Richard Kern was a big part of the underground cinema of the East Village in the 1980s. Among other things, he directed videos for Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ‘69” (which featured Lydia Lunch, of course) and King Missile’s ”Detachable Penis.” Kern was very much a part of the same scene that was more or less defined by Nick Zedd. He made many experimental and sexual movies on Super-8.
According to Richard Kostelanetz in A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes,
This fascination with the dark side of looking—with the dynamics and aesthetics of voyeurism—is Richard Kern’s theme and it runs through his films and photography. In many ways, Kern’s work is a culmination of self-referential approaches to depicting the artist’s relationship to his “subject.” And his subject is a kind of seeing. ... In many ways his movies are responses to popular film and commercial culture as a whole.
One of Kern’s early movies was The Right Side of My Brain, a 23-minute black-and-white experimental movie that is unabashedly about sex, violence, and control. This movie is about as NSFW as anything we’ve ever presented on the site.
The whole movie is told from the point of view of the character played by Lydia Lunch in a dreamy and sexualized and insular mode that was well-nigh invented by Maya Deren in 1943’s “Meshes of the Afternoon.” Lunch’s character goes through a series of assignations that involve varying degrees of violence. Around the 10th minute an actor credited as Clint Ruin (actually the musician J.G. Thirlwell) shows up and he proceeds to dominate Lunch’s character somewhat, after which she gives him a blow job. Yes, you read that right, most of that highly X-rated act is captured in the movie.
The bulk of the movie was shot in some claustrophobic NYC tenement, but in the sole outdoor sequence—possibly shot in Central Park?—Henry Rollins appears and follows the Lunch character. They too start making out and then the Rollins character has a kind of tantrum.
By the bye, when this was shot Rollins had the “SEARCH AND DESTROY” part of his back tattoo in place but not the rest. At one point Lunch is shown wearing a T-shirt with the Einstürzende Neubauten homunculus on it.
The images of sexual violence are, of course, disturbing; many ladies in the audience will enjoy the three smoking hot dudes in various states of undress.
The Right Side of My Brain is available on Blu-Ray in Hardcore Collection: Director’s Cut.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Lydia Lunch’s sexy ‘Fashion Calendar,’ 1978
Lydia Lunch and Henry Rollins: A tale of jealousy, rage and obsession