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Short of the Week: A subversive comedy by Richard Kern

'You Killed Me First' - Richard Kern

During the latter half of the No Wave movement in New York filmmaking, a particular subgenre was created which was called the ‘Cinema of Transgression’. Among its pioneers was Richard Kern, an experimental artist whose short films viciously attacked American social conservatism by explicitly exploring graphic violence, sex and the fundamental perversions unique to the human condition.

In a relatively recent interview, Kern explained: “I think the policing of American morality has now shifted from the government to social media. It seems that we are entering a new era in which everyone will be afraid to speak freely because they will face heavy attacks from often misinformed social media trolls. I’ve heard some amazing stories from 20-year-olds in which they made a random remark on a platform that stirs up a firestorm among their ‘friends’ or followers. It’s happened to me and I’m 61.”

Adding, “For me the COT [Cinema of Transgression] happened at a very specific time and place and that would be around 1983-1990 in NYC. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the COT had anything to do with pornography. If anything the entire movement (my films at least) was anti-sex or about how sexual desire and relationships fuck up everything.”

For this edition of Short of the Week, we have selected Kern’s 1985 cult classic You Killed Me First which chronicles the rebellion of a young woman who is tired of her family’s bourgeois facades. When it becomes too much for her, she bursts out in an all-consuming attack on the hypocrisy of her parents’ religion and the evil nature of that religiosity.

Lately, Kern has been working on Instagram which has inspired him in his later years: “I suppose I get inspiration from the never-ending river of talent I keep encountering via social media – People that are doing spur of the moment and disposable projects that make the regular art world seem dull and sluggish by comparison.”

Watch Richard Kern’s subversive comedy short You Killed Me First below.