Llik Your Idols (2007)
By: Paul Ryan on June 14, 2009  | 
MVD (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 72 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Angelique Bosio
Screenplay: Angelique Bosio
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From 1981 to 1987, a filmmaking movement flourished out of the New York No Wave punk scene. Dubbed "The Cinema of Transgression", the movement created a number of ultra-low-budget films that were sexually and politically confrontational, often pornographic and frequently nihilistic. Made by artists, anarchists, musicians and assorted hangers-on from the scene, these films were produced as a reaction against the resurgent conservatism of the Reagan era. Today, most of these films – and their makers – remain as obscure as they were at the time of their release, something French filmmaker Angelique Bosio aims to remedy with the documentary Llik Your Idols.

Covering the movement from its origins in the music scene of the late 70s to the scene's early 90s recognition in academic circles, Llik Your Idols brings a largely ignored moment in cinema culture into clear focus. The key figures in the movement are photographer Richard Kern – a self-proclaimed voyeur, whose works include Goodbye 42nd Street and The Right Side of My Brain - avowed anarchist Nick Zedd (maker of Geek Maggot Bingo, among other titles), and musician/poet/artist Lydia Lunch, who acted in, and co-wrote many of Zedd and Kern's films. The goals and intentions of these three figures are often overlapping (all three have a desire to shock and confront), and at other times quite divergent (Zedd is the most stridently political by a mile, whilst Kern's work far is more sexually focused; Lunch's carries a constant streak of rage). We are also introduced to other figures of the scene, such as Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simmins, filmmaker Bruce LaBruce (whose work has received wider distribution in Australia than Zedd or Kern's), and performance artist Joe Coleman, whose art includes gruesome murals of serial killers and biting the heads off live mice…

The interviewees are quite candid about their work, with Lydia Lunch just as funny and incandescent as she appeared two decades earlier, whilst the contrast between the laid-back musings of Kern and the defensive, slightly paranoid political rantings of Zedd is quite stark. British writer Jack Sargeant, whose book Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression effectively codified the era, chips in regularly with insightful side commentary.

At a mere 72 minutes, Bosio successfully condenses the essence of this movement into an informative and constantly compelling piece. As severely wince inducing as some of the films look (the clit-piercing footage from Kern's The Sewing Circle being just one example), this is a film that encourages the viewer to seek out, and be acquainted with, the films of this movement.
As the films from this movement were shot on either Super 8mm film or analogue video, Llik Your Idols is presented in a 4x3 aspect ratio, though the interviews are in letterbox format. As the interviews were recorded relatively recently on digital video, those sections look perfectly fine. The film extracts are understandably quite variable, with some looking quite terrible (though that's probably how these looked to begin with) and others holding up reasonably well.
A simple, functional Dolby 2.0 track accompanies this film, and like the video, it's obviously clearer in the newer material than the clips. The soundtrack of various bands from the era is crisp and well mixed.
Extra Features
Bonus Films: Two pieces from Nick Zedd are included here. The first is 1987's Police State (18:38m, b&w). Zedd plays a kid who is harassed by a thuggish beat cop (Willoughby Sharp) for no real reason, and then dragged to a police station (which resembles a bare apartment room), where he is physically and psychologically abused by two other cops (Rockets Redglare, of Down By Law, and Flip Crowley). Having gotten an idea of Zedd's philosophy from the documentary, it's obvious where this is going very early on. The cops represent the capitalist state apparatus and its disdain for outsiders and misfits, while Zedd's kid is the non-conformist being crushed under its boot. Heavy-handed politics and overall amateurishness aside, this is still interesting as an example of the movement, and at times, quite funny. Also included is an extract from Zedd's 1992 film War is Menstrual Envy (14:14m, colour), which is an entirely different creature altogether, and quite difficult to describe. Or sit through, for that matter. More a piece of bizarre performance art than anything resembling a narrative, this features a horribly fire-scarred man in happy pants posing on a throne with a topless, blue-painted woman dressed as a nun. This is followed by a sequence of the same guy making out with 70s porn actress Annie Sprinkle (yes folks, I recognised her), who goes on to lick his scar tissue in loving close up. We see tinted images of clouds, and then the credits roll over actual footage of eye surgery. Ahem. One imagines Zedd is making statements about superficiality, conformity and so on, but its hard to see how the title relates to the - very grotesque - content. It did however, have the delayed effect of making me feel quite nauseous the day after viewing it…

Interview with Angelique Bosio (18:38m, 16x9): Presented in French, director Angelique Bosio discusses the making of the documentary – which altogether took five years – and her own interest in the Cinema of Transgression. Full of interesting little nuggets of information, this is the next best thing to a commentary track.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Functioning as both a history of, and introduction to the unique world of New York underground film, Lilk Your Idols is consistently (if at times morbidly) fascinating. While the content is definitely not for all tastes – or stomachs – the film sheds a well-deserved light on a filmmaking scene that is still largely unknown outside of certain artistic and academic circles. MVP's disc is very good, with the pair of bonus films at least adding context – if not much else – to the main feature.

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