Beware of a Holy Whore

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1971 – Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

This turned out to be a tough first entry. There are so many angles to approach this apparently last in the experimental phase of Fassbinder’s early films. I am not anywhere near as familiar with the director’s work that I should or could be, but I do understand that this was semi-autobiographical: an apparent near-reenactment of the experience of cast and crew on an earlier film, Whity.

With Fassbinder himself playing a manic production manager, Sascha, and Lou Castel sweeping in later as Jeff, the director of the film-within-a-film, the dynamic of who is whoring themselves to whom kinda sorta unfolds. While a lot has been written about the interpersonal dynamics of the film, I was uniquely struck by the geometry of the film.

The first half of production especially is heavily influenced by the static and detached aesthetic of Warhol, all odd geometry and dreary flat walls. This is literally bisected halfway through the film by an unexpected winding spin through the Spanish countryside. When we return from this meander into organic space and movement to pure angular chaos: jarringly set scenes have little continuity beyond the fact that, based on Jeff wearing the same blue shirt throughout, indicates it is all the same day.

The only other scene that flows rather than jags is shot of the austere yet irritating Irm on a boat out to sea, Irm being played amazingly by Magdelena Montezuma, an actress I used to be obsessed with from a single image in a book I used to have on subversive film.

As a side note, was interesting for me to realize how much I understood without subtitles. I used to know German: maybe it is time to do a little immersion again. I will certainly try to include Fassbinder into the mix in weeks coming up.

Next up:
Stray Dog, 1949 – Directed by Akira Kurosawa

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