Remember how when I reviewed Lloyd Kaufman’s first film, The Girl Who Returned, and I said the main reason I gave it 3 out of 4 is because I was just so excited to see an early student short from the creator of the Troma universe (don’t get me wrong, I still liked the film but don’t know how much many others would)? Well, in this case, the 3 out of 4 grading comes from more of an objective viewpoint (well, as objective as you can be when you’re expressing your own opinion but still). I actually do recommend the film provided that you know these two caveats: Lloyd Kaufman is a shitty actor and The Battle of Love’s Return is a Godard/Brecht inspired “art film.”
I use “art film” in ironic quotes more to attack the notion of the “art film” rather than to say that The Battle of Love’s Return isn’t art, get me? In spite the humorous looking poster, this film is comedy in the loose sense. There are funny moments but the overall objective, I do not think, is just to make you laugh or something.
But first, before we get to it, let me explain something. The common folk view Troma as a z-movie company who offer nothing more than a few cheap laughs from lousy films. The slightly more astute film watcher catches that Lloyd Kaufman is actually a good filmmaker and employs his knowledge of film history in his work, often making inside references such as the Buster Keaton gag in The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, where the Toxic Avenger attempts to kill himself by standing in front of a tunnel anticipating getting hit by an automobile only to realize the approaching headlights come from a pair of motorcyclists who pass by on either side of him.
And then there are assholes such as me and some French people who go as far as to call Kaufman’s work Brechtian. YOU might excuse the lack of continuity, non-seamless direction and cheap special effects as bad film making but I give my man the benefit of the doubt and say some of that is deliberate. Or as Lloyd Kaufman once put it; “continuity is for pussies.”
So what does this have to do with The Battle of Love’s Return? Well the film jumps back and forth between the minimal narrative to interviews with the actors. The interviews are shot in black and white and you can hear the crew yell at Kaufman during the filming of these scenes. The story concerns perpetual loser Abercrombie (Kaufman), who struggles at every turn to fit in, do a job correctly or just win the affections of “Dream Girl” (Lynn Lowery) who angrily calls him a joker after he attempts and fails to operate an elevator. Elsewhere Abercrombie tries to help an old lady cross a busy street and in turn, receives her abuse. At other times he tries to join a group of hippies and the military only to be rejected by both groups.
The narrative portions are okay but the meat of the film comes from the interviews some of which include Lynn Lowery pre-Shivers, a hippie beatnik street poet, a Socialist party member turned preacher, an adult bookstore owner and an old lady who immigrated from somewhere in Eastern Europe (I forgot the specifics since it’s been a week since I’ve seen it so I apologize for that one). There were probably a couple others I don’t remember but I’m reproducing this from memory so don’t shoot me if I forgot anyone.
And, again, if you’re on the Easter egg hunt, look out for a young Oliver Stone somewhere in this movie.