Aug 19, 2013
Despite his lifelong cinematic campaign to make the world a more cocksucker-friendly place to live where all social mores are molested and murdered and sexual perversions are welcomed, kraut queer auteur Rosa von Praunheim (Army of Lovers or Revolt of the Perverts, Neurosia: 50 Years of Perversity) seems to think pre-Nazi Weimar Republic Germany was a sort of hyper-hedonistic homo heaven on earth that was superior to modern day fag-friendly Germany, or so one would ultimately assume while watching his pleasurably perverse postmodern German neo-expressionist work Anita: Dances of Vice (1987) aka Anita – Tänze des Lasters, a work that depicts the present as a colorless realm of repression that literally and figuratively institutionalizes the perverted and preternatural and the past as a magical and kaleidoscopic world where libertinism is king and any and every sort of superlatively sordid debauchery is welcomed. In part based on the short and eclectically self-destructive hedonist life of androynous cabaret dancer/actress/writer Anita Berber (1899-1928)—a wildly wanton woman who was addicted to no less than seven drugs, but was popular and iconic enough to have her likeliness painted by “Neue Sachlichkeit” (New Objectivity) painter Otto Dix, which was later featured on a 1991 German postage stamp—as well as her gay husband/dancing partner, Sebastian Droste, Anita: Dances of Vice, which features a dichotomous film-within-a-film, portrays the blandness of the modern kraut culture and cinema by portraying what happens when a senile, morbidly obese, and elderly old crank cunt goes around telling people she is real-life femme fatale Anita Berber and displays her fat ass in public, thereupon resulting in her institutionalization and her escape into the imaginary psychosis-ridden realm of expressionism. Following up what he started with Horror Vacui - Die Angst vor der Leere (1984)—a satirical neo-expressionist flick featuring collective cult gang rapes that would earn the director the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for “best experimental film” in 1985—Anita: Dances of Vice would ultimately become one of Rosa von Praunheim’s most internationally revered films as a sort of lurid love letter to the great films of German expressionism with abstract inter-titles and all, as well as an aesthetically audacious response to German kultur and cinema of the past and postmodern attack on the banality and sterility of Teutonic kultur today. Featuring ugly penises with venereal diseases (something that von Praunheim is most certainly accustomed too!), somewhat explicit sex of the hairy-bush-fingering sort, physically degenerated derrieres, exquisite suicides, exceedingly eccentric old women that look like drag queens and young men that look like muscular lesbians, lunatic ladies quoting the Gospel according to Saint Marx via the Communist Manifesto, real-life burn victims kissing fictional celluloid Anita Berbers, and various other strikingly scathing and scatological yet aesthetically pleasing scenarios, Anita: Dances of Vice is a somewhat singular work from Rosa von Praunheim’s oeuvre in that it is proof that he is capable of more than just amateurishly assembled abberosexual agitprop. Of course, considering Anita: Dances of Vice was shot by lesbian cinematographer Elfi Mikesch, who also shot some of dandy auteur Werner Schroeter's best and most visually stunning films, including Der Rosenkönig (1986) aka The Rose King and Deux (2002) aka Two, one cannot give von Praunheim all the credit for his thematically sickening yet charismatically kaleidoscopic tribute to early-twentieth-century kraut vice, especially of the debauched dyke-fest sort.
While passionately preaching, “I won’t undress, you pigs! I’m an artist, not a whore! Pigs!” to a small audience of strangers, absolutely odious old-timer Frau Kutowski (von Praunheim's 'degenerate diva' Lotti Huber)—a grotesquely Judaic unladylike lady of the lascivious sort who would have made a standout specimen for National Socialist propagandist Julius Streicher's naughty Nazi tabloid newspaper Der Stürmer as the height of Hebraic hideousness—proves otherwise during the first couple minutes of Anita: Dances of Vice. After making an obscene ass of herself by proudly displaying her bloated yet baggy bare ass in public for mocking Berliners to see, deranged elderly dame Frau Kutowski, a flagrantly loony lady well past both her physical and mental prime who seriously believes she is the long dead cabaret dancer Anita Berber, is arrested and is swiftly sent to a nuthouse where her deleterious dementia is all the more strengthened by the sterile scenery. While the real world crazy cunt Kutowski lives in a banal black-and-white nachtmahr of the seemingly postmortem sort, the mental patient manages to transfer herself back to the late-1920s by imagining her nurse (played by Ina Blum) as her young self/Anita Berber and that her doctor is her gay boy toy/rival Sebastian Droste (Mikael Honesseau). When not escaping into her esoteric fantasies of romantic suicides, onieric-like opium hazes, fingering a feisty Fräulein’s bearded clam, and mocking her satanic dandy dancer partner Droste (a fellow that has no problem admitting, “I hate women and I love men”), cuckoo Kutowski gropes female nurses’ genitals and verbally assaults fellow inmates by declaring “A better future. What do I care about the future? I live for the moment, Rosa Luxemburg. The world’s an ass, and we’re its farts. Each of us stinks in his own way. That’s the spice of life!,” after a hysterical hag of an Marxist inmate declares, “the words of the Communist Manifesto: “Socialism or the plunge to barbarism! For a better future!” Meanwhile, angry Aryan men are plotting for the destruction of Weimar degeneracy and looking for a new Führer with a firm fist, who will ultimately be Adolf Hitler, a man that will put a swift end to cabaret debauchery and German expressionist cinema. Luckily, Anita Berber will die of tuberculosis in 1928, thus never getting to meet Uncle Adolf. While on her death bed, Anita Berber is told by a priest that “Only faith can save you now,” which the debauched diva responds to by eloquently stating, “Who says ‘ass’ has got to say ‘hole’.” Luckily, Frau Kutowski has a much more fortunate fate and simply leaves the loony bin, assumedly living the rest of her remaining years in relative comfort.
An idiosyncratic piece of equally iconic and iconoclastic cinema, Anita: Dances of Vice manages to find a (un)healthy aesthetic/thematic medium between old school German expressionist films in the spirit of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Algol: Tragedy of Power (1920), the latter of which Anita Berber’s partner Sebastian Droste appeared in, as well as classic Hollywood hagsploitation flicks like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Curtis Harrington’s What's the Matter With Helen? (1971) and the Isadora Duncan biopic The Loves of Isadora aka Isadora (1968) directed by Karel Reisz. A sort of celluloid equivalent to the dubious thesis proposed in kosher commie film critic Siegfried Kracauer’s book From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947)—a work that argues a link between the escapist/expressionist/nightmarish nature of films of the Weimar era and the rise of Nationalism Socialism—Anita: Dances of Vice, to the homo-supremacist filmmaker’s credit, still manages to be one of director Rosa von Praunheim’s least politically-charged celluloid works in that not unlike films of German expressionism, emphasizes aestheticism over agitprop. That being said, Anita: Dances of Vice and Horror Vacui are two of only a handful of German New Cinema films that will appeal to fans of German expressionism, even if the film can in no way compare to the silent masterpieces of F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang. A conspicuously camp molestation of German expressionism with a geriatric gay gal as the decidedly depraved pseudo-diva lead, Anita: Dances of Vice is as close as auteur von Praunheim has come to paying (anti)homage to his Fatherland, especially during a scene in the film when the vulgarian anti-hero proudly proclaims “Berlin is the capital of sin and I am her queen.” Of course, the real queen of Anita: Dances of Vice is radical rectum-reamer Rosa von Praunheim himself, a man so obnoxious and aberrant that he is even hated by many of his cocksucking compatriots in both German New Cinema (Fassbinder included!) and ‘gay rights’ activism. Considering von Praunheim’s poofer-style political militancy, I do not think it would be a stretch to say that von Praunheim would have more likely been a member of the National Socialist SA brownshirts—a group whose leadership was littered with homos, including its rather rotund leader Ernst Röhm—as opposed to a German expressionist filmmaker, which is supported by the fact that the director’s real father may have been an SS commander or Nazi photographer as revealed in the auteur's documentary Two Mothers (2007) aka Meine Mütter - Spurensuche in Riga. Even in his homage to “great nude star Anita Berber,” Praunheim is unable to avoid the fact that his hero Anita lived a short depraved life of venereal disease, cocaine and alcohol addiction, self-exploitation and malignant melancholy, thus making National Socialism seem like the only natural response to the wanton Weimar Republic she so perfectly exemplified, a patently putrid place that is not all that different from the entire Occidental world today. Maybe if were are lucky, von Praunheim will direct a sequel to Anita: Dances of Vice with an aesthetic style in the spirit of National Socialist masterpieces Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938) featuring an elderly descendent of Anne Frank who believes she is world-class diva Leni Riefenstahl.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 7:47 PM
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