The Punk and the Poet
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 02/18/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Like they did with Population: 1, Cult Epics again releases an obscure little gem from the early days of punk rock and experimental film. The focus here is on the infamous Punk Rock Poet known as Lydia Lunch, who co-wrote, acted in, and co-directed the title short film, "Kiss Napoleon Goodbye."
With a running time of about thirty-five minutes, "Kiss Napoleon Goodbye" can't really be called a feature film, but there is a story here. A couple having relationship issues decide to seclude themselves away in an old plantation house away from the city. The house is rumored to have once belonged to the King of Netherlands, and has a bad history attached to it. Hedda (Lydia Lunch) is feeling sexually separated from Neal (Don Bajema), who is overcome with jealousy. The two seem to be getting along better, when at the worst possible moment Jackson (Henry Rollins from Black Flag) comes knocking at the door. Jackson is Hedda's old lover, and she invites him in to stay at the home, inflaming Neal's jealousy. Neal's feelings are not entirely unfounded, as Hedda begins to parade around in skimpier and skimpier outfits, drawing closer to Jackson and the sexual heat he exudes. The story comes to a climax when Jackson has sex with Hedda on the living room couch, while Neal listens upstairs and masturbates.
Interspersed with the main story are seemingly unconnected scenes of pairs of lovers in period costumes, which I took to be other couples who have had their relationships destroyed by the curse of the house over the years. I could be wrong about this though.
A distinctly amateur production, "Kiss Napoleon Goodbye" falls under the same kind of do-it-yourself ethic that was part of the punk credo. It seems like the product of a bunch of creative people who got together for a weekend to have sex and make art, and this is the product. As a movie, it works well, although much of the appeal comes from the charisma of Lunch and Rollins. The same film with a couple of unknowns would not have nearly the same impact. The film is actually in color, which was a surprise. I thought it was black-and-white because of the cover. Even with the themes, there is not a lot of nudity here except for the sex scene with Lunch and Rollins, and some of the passionate historical couples.
Longer than the title feature itself is "Paradoxia and A Predator's Diary," a 51-minute documentary on Lydia Lunch that puts together clips of her live spoken word performances and interviews with Lunch and others. Really, this should be the main feature rather than listed as a "bonus," and was a fascinating documentary. I don't personally agree with Lunch's take on the world, although I recognize that nihilism and cynicism from my own punk rock days in the 80s. Her feelings just seem a little bit old-fashioned, like the world has moved on since then. One cannot deny her power as a performer and her influence, however.
Also included in "It's a Man's World," which is a 5-minute bootleg film of one of Lunch's early spoken word performances. Grainy and short, it is still a nice little piece of captured history.
"Kiss Napoleon Goodbye" is definitely not going to be for everyone. If you are a fan of punk-infused independent filmmakers, like Richard Kern (Hardcore Collection, which also features Lunch and Rollings), then you will get more out of this. Anyone interested in spoken word or slam poetry will appreciate the documentaries and Lunch's performance more than the film itself.