Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat

(Philip Brophy, Australia, 1988)

  Philip Brophy

Philip Brophy's Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat joyfully betrays a deep cinephilic involvement with the underside of film history – the B cinema genres of horror, gore, pornography, sensationalist action, and so on.

Brophy is involved directly in the public arenas of critical writing and teaching in Australia. All his work is theory-in-action, an investigation in process – not a mechanical application or illustration of critical ideas on film, but a material discovery. He researches elaborate screen effects (such as the mechanisms and emotions of tension and release in both film and viewer) by striving to create them.

This film is like an effects laboratory, mixing up remembered or noted ingredients from many films and film-types. Yet his aim is not simply to reproduce these effects in order to create a classic or perfect horror-shock film. By combining and intensifying the given elements, he too creates a strange new object somewhere undecidable between an intellectual art film and a visceral, vulgar entertainment. He calls the work an essay film, and in doing so effectively stretches our conventional understanding of the term.

Brophy hails originally from the Super 8 world and is one of its typical polymaths – video artist, musician, filmmaker, critic. Indeed, 1980s Super 8 has a strong and authentic relation to another cultural New Wave – that of music, design and style in the punk and post-punk era. Super 8 practitioners such as Brophy who have ventured into 16mm stand out from their entrenched neighbours as richer and stranger, more perplexing and austere.

The official film world often simply doesn't know where such work is coming from, what comparisons to make, or which cues to pick up on. Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat, for instance, risks being misunderstood as a film about the existential agonies of 9-to-5 working life, when in fact this structure is a pretext for the exploration of other more formal and metaphorical issues such as film genre and the experience of the body.

MORE Brophy: Body Melt, Evaporated Music

© Adrian Martin September 1988

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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