Oct 24, 2012

La Paloma



Before gaining about 100 pounds or so and directing kitschy exploitation films, Austrian actor Peter Kern (Hitler: A Film from Germany, Flaming Hearts) played the lead role in the cultivated high-camp work La Paloma (1974) directed by Swiss auteur Daniel Schmid (Shadows of Angels, Imitation of Life) in a nearly immaculate performance that would prove to be one of the greatest of his rather long yet uneven career. Loosely based on the novel Camille (1852) aka The Lady of the Camellias written by high yellow French fellow Alexandre Dumas, fils and with crucial influence from Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930) aka Der blaue Engel and mostly likely Alfred Hitchcock’s last British film Rebecca (1940), as well as the brazen naked melodrama of director Schmid’s pal Rainer Werner Fassbinder and celluloid operetta of Werner Schroeter, La Paloma is a beauteous beast of meta-cinema decadence that reminds one why they watch films in the first place; to indulge in the wildly idiosyncratic and to simmer in seduction and sin without any of the less glorious consequences like acquiring an STD or a debilitating drug habit. Starring Fassbinder’s ex-wife Ingrid Caven (Fear of Fear, In a Year with 13 Moons) in a certainly fitting role as a morbidly depressed cabaret singer who finds pseudo-self-worth in the form of a portly pedomorphic aristocrat, La Paloma is a cinematic work about the torment and tragedy of unreciprocated love and the perennial misery that such a hopeless situation sows for both parties involved. With its immaculate accentuation of imagery via both malefic and melodic music, La Paloma is a rare cinematic treat of the most majestically malicious kind that tenaciously and meticulously tinkers with one's marrow with its curious combination of scenic sorrowfulness or sordid grotesquery.



On a more personal level, the plump protagonist Isidore (Peter Kern) of La Paloma reminds me of a personal friend’s seemingly autistic, fanboy brother. Technically a grown man in his early twenties, this rather reclusive and sedentary fellow is undoubtedly a virgin, but what else can one expect from an adult male who collects ‘everything R2-D2’ and considers Steven Spielberg the greatest filmmaker who ever lived. Naturally, I could never see my friend’s bro in a relationship with a live woman, especially a beautiful one, so the prospect of such a seemingly absurd – and to be quite frank – unsettling scenario is a captivating one, to say the least. Of course, unlike my compatriot’s brother, La Paloma 'protagonist' Isidore has two things going for him: he is extremely wealthy and he is deeply and unwaveringly in love with a terminally ill lady that is in dire need of an ego boast. La Paloma begins in a campy and carnal cabaret that seems like Weimar Berlin of the early 1930s, except updated in some sort of futuristic hell where men commit self-slaughter stoically after losing their meager earnings gambling, nearly nude preteen girls are paraded around like AKC-certified canines at a some sort of sleazy dog show, and emotionally abused and feeble females flaunt their flesh to strangers just to survive another day. Isidore is an odd exception to the typical patrons of the cabaret, as he is an aristocratic gentlemen, albeit an avoirdupois one who brings Miss La Paloma flowers after one of her moving melancholy performances, thereupon igniting the barely burning flame of their ill-fated, one-sided relationship. A fragile soul with a sometimes ferocious and callous exterior, La Paloma attempts to embrace Isidore’s passionate and ceaseless love of which she has never experienced before and seems to work for a brief period of time, until the aristocrat’s pal Raoul – a masculine, stoic, and sexually virile gentleman – shows up and inspires true love in the seemingly loveless ex-cabaret singer. That being said, La Paloma features a sort of marvelous and feverently foreboding melodrama that one feels like they are witnessing a slow but steady murder that could have been avoided had a series of bad decisions been averted. Indeed, La Paloma’s death-by-heartbreak is revealed about halfway through the film, but the greatest tragedy in La Paloma is the slow brutalization and malicious mutilation of two lonely, tender hearts because "when she (La Paloma) began to love, it was not him she loved; she loved his love for her."



Mixing psychological horror, camp fantasy, literary satire, ominous operetta numbers, and rather ridiculous yet wholly intentional melodramatic romanticism, La Paloma is, at its worse, a minor masterpiece of 1970s theatric European arthouse cinema that has no contemporaries. Like a playful yet pernicious parody of Werner Schroeter’s Der Tod der Maria Malibran (1972) which, incidentally also stars Ingrid Caven, except actually accessible to a wider audience, La Paloma is a successful experiment in cross-medium camp where one does not need a background in bourgeois theatre and opera to actually enjoy it as it is an audacious and acrimonious work that will seem quite disconcerting to pompous patrician types. The film also concludes in a somewhat ambiguous manner that reveals that the joke is on the viewer, especially in regard to the precise manipulation of the spectator’s soul.  In a film where a man's single and only penetration of his beloved wife is with a knife into her cold cadaver, La Paloma is a saucy and sometime sadistic cinematic work that doesn't play nice but it plays for keeps.



-Ty E

6 comments:

teddy crescendo said...

Sandra Comerford is a fucking pile of worthless dog-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Your friends fan-girl brother sounds just like me, except i`m 30 years older and collect everything 'HEATHER O`ROURKE'.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Why couldn`t you have published some pictures of the gorgeous little pre-teen nearly naked girls, it would`ve given me something to jerk-off to.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

When you encounter your friends fan-girl brother do you trash him for being a sad and pathetic Jervaise Brooke Hamster impersonator ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Ingrid Caven (as the bird was in 1956 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I bet Dario Ar-girl-o's Dracula turns out to be a lot better than Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, what always spoilt that one for me was that British scum Gary Old-girl playing the title character. Actually if you take the letter "r" out of the word "gary" it becomes the word "gay", so maybe that worthless bastard is a faggot as well.