I was gravely disappointed by New Wave Hookers but I LOVED Greg Dark's 1985 shot-on-video documentary Fallen Angels so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this film.
To my surprise and delight, DMJ 3 and DMJ 4 are in fact one film. It was presumably released in two parts (similar to how The Toxic Avenger 2 and 3 were originally one film but were separated because together they would have run close to 3 hours) to both shorten the film and make more money. In any case, both parts are presented here. Since it is one film, I will review it as such.
While titled as sequels to Damiano's 1973 masterpiece, DMJ 3 /4 is closer to a remake, or even more appropriately, a re-telling of Damiano's tale. In fact, besides the name of the heroine and the film itself, as well as the basic premise of a woman dying and ending up in Hell, this film has no similarities to either of the earlier two entries in the series.
Lois Ayers is a punked out Justine Jones. She's a cool New Wave girl with bleach-blonde hair and an asshole boyfriend who would rather screw other girls than give her the right time of day. So Justine ventures out into the seedier part of town and ends up at a neon filled singles bar where she happens to sit right next to a guy (Paul Thomas) who was dumped on his wedding day.
Feeling sorry for the poor chap, they spend the night complaining about their lives and eventually end up having sex. During the aforementioned act, Miss Jones unfortunately hits her head (quite hard I would presume) on Thomas's bed frame and dies.
Poor Miss Jones then finds herself in a dark limbo-like area where cardboard sets are the norm and plastic skulls are everywhere. She is then introduced to Negro (a jive-talkin' soul brother played marvelously by Jack Baker, better known as the drummer on Happy Days) who acts as her tour guide through what is soon revealed to be hell.
Miss Jones can't believe she's dead and furthermore cannot understand why she's in hell. But Negro proves more than willing to take her on a tour of Hell's inner reaches, allowing Miss Jones to slowly come to terms with her own hidden demons...
Greg Dark's DMJ 3/4 is the ultimate example of creativity and originality in the then flourishing film movement of The Cinema of Transgression. While this film will never be fully accepted as a piece of Transgression film making, all the typical elements associated with the movement are present - post-punk cultural references, conservative parents and religion as the primary source of all the ills of the world, social and political injustice, and racial and gender tensions which culminate in acts of violence. The stylistic techniques associated with the movement are also very present here, such as primitive cinematography, oddly lit and barely made up sets, as well as strangely childish costume and set designs.
That said, DMJ 3/4 stands as one of the strongest and strangest pieces of hardcore cinema to emerge from the mid 80s, or any other time for that matter. In steep contrast with Damiano's religiously based original and Henri Pachard's whimsical love-story sequel made 4 years earlier, Greg Dark opts to make his interpretation of Miss Jones much darker and socially conscious.
Relying heavily on the Mockumentary approach which was popularized stateside two years earlier by Spinal Tap, Dark cuts back and forth between Herzog-like interviews with the friends and family of Miss Jones and the actual narrative of the film. These interviews function as both a method through which Dark can satirize the so-called serious social docs. of the time, but also function as a great source of characterization for the ill-fated Justine.
Said interview sequences are conducted against a plain white backdrop and the subjects are questioned by an unseen interviewer, possibly a comment on the confrontational nature of documentary film itself. The interviews also allow Dark to trot out a group of strange and often humorous characters who liven up the frequently depressing and revolting hell scenes.
Justine's journey through hell parallels that of Catherine in Jonas Middleton's 1976 materpiece Through The Looking Glass and the conclusions of both films are strikingly similar. However here, it is not only child abuse which is brought up (in fact, that issue is relatively minor in comparison to most others discussed in the film), but much more so Dark opts to deal with racism and sexism.
Negro represents the inner-city pimp, Dark's interpretation of a powerful black man, and while Justine is often given feminist traits, it is obvious by the film's conclusion that men have always and will always continue to objectify and degrade her. As Dark so capably did in New Wave Hookers, here there are frequent references to humans as lower animals perhaps metaphorically implying that despite humans presumed greater intelligence; morally and sexually we are still trapped at the same level as horses and dogs.
Now despite what I said earlier, DMJ 3/4 is an admirably and meticulously shot film which uses primitive and simple cinematography and editing to comment on its characters as much as it uses the interview scenes to do so. In essence, Dark does not feel his characters are anything but primitives themselves and therefore does not allow them the luxury to be in anything more than a primitively made film. While photographically simple, DMJ 3/4 is constructed with an eye for detail and juxtaposition rarely found in experimental or underground cinema. The interview and narrative portions of the film are so well integrated into each other that they work almost as a puzzle, slowly working in from each side until they meet at the center to create a wholly exciting and shocking conclusion.
While Dark is most often praised for NWH, DMJ 3/4 is easily his crowning achievement. It features an intense sense of style and artistry rarely seen in underground cinema and is an insightful and thought provoking film which stays with you for weeks.
Very, very nice. Although this film was taken off a 3/4 inch master, colors are rich and detail and black levels are strong.
None that I know of!
Here is where what could have been a great disc simply fails. Nothing, not even a trailer, is included (however, trailers to both parts can be found on 42nd St. Forever: XXXtreme Edition from Synapse Films).
Love him or hate him, Greg Dark cannot be denied the title of a great filmmaker and this film is the ultimate proof!