“This was Rosa von Praunheim’s favourite public convenience.”
Neurosia: 50 years of Perversion (AKA Neurosia: Who Killed Rosa von Praunheim?, Neurosia-50 Jahre Pervers) is a hilarious, original and bold film from German director Rosa von Praunheim. When the film begins, von Praunheim–in a pink tuxedo–takes the stage and presents his film biography to a booing, hissing audience. He argues that while most people wait until someone is dead or in a coma before making a biographical film of a subject, he decided to film his own story while he is still alive and gorgeous. As he stands in the spotlight, he is shot, there’s a police raid, and after the pandemonium recedes, von Praunheim’s body disappears.
Nosy television journalist, Gesine Ganzmann-Seipel (Desiree Nick) is assigned a series investigating von Praunheim’s murder. Disapproving of von Praunheim’s lifestyle, she starts poking into the infamous director’s past, fingering through his personal belongings, befriending his mother, his auntie and interviewing a legion of complaining ex-lovers. The film is peppered with colourful characters–including actors who claim they’ve been ripped off by von Praunheim, a transvestite who conducts a mock funeral (only two people attend), and a hairdresser whose naked torso sports only sparkles and bizarre body jewelry. (The hairdresser’s poodle–by the way–is better dressed than his owner).
As Gesine investigates and presents her series on von Praunheim, she’s prone to her own imagination and the exaggeration of stereotyping. Her quest to discover the truth takes her from the public toilets of Berlin, to a dream journey through the New York club scene, and finally into the devious heart of the notorious and decadent Pink Army Faction. Gesine concludes that “everything sick, driven, and degenerate fascinated” von Praunheim and the consensus of the German film industry is that this renegade director–whose 50+ films are “all amateurish, naive, and appallingly dilettantish” will “go to hell for the bad films he made.”
While Neurosia: 50 Years of Perversion is extremely funny, there’s also a serious thread through the film. It’s practically impossible here to separate the truth from the rumours that abound regarding von Praunheim–“Germany’s most hated homosexual.” The film includes footage of von Praunheim–one of Germany’s leading Gay Rights activists–in New York in the 70s. And there are clips of Andy Warhol, Divine and various Gay Rights parades. Von Praunheim certainly doesn’t let the gravity of the subject of Gay Liberation detract from the merriment he clearly has as he makes fun of his own life and reputation. If you are a fan of von Praunheim, then you must see this film. It’s a wonderful, bizarre blend of fact and fiction, modesty and hyperbole, reality and fantasy. Von Praunheim pulls out all the stops in this marvelous film–hijacking the negative aspects of his life (such as hate mail and death threats), and making it part of his own hilarious, unique history. Few directors could subsume their ego to art in quite the fashion he does, and the final scene–including its big musical number is proof of exactly how far he’ll go for a laugh. Bravo, Rosa! In German with English subtitles.