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      Eight Miles High
    Kommune-ity theatrics

    In the midst of the ongoing cinematic craze for Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n­ Roll nostalgia comes "Eight Miles High," the perfect midnight stoner flick — just don't see it straight at 8:00.


    Smell that? No, it's not 'teen spirit,' it's a nostalgic whiff of that old time sex, drugs, and rock 'n­ roll and it's emanating from big screens and small in the form of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll biopics — whether N.Y. '90's retro-style ("The Wackness"), '70's L.A. punk ("What We Do is Secret"/The Germs), or the original '60's flavor ("Across the Universe"/The Beatles, "I'm Not Here"/Bob Dylan, and "Factory Girl"/Edie Sedgwick).

    Original title: Das Wilde Leben.
    Directed by: Achim Bornhak.
    Produced by: Dietmar GŸntsche, Eberhard Junkersdorf.
    Written by: Achim Bornhak, Dagmar Benke.
    Cast: Natalia Avelon, David Scheller, Matthias Schweighšfer, Friederike Kempter, Alexander Scheer, Victor NorŽn, Milan Peschel, Georg Friedrich.
    Cinematography: Benjamin Dernbecher.
    Edited by: Peter Przygodda, Sebastian Schultz.
    Music by: Alexander Hacke.
    Production design by: Petra Kray.
    Art direction by: Petra Kray.
    Costumes by: Petra Kray.
    In German with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    Moreover, this particular nostalgia craze isn't merely an American phenom. It's also part of the International Zeitgeist, with European directors looking back at their own revolutionary youth (Bertolucci's lyrical "The Dreamers" and Philippe Garrel's darker response, "Les Amants RŽguliers"), while resurrecting such home grown hippie-dippie icons as Uschi Obermaier, Bavaria's wild child and favorite cover girl of the '60s and '70s.

    America's Edie was a princess running away from wealth and privilege, while Uschi was escaping the stultifying world of the German bourgeoisie. They were two more of those '60s femme superstars who sported only double-syllable first names, a la Twiggy and Viva. Both Edie and Uschi first gained notoriety as fashion goddesses, then each got caught up in the prevalent drug culture — the former at Andy Warhol's famed Factory and the latter at Berlin's equally notorious Kommune 1.

      Eight Miles High
    But while Edie's 15 minutes of fame ended quickly — after many failed attempts at rehab; she died of an overdose at the tender age of 28 — Uschi is still going strong at 61. Infamous for posing nude, she followed her own hedonistic star from the once radical Kommune 1 (more about free love than freeing political prisoners in its second or Uschi phase) to her status as an uber groupie of such Rock Gods as Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger.

    Then she suddenly left all that glitz and glamour behind and spent 10 years (1973-83) traveling the world in her very own 'Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,' a custom super-bus designed by her husband Dieter Bockhorn. It was just the two of them (most of the time) having sex and doing drugs. When he was killed in a 1983 motorcycle accident she really dropped off the grid according to her successful 1994 auto-biography, "Das Wilde Leben."

    That title actually translates as "The Wild Life," although the Byrds's classic (not heard on the film's soundtrack) certainly does describe her life up to that point. Judging from photos snapped at last year's German premiere, a fully clothed Uschi still looks damned fine at 60 plus, standing next to Natalia Avelon, her luscious if decades-younger on-screen alter-ego,

    Hard to believe she's the same age as Marianne Faithful, who once shared not only her beauty and drug habits but at least one of her boyfriends! And ironically, Faithful also penned a 1994 bio that may also be turned into a film.

    The camera loves Avelon as much as it loved Uschi and she's totally convincing as a beautiful but spoiled, minimally talented, self-absorbed sex and drug addict.  

    Ah yes, film... Well, the time has come, to paraphrase the walrus, to finally talk about the film itself however much I would rather talk of sealing wax. Despite being a very colorful soft-core flick, filled with lots of naked Uschi/Natalia, simulated blow jobs, gorgeous period clothes and a first class Indian (East) wedding replete with elephants plus great cinematography and a mediocre soundtrack (excluding the Doobie Brothers's "Long Train Runnin," the Stooges's "T.V. Eye," and the Avelon/Ville Valo cover of "Summer Wine"), "Eight Miles High," is ultimately empty. Beyond the earnest performances of its three main characters, valiantly if vapidly directed by Achim Bornhak, there's just no there there.

    Uschi is quick to let us know that politics bore her. She prefers to sleep through that part of life in the Kommune, the better to enjoy the sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll part. So when the others chide her for wearing makeup to a demonstration it's inevitable that it will be her photo splashed across the front pages of every German paper.

    Avelon as Uschi (who actually resembled Gia, another of Francesco Scavullo's drugged-out fashion faves) has Angelina's bee-stung lips and the sensuous face and figure of a young Bardot. The camera loves Avelon as much as it loved Uschi and she's totally convincing as a beautiful but spoiled, minimally talented, self-absorbed sex and drug addict. But doing her own thing by doing heroin is not enough to make Uschi a heroine.

    The film just ends in 1983 so here's a quick update: except for Hendrix (not shown in the film) and her late husband, most of her many paramoors are still around. One-time Kommunard leader Rainer Langhans (with whom the real Uschi appeared on German TV last year to promote this film), is played by young German matinee idol Matthias Schweighoefer as a petulant wooly-headed free love advocate — providing the free love is with him. (The real Langhans currently lives with a harem ranging from three and five women.)

      Producer Junkersdorf honestly seems to believe that this film has relevance and that Uschi was some kind of symbol of Women's lib. It doesn't and she wasn't.
    The most exciting performance however comes from David Scheller, a Vincent Gallo type, with a pair of electric baby blues set in a face full of cheekbones. He's mesmerizing as Bockhorn, the drug-dealing, chimp-loving pimp and petty criminal, who gives up his beloved monkey for Uschi (greater love, etc.). The less said about the unintentionally comic "SNL"-like impressions of Jagger and Richards the better.

    35 years ago the film's producer, Eberhard Junkersdorf, was responsible for "The Tin Drum" and "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum." Sad to say, he honestly seems to believe that this film, a big box office hit last year in Germany, has relevance and that Uschi was some kind of symbol of Women's lib. It doesn't and she wasn't.

    "Eight Miles High" is, however, a perfect midnight stoner flick. Just don't try seeing it straight at 8:00.

    JULY 17, 2008

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