goons who hunt Sex Positives); a broad-armed Paul McGibboney is terrific as the tortured Nick; a wide-eyed Marie Sharp is the embodiment of Wyoming-bred naivete; and Tantala Ray (Suburban Satanist) reminded me of Annie Sprinkle in the role of Moms, the bird-loving proprietor of Café Flesh, or as she calls herself: "The June Taylor of the Nuclear Set."

Oh, and, call me wrongheaded if you must, but the sight of dispossessed clumps of irregular lotion languishing amidst thick, lustrous fields of jet black short and curlies made my spirit soar like an alabaster butterfly flying in-between intricate rows of barbed wire. Just thought I'd put that out there.



  1. You forgot the Actor in the roll of Nick, Paul McGibboney.

  2. Hmmm, I thought I did an okay job praising the cast as an ensemble. But you're right, Mr. McGibboney should have been singled out. I mean, he does do most of the film's heavy lifting drama-wise. His character is the conscious of the piece. And after all, he was Mom's favourite.

    Plus, I enjoyed Nick's scenes with the Spike character.

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  4. Great piece.

    Sayadian's work does have an anti-erotic aspect. Greg Dark picked up the baton and ran with it a few years later.

    I listen to the film's score often in the car.

  5. this is the other best film ever.

  6. "[A] guy dressed as a house painting rat plunders the fleshy confines of his leggy wife with his tail and whiskered snout ... "? No, you've got that all wrong. Watch that scene again. The rat is the milkman, and it's not HIS wife, it's someone else's wife -- she is a bored housewife stuck at home with three kids. Fortunately for her, the milkman shows up to deliver a pint of cream.

  7. She is leggy. At least I got that part right. ;)

  8. She's not just leggy, she's succulent.

    That's the first action scene of the movie, and by the time she's been done-to, I usually don't ... um ... need to ... watch any more of the movie. So I've seen that scene about ten times more than the rest of the movie.