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Without You I'm Nothing

Sandra Bernhard , John Doe , John Boskovich    R (Restricted)   VHS Tape
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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"You know," she says at the outset, looking straight into the camera," I have one of those hard to believe faces." Whether she's playing herself or any number of other outspoken characters in the film version of her Off-Broadway show, Sandra Bernhard's hard to believe face remains the one constant. First, she's a jazz vocalist, then a stand-up comedian, then a soul singer. Yet she is always Sandra--even if the MC repeatedly introduces her as Sarah--and the stories she tells come mostly from her own life. Other riffs concern such image-obsessed celebrities as Barbra Streisand and Andy Warhol. The musical performances and monologues take place in front of a black nightclub audience that feigns boredom the entire time. Songs include "Me and Mrs. Jones," "Little Red Corvette," and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" with John Doe in full-on "Rhinestone Cowboy" regalia. The stage bits are intercut with commentary about Bernhard from her manager (Lu Leonard) and actor Steve Antin (The Accused). Then there are the scenes of an attractive black woman walking around LA and the dance numbers featuring Madonna look-alike "Shoshanna." What does it all mean? Well, as Bernhard quips, "My father's a proctologist, my mother's an abstract artist. That's how I view the world." The R-rated Without You I'm Nothing was produced by Nicolas Roeg (who directed Bernhard in Track 29), features an original score by Patrice Rushen, and is (naturally) recommended for mature audiences. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing, the movie released in the winter of early 1990, followed on the heels of her 1988 off-Broadway stage production ... what she and others refer to in the movie as her "smash-hit one-woman show." There were several changes in monologues and one-liners to update the comedic appeal of the show. And the movie version visually re-vamped the story, taking Sandra from a fabulous existence as a successful stage performer in New York, during what she calls her "superstar summer," to an illusory existence back in her home in Los Angeles - her fictional manager in the film refers to it as getting Sandra back "to her roots, to ... upscale supper clubs like the Parisian Room."
There's a point to be made here. Sandra tries to appeal her liberal worldview to an audience that doesn't completely see it. In L.A. she's playing to a predominantly black audience, trying to relate her ideas and comedy when all these people seem to want is "Shashonna," a Madonna-look-alike stripper. And even then, with Shashonna dancing to drum beats that resemble those from "Like a Virgin," there's not much to be said for the audience's enjoyment of the show. The scene in the club throughout the movie is dryer than a bone. A funny scene to catch is of a rotund man from the audience helping Shashonna out of her pants.
But, if she's going down, Sandra's going down with style and force, conveying everything from foul confidence to punctured vulnerability ... right to the point at which she's naked (literally), pleading with the audience for acceptance and, yet, somehow still swimming in the pool of her own transparent stardom.
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Format:VHS Tape
Sandra's off-the-cuff remark that "my father is a proctologist and my mother is an abstract artist: that's how I see the world" is an early warning of her often scatological, often surrealist commentaries on the conventions and pop culture of our time. The wild musical interludes, broken up by deadpan monologues, and hilariously backhanded commentary by her fictionized former agent and an old "friend", will never be forgotten by any viewer, whether fan or not.
In this earlier incarnation, Sandra was the foremost artist of emotional abjection. A character who encounters rejection and misunderstanding everywhere, yet one whom the viewer soon identifies as easily the most intelligent person in the room. It is neither her religion nor her sexuality which marginalize her, but the particular pitch of her wit and her kaleidescopic view of cultural phenomena.
Sandra's scatter-shot talents range from singing to dancing to acting to writing, but, as this film demonstrates, the sum of her brilliance is greater than any one (though also brilliant!) part.
Sandra is a national treasure who might just change and even save your life. She is tragi-comedy incarnate. Support her artistic productions: as a one-of-a-kind artist, she is certainly an endanged species.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It will change your life April 19 2000
By pdeldc
Format:VHS Tape
My introduction to Sandra Bernhard, the ultimate sage of our times, came when I went to see "Without You I'm Nothing" in the movie theater when it was first released. I knew nothing about her and was blown away by her wit and insight into American culture. I have never been in a movie audience that laughed as hard and as often than when I saw this film. Sandra has that uncanny ability to be at once hilariously funny and deeply moving. Her stage performances are brilliant and "Without You I'm Nothing" captures her brilliance in an innovative and creative way - this film is not simply a multi-camera shoot of a stage performance, but utilizes fiction, documentary and stage elements all at once.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind Jan. 10 2002
Format:VHS Tape
This movie, WITHOUT YOU I'M NOTHING, is based on Sandra's off-broaway, smash hit one woman show. Whew.. that was a mouthful. Anyway I wasn't familiar with Sandra's work before I saw this but after I saw this, I was floored. It's funny, touching, silly, and crazy. It's one of the best movies/shows I've seen. During WITHOUT YOU I'M NOTHING Sandra takes jabs at people but she's also an incredible storyteller/comedian. She also sings and dances thoughout. This movie is like no other. It's dark humor, crazy stories, and Sandra's eccentric attitude is sure to entertain.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious Oct. 7 2002
Format:VHS Tape
I saw this film twice when it came out in LA in '89 or '90 and almost got a hernia from laughing. Sandra is truly OVER the whole Westernized idea of self-concept; she has irreverence for almost everything in pop culture, and...well, who can blame her? I listened to the soundtrack from the show again last weekend twelve years later and still laughed. She really has a way of tempering one's desire for too much self-importance, and the way she skewers fame is just... charmed!
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