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DIRECTED BY: Ursula Puerrer, A. Hans Scheirl, Dietmar Schipek
FEATURING: Susana Helmayr, Ursula Puerrer, A. Hans Scheirl
PLOT: Spy makes comics, but her printing press is torched by Volley, a night-club performance artist/pyromaniac who has a pet girlfriend alien named Nun; the year is 2700.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: With a plot as disjointed and intriguing as its stop-motion special effects, Flaming Ears rounds out the low-budget, lo-fi, lo-and-behold dystopian eccentriptych that began with ‘s Jubilee (1978) and continued with ‘s Liquid Sky (1982).
COMMENTS: The future belongs to the lesbians, and judging from what directors Puerrer, Scheirl, and Schipek have imagined in Flaming Ears, I wish them the best of luck. The year 2700—“the year of toads”—is dismal, dangerous, and wet. Cubo-futuristic flirtations gel with sado-punk aesthetics at the local club; flames and orgasmic grinding flicker together; and love, which does still linger in this society, gloms to the body like a horrible, cherished memory. With no money at their disposal, the directors are free to explore intimacy at odd angles, craft violence with ketchup and cardboard, and cruise through Salzburg’s ramshackle roads at night and in miniature.
The plot trail opens wide and ambiguous, as the lives of Spy, Volley, and Nun intersect in unlikely ways. When Spy’s nib explodes by her face, ink splatters and an old frenemy saunters in. Smooth, suited, and smoking, Magdalena informs Spy that the printers was burnt to the ground. By whom? Well, none other than Volley, who is introduced by a clip-clip crash into Hell, but not before she grinds one out on a handsome side-table coated in lighter fluid. Fluid falls from the ever-dark skies on to the ever-slimy streets, and also onto the ever-red-PVC-clad alien. She wanders the nights when it rains, and she wanders to an erotic art-house dance club. Out front she finds the ailing Spy, who was bounced away by the machine-gun toting bouncer. Then, things get a little less clear.
Flaming Ears is pure punk-house, so don’t worry about the plotline. While I presume that budgetary considerations forced the filmmakers into Super-8 film, its inherent graininess, baked-in contrast, and just-a-bit-off color distortion would make it my first choice for this film. Everything in 2700 sounds “more” (yet another appropriate side-effect: post-production sound), and most of that “more” sounds wet. Drips, drizzles, sprays, spurts, and squishes are all up in your ear. But this is not just an underground soaking sin-fest, it’s an educated one. Last Year at Marienbad and (I would just about swear…) Tetsuo: The Iron Man get a nod in nearly the same breath. And while the post-punk scene in early ’90s Austria may have involved a whole lot of cubo-futurism on its own, Puerrer, Scheirl, and Schipek were wise to harness its jagged incongruity.
This whole exercise is simultaneously a chin-scratcher and an eye-opener, alternating gleaming cheapness with sellotape wonderment—typically in the same scene, or even shot. It doesn’t hurt that all the leads (who make up most of the creative and production team, unsurprisingly) have decent acting chops. They’re probably helped by the fact they’re performing long-crafted personas, but I’d be unsurprised if you told me that A. Hans Scheirl was actually an alien, Ursula Puerrer was a sex-crazed pyro, and that Susana Helmayr was somehow trapped between life and death. So, scrap any expectations, embrace pretensions, and slide skate-feet-first into Flaming Ears Hell.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“A strange, surreal film that may as well have “destined for cult status” emblazoned across every frame, Flaming Ears is guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve seen before.”–Lee Jutton, Film Inquiry (re-release screening)