Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cafe Flesh, 1982

This review is a little delayed but since the show did an adult feature I thought I would dip by toe into the murky waters of adult video. But rather than some random spunk fest, I have gone for the self proclaimed cult move 'Cafe Flesh'.

I don't know why, perhaps it's my driving lust for rock n' roll but 'Cafe Flesh' really reminds me of the band Killing Joke. Lurid, weird and slightly out of sync; welded onto post-punk aesthetic dreamed up in the Cold War shadows of the 1980s. Mix these sensibilities with art house erotica and pornography as performance art and you have the film 'Cafe Flesh'.

I am by no means an expert or even viewer of pornographic feature films from the 1980s but 'Cafe Flesh' really feels like something different than say 'Spunk In Jenny II'. Whilst not perfect, it's an interesting meld of skin flick and art house statement. It was also a genuine Midnight Movie, playing in late night slots throughout the 1980s in Europe as well as the US. Though it gained a larger audience mainly through a R-rated version.

The plot concerns a future where society is divided into two camps, Sex Negatives and Sex Positives. Due to nuclear shit going down, most of the population are Sex Negative, meaning that when they try to copulate they vomit big style. By law, the Sex Positives fuck live for the visual pleasure of the Sex Negatives. At the venue, Cafe Flesh, the entertainment is hosted by stand up comic Max Melodramatic (Andrew Nichols). During the Cafe Flesh show, one of the female negatives,Lana, begins to question her position as her and her partner, Nick, begin to drift apart.

'Cafe Flesh' was directed by Rinse Dream, a pseudonym for adult movie director Stephen Sayadian. His filmography is sparse and I have only viewed 'Dr. Caligari' from 1989 which is even weirder, like a XXX Eraserhead. Another movie that gets the nod is 'Night Dreams' but of it I know bugger all. Sayadian makes his film like Devo's idea of a porno, or even the aesthetics of Neil Young's Live Rust video, where the band is surrounded by a strange post-nuclear junk yard populated by odd scientists and dwarfs.

If anything, the sex acts that punctuate the film are too odd to act as erotica, men dressed as babies sit in highchairs whilst a man dressed as a rat seduces their 'mother'. Ooh rat porn! The stage sequences roll on, each more bizarre than the last. You get the feeling that Sayadian wanted to say something with 'Cafe Flesh', indeed some have claimed it as a parable for AIDS which is fucking stupid. If anything, due to its abrupt angst ending, Sayadian wanted to comment something on the segregation of society and sexual taboos but the movie is so strange and so indebted to XXX sequences, that having it as a vehicle for sociological statement is like me writing War And Peace on my pants.

In 2011, we are far removed from the days where something like 'Cafe Flesh' would make an impact on screen, 'Cafe Flesh' works best as a snapshot of underground film of its era. It's Mad Max styled ideas of a forlorn sexual future are he most interesting aspects of it, along with just how odd it all is. 'Cafe Flesh' is far from a great film, but to the audience of the Gentleman's Guide that should be no barrier, unless it is 'Zoo Zero' of course.

Make Or Break: The Rat sequence. It will either hypnotise you, or send you scurrying for a Rambo film.

Most Valuable Thing: Probably the Post-apocalypse vibe from the film, very low budget but there is something in the ambiance and visuals that add to the watchablity of the flick itself.

Score: 6/10 Is it porn? Is it a film? Is it both?! Who knows. I don't know if 'Cafe Flesh' is a good film but I enjoyed watching it. Take some points off if you can't abide pretentious performance art containing penetration.


  1. Rock solid review, man. Very well done. I've been curious about this movie for years. (Danny Peary wrote a long article in one of his Cult Movies books.) I'm actually not a giant fan of porn, myself. (Not because I think it's dirty...mostly just boring.) That being said, the idea of this intrigues me. It sounds like it's worth chasing down to check it out. If nothing else, it should get an "A" for effort, right?

  2. It's a hard one to pin down, I'm certainly not a fan of porn at all, but this is definately something quite unique. Odd cinematic junk has always intrigued me, even just to read about. If you look up 'Cafe Flesh' on youtube there are some clips that give you a sense of how odd the film is.