29th January 2019

William Shakespseare’s SHITSTORM: A Primer On The New Film By Lloyd Kaufman (by Bill Dever)

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1. a situation marked by violent controversy.


Iconic American film director Frank Capra once was quoted as saying, “If you want to send a message use Western Union”, I have my doubts that Capra really meant that at all since his movies dripped with messaging and sentimentality. Lloyd Kaufman, the director behind the Toxic Avenger series and a rabidactivist for independent vision, has no problem trying to hit the audience squarely between the eyes in order to drive home a point. Shock Cinema has been a deft pen in this filmmaker’s hand as he moves from societal issue to societal issue.

In the past Lloyd has tackled the issues of a genetically modified food culture in Poultrygeist; Night of the Chicken Dead. He further provides commentary in regards to modern fast food culture. In Return To Nuke Em High 1 and 2 again takes a run at our modern consumer culture. It would be more than easy to relegated Kaufman’s work into a box entitled frat boy humor, but he goes deeper than that. At the core of his imagery and his method, Kaufman’s work is shocking, funny and queasy. Behind the bouncing breasts, the scatological scenery and the punk Kabuki like characters lies the discussion of an issue, an issue that is eating away at our modern fabric of society.

The New York Times has stated of Kaufman’s work that it was “Powered by ribald bursts of bad taste and bodily fluids… The overall effect is joyous.”

This is Kaufman’s second foray into the works of the Bard. His first being Tromeo and Juliet made 25 years ago. His newest movie, William Shakespeare’s Shitstorm is based on Shakespeare’s 1610 play, The Tempest. Directed by Lloyd Kaufman from a screenplay by Brandon Bassham, this farce stars Kaufman as The Tempest’s Prince Prospero in a modern and often provocative take on the Bard’s 17th century play.

As an aside the term shitstorm was made famous and popular by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a television interview in 2009.

You can easily compare Kaufman’s work to that of The Grand Guignol Theatre of Paris The staple of the Grand Guignol repertoire was the presentation of shock, which inevitably featured eye-gouging, throat-slashing, acid-throwing, or some other equally gruesome climax. Over the years and under the direction of several different managers, the Grand Guignol theatre flourished, becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris. The theatre was founded in 1897 by Oscar Metenier as an extension of the naturalist French movement, which had been popularized by André Antoine’s Theatre Libre. A typical evening at the Grand Guignol Theatre might consist of five or six short plays, ranging from suspenseful crime dramas to bawdy sex farces.

In many ways Kaufman’s work is a combination of the Grand Guignol tradition and the modern shock art movement. In 1997 Royal Academy curator Norman Rosenthal noted in a document for for the “shock art” exhibit Sensation that artists have always been in the business of conquering “territory that hitherto has been taboo”. Jousting with taboos is Kaufman’s stock in trade. In China, which experienced an active “shock art” movement following the tragic Tienanmen Square protests of 1989, has been such an effective form of social commentary that it has led the Ministry of Culture to attempt a crackdown on the art form, banning the use of corpses or body parts in art.

Shock Art is editorial. Shock art is a form of contemporary art that incorporates disturbing imagery, sound or scents to create a shocking experience. It is a way to wake up “smug, complacent and hypocritical” people. It is designed primarily to evoke thought and controversy. It is a form of art that is intended to wake people up regarding a specific issue. Shitstorm and previous works by Lloyd Kaufman fit very comfortably in that box.

In Shitstorm Kaufman assails against the politically correct culture of today and shines a light of the almost farcical conformity which is forced upon society. He also skewers big pharma and their imposition of their commercial aspirations into every aspect of the human experience.

So if you book Troma’s William Shakespeare’s Shitstorm be prepared for shock. Be aware of the ribald humor, but most of all be aware that unlike most most movies being churned out of Hollywood, this movie may actually be saying something

(written by by Bill Dever)


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