Beware of a Holy Whore (Rainer Werner Fassbinder / West Germany-Italy, 1971):
(Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte)

The slow-mo shindig of a stalled film production, just another day at work for Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Cinema is the eponymous harlot, Hollywood in any case, artists and artisans and groupies comprise the torpid idolaters, "they're kind of a commune." The Sorrento Coast doubles as a Spanish villa for the pellucid backdrop, the main stage is a hotel lobby featuring a steady flow of Cuba Libres and a jukebox stocked with Leonard Cohen dirges. The director holds the film stock and nobody can find him, when he finally arrives he's a sandy-haired nudnik (Lou Castel) rattling inside his leather jacket: "I want an incredibly long, slow shot," he tells his cinematographer (Michael Ballhaus' camera duly takes note), then is off to shtup cast and crew. "Learn how to make a movie first, you bastards!" It opens with a Goofy fable recounted by Werner Schroeter in a black Stetson and closes on a Thomas Mann quote, in between there's the countless private melodramas and irritations of the creative process, "crazier every day" and all the funnier for it. Slapping games and split-second freakouts fill the void, boredom is its own art form: Magdalena Montezuma in Little Orphan Annie garb lacerates through a rare close-up; Hanna Schygulla is draped like Marilyn and clutched by Eddie Constantine, who, in fedora and pink shirt, listens nonplussed to explanations of Lemmy Caution's philosophical motivations. (Karl Scheydt hasn't yet changed out of his outfit from The American Soldier, and Fassbinder himself bellows and slouches as a beleaguered manager.) Scenes drag backwards and then zip by like notes torn from a diary, out of this pugnacious rubato emerges the dysfunctional artist who takes a punch before he can face the zooming camera. "Ich sage Ihnen, daß ich es oft sterbensmüde bin..." The compliment to Le Mépris is returned in Passion, Schygulla and all. With Marquand Bohm, Margarethe von Trotta, Hannes Fuchs, Ulli Lommel, Marcella Michelangeli, and Kurt Raab.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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