Reviews

Stick It In Your Ear (1970)

Is this it? Yes. This is it.

No matter who you are, there are moments in life when all sense of direction disappears. These moments may originate with tragedy, or simply materialize without rationale. When it hits, you don’t know where to go or what comes next. You don’t care. You just exist. Frozen. Wandering. Morose. Until the feeling ends. Or begins. Or ends to begin again.

Welcome to the Nouvelle Gauche. Welcome to Stick It in Your Ear.

David wakes up on the grounds of a deserted church. Is it a dream? An hallucination? Nope. This is the real world. And David has amnesia. Discovering a phone number in his pocket, he hits the Boston streets and partakes of gentle countercultural debauchery. We observe. There are threesomes, drug-ins, fistfights, and Vietnam flashbacks. There are riverboat drifts and strolls through barren fields. Nudity is as prevalent as the sense of impending self-destruction. Eventually, David meets up with a suspicious adult filmmaker, one who refers to his own work as, “Part of a whole new cinema wave — the Nouvelle Gauche!” Homeless, broke, and high, David agrees to put his ‘Nam vet traumas to work as an assassin for the producer. Whoops.

Stick It In Your Ear ignores hierarchy. Softcore sex, self-absorbed “statements,” and random cinematic in-jokes joyfully fight for the upper hand, while everyone looks as if they haven’t showered in days. It’s here, within this smelly, abstract void, that the film loses all sense of self. And stays there. Just like its protagonist. Frozen. Wandering. Morose. Exquisite.

If Stick It were a conventional sexploitation film, there would be no incentive for discussion. But this one is special, in the same sense that Doris Wishman’s Indecent Desires is special. Beneath the ingrained weirdness lies a creative electricity, totally removed from conscious reality, yet indebted to conscious reality in terms of how it documents what it sees. Where Psychopathia Sexualis provided a brief taste of what might happen if Bruce Baillie’s On Sundays swapped spit with Michael and Roberta Findlay, Stick It goes all the way. Clothes are off. Sheets are strewn. Sweat flows.

Stick It never kowtows to its audience. Or its genre. There’s no way to predict where it’ll go next; there’s no context to keep it grounded and no real plot. It’s the dubbing from Doris Wishman’s Nagra tapedeck, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm-esque incidentals, and sound-collage constructions that ensures continual fascination. At the same time, the final impression is nothing like the one left by distant cousin Last House on Dead End Street, which makes me hate the world. Stick It takes all of the ambient doom and celluloid perversion and makes it fun. Heavy at times, but always fun. You can feel it in the hilariously overwrought post-dubbed sex-moans, the snarky political asides, and the general sense that this is simply a shit-grinned “fuck you” to anyone lucky enough to watch. So when we end up in a cemetery, camera spinning, pondering the aftermath of a double murder and a necro-boob grab, the affectivity isn’t defeatist. It’s cynically satisfying. Stick It in Your Ear serves as a touchstone for a set of unorthodox exploitation ideals that were explored many, many times, but rarely consummated as a whole. This is the one.

Let the Nouvelle Gauche begin.

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