Jonas Mekas praised BRAND X 1970 as "propaganda for a policy of joy and disorder". In the meantime, the film by painter and writer Wynn Chamberlain from the late 1960s can be experienced again - and with it its refreshing humor, counter-cultural character and its political-satirical fire. After successful screenings across America during the early 1970s, the only copy of the film was long lost and only reappeared on the production company's premises under mysterious circumstances almost 40 years later. Underground superstar Taylor Mead is in the anarchic-episodic work on the nullity and limitless commercialization of the television program of those daysTo be seen in various roles at the height of his witty exuberance - as a fitness coach, preacher and as President of the USA. At Mead's side, an ensemble of great Warhol stars (including Ultra Violet , Candy Darling and Tally Brown ) shines as well as other well-known personalities and actors of the anti-establishment movement at the time, such as Sally Kirkland , Sam Shepard and Abbie Hoffman . (Marc Siegel)
A realistic American comedy
BRAND X, planned and shot between 1968 and spring 1970, takes the relatively undemanding television program of that time as the basis for debunking and ridiculing the political situation and taboos of that era. Brand X is subversive: the film undermines and deconstructs the television program in such a way that one begins to seriously doubt its seriousness.
When you see BRAND X today, forty years after it was made, you should remember that Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy had been murdered six months before the film started and that Richard Nixongerade das Amt des Präsidenten der Vereinigten Staaten übernommen hatte. Zwei Wochen vor der New Yorker Premiere des Films feuerte die Nationalgarde in Ohio in 13 Sekunden 67 Salven in eine Gruppe unbewaffneter Studenten, die gegen den Einmarsch amerikanischer Truppen in Kambodscha protestierten. Vier Studenten wurden getötet, neun blieben für den Rest ihres Lebens gelähmt, unzählige wurden verletzt. Diese Umstände führen zu einer interessanten Frage. Eine Aufführung des Films im New Yorker New Museum am 9. April 2011 war von Zuschauern besucht, die noch nicht einmal geboren waren, als BRAND X 1970 seine Premiere hatte. Worüber lachten sie dann aber eigentlich? Die Themen und Personen, die in dem Film verspottet werden – einschließlich Präsident Nixon und seiner Frau –, sind schon lange in Vergessenheit geraten. Oder doch nicht? Wirken die Fragen, mit denen der Film sich auseinandersetzt, altmodisch? Oder sehen wir hier etwas, was jenseits von Aktualität eine Gültigkeit hat, etwas zwangsläufig Lächerliches über das Leben, über menschliche Wünsche und Bedürfnisse, das den Lauf der Zeit überdauert hat?
From a historical point of view, the years 1968/69 were a catastrophic period - so terrible that the exiled artist and author Lil Picard, who had survived the German catastrophe of the 1930s, wrote about this epoch in an article in the magazine inter / View with the the last days of the Weimar Republic before Hitler and his gang of criminals took power. In this text, it recalls a poem by the dramatist Bertolt Brecht, dessen erste Zeile lautet: „Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten.“ In einer Rezension über BRAND X, die Picard 1970 schrieb, heißt es: „Es ist möglich, das dieser Film einmal als eine Art Brecht’scher Komödie über unsere Zeit betrachtet werden wird, als eine prophetische Metapher für alles, was wir bald in Amerika erleben werden.“
That's exactly what happened. Just as tolerance and freedom of the Weimar Republic enabled the rise of the Nazis, Woodstock , the political antics of the " Chicago Seven ", the " Black Panthers " and countless other revolutionary groups emerged from the longing for freedom and justice in the United States all of which were overwhelmed by a reactionary movement that started with Nixon, was continued in a moderate form by Gerald Ford , and was celebrated by Ronald Reagan , and eventually under George and George W. Bushin unprecedented attacks on the United States Constitution and its institutions, from which the country may never recover. Still, people laugh at BRAND X. Why do we laugh with Charlie Chaplin about the prophetically anticipated misery of mass production and the stupidity of assembly line work in his great subversive film Modern Times ? Why are we laughing at Taylor Mead's exhausted gestures, at his gorgeous, sharp joke? Why do we laugh when people drop like the Marx Brothers or Ultra Violet? Neither Chaplin nor Mead are joking, but everyone thinks they're funny. Why?
Fun, fun, joke, joke, joker - all of these terms also contain their reflection, the opposite: the struggle against all odds, the struggle against destiny. When people spend their lives ignoring everything other than their personal desires, just focusing on their “careers” and accumulating more wealth than they'll ever need - and then losing everything in a few weeks, that's ridiculous or tragic?
How massive does such a case have to be - loss of power, loss of face, loss of war because the rulers overestimate themselves - and how long does it take until one day it is no longer laughable? You can laugh at the empty words of the powerful, who call themselves the leaders of the world. Her mockery in BRAND X makes you breathe a sigh of relief that someone has finally dared to do this. However, laughing at the voodoo magic of powerful monsters can be dangerous: performances of BRAND X were prevented and boycotted because this film was one of the first to take this approach.
Tribute to Voltaire and Jarry
Against this background, the laughter that this film triggers could be compared to the garlic garlands that people hung on their front doors in the Middle Ages to keep tyrants, witches and wizards and their allies away from fate and misery. The sentence is written by the American writer Mark Twain : "The human race has only one effective weapon: laughter."
In BRAND X, more subtle thinkers can discover a quiet tribute to Voltaire: "God is a comedian who plays in front of an audience that is too scary to laugh. ”And Abbie Hoffman's performance greets the first Dadaist Alfred Jarry, whose play King Ubu was performed in early 1896 in Café Voltaire in Zurich, where Dadaismarose.
In BRAND X there are many allusions to the “ Absurde Theater ” and to Ronald Tavel , to the ideas and works of Tristan Tzara , Raoul Hausmann , Rose Selavy and Marcel Duchamp ; The latter was a huge fan of Taylor Mead and watched many screenings of BRAND X when the film was shown at the Elgin Theater in New York. The “cut-up” method , which goes back to Gertrude Stein and was further developed by Brion Gysin , shapes the visual design of the film. Various jazz and cinema quotes in it build a bridge to filmmakers like Fellini ,Ron Rice , Godard and Jack Smith , whose films have often been screened in Jonas Mekas ' cinematheque. All of these design elements, which the actors were very aware of, worked together invisibly and made BRAND X what the film is today: an American realistic comedy. At a screening of the film, a viewer triumphantly exclaimed at the end of Taylor Mead's interpretation of the evening's television sermon: ￼￼ "BRAND X is timeless." - Wynn Chamberlain (source: Berlinale catalog )
MitwirkendeTaylor Mead, Sally Kirkland, Ultra Violet, Frank Cavestani, Tally Brown, Abbie Hoffman, Candy Darling, Carlos Anduze, Joy Bang, Serge Bouterline, Madalyn Lloyd, Jim Maya, Sam Shepard, Sam Ridge, Jim Huff, John Long, Susannah Baumgart