Tag Archives: Comedy

Why Do They Call It Love When They Mean Sex? (1993)

“My only family are the animals, and they’re very liberal.”

Why Do They Call It Love When They Mean Sex? (Por Qué Lo Llaman Amor Cuando Quieren Decir Sexo?), a 1993 film from director Manuel Gómez Pereira, slots, somewhat uneasily into the Rom-Com genre–although the film’s setting is not quite the usual backdrop for the boy-meets-girl scenario.

Gloria (Veróica Forqué) has a solid reputation in the porn star world. Perhaps it’s because she loves her job, or perhaps it’s because she’s good at it, but whatever the reasons are, Gloria puts in a number of nightly live sex peep shows with her long-term partner, gay Karim, and together they are known as Carnal Fire. She’s saving money in her refrigerator for her dream of opening her very own “artistic porn” club: Nights of Glory. Gloria’s plans come to a screeching halt when Karim comes down with the mumps and announces that he’ll be unable to work for months.

Karim, however, produces a replacement–the studley young Manu (Jorge Sanz), a compulsive gambler who’s heavily in debt to a couple of thugs and who’s willing to do anything to get the money he needs.

Neither Gloria nor Manu are sure he’s going to be able to perform sex, live and in public, and there are lots of behind-the-scenes gags with the other performers. After a few practice moves, soon it becomes clear that Gloria has a great new partner, and it seems possible that with Manu she’ll be able to save the money she needs. Enter Manu’s well-to-do parents Sole (Rosa Maria Sardá) and Enrique (Fernando Guillén)….

While this is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, there are some very funny moments–especially so in Gloria and Manu’s live performances. Gloria provides fantasy settings for her audience–and so we see some funny shots of a half-naked fireman with a hose, a leather-clad biker dude, and a half-dressed Roman. Manu is initially very awkward and wants to apply logic to Gloria’s fantasy scenarios while she claims she can no longer have sex “unless there’s applause at the end.” My favourite scene takes place in the TV studio with Gloria and Manu hired as S&M performers. This scene captures Gloria’s naivete as she gushes over her silver wig, and black leather S&M wear, saying how she loves Nazi clothing.

As a fan of the delightful Verónica Forqué, I had to watch this film, and she’s cast perfectly in the role of Gloria. To Gloria, who is very comfortable in her own skin, sex is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, and she seems happy to share her sexual experiences with the heavy-breathers in the peep-show cubicles. Gloria is a perfectly created character–in spite of the fact that she’s a major porn star, she exudes innocence, and even though she’s paid to perform sex, she’s ultimately playful and doesn’t see sex as dirty. Only Forqué could play a naive porn star with such infinite finesse.

Why Do They Call It Love When They Mean Sex? is also about the role of fantasy in our lives. Just as Manu and Gloria provide a number of fantasies for their audience, they are also ultimately swept up in Manu’s parents’ fantasy of a tight-knit nuclear family, complete with respectable jobs and a grandchild. Gloria, who is a kind, very natural people-pleaser, has no problem moving from pleasing the peep-show crowd to indulging Manu’s parents’ fantasy of a happy family. The question is: how long can it last?

Why Do They Call It Love When They Mean Sex?, a very typically post-Franco sexually frank Spanish film which should attract fans of Almodovar, is an entry into Caroline and Richard’s foreign film festival.

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San Ferry Ann (1965)

San Ferry Ann, the title of a 1965 silent British comedy film, is a play on words and refers to the French phrase ça ne fait rien. If I’m translating it correctly–it means it doesn’t matter. The French phrase became bastardised by the British during WWI and ended up as San Fairy Ann–similar to murky buckets (merci beaucoup). San Ferry Ann is a further bastardisation and refers to the ferry that ships British holidaymakers over to France. My impression of French cinema that explores the behaviour of the French on holiday is that the films provide opportunities to the fictional characters to reshape their lives amidst philosophical discussion. At the same time I’ll admit this impression is drawn mainly from watching the films of Eric Rohmer. But when it comes to exploring the British on holiday, the emphasis seems to be on the worst sort of bad, boorish behaviour accompanied by an adverse reaction to foreign food–well a resistance to anything foreign. And of course the underlying question is why go abroad in the first place if you want everything to be the same?

The film follows the exploits, trials and tribulations of a handful of British holiday makers in France, and the plot taps into a number of British and French stereotypes, but it’s all great fun and the comic gem makes for a pleasant 55 minutes of nostalgia with a lot of familiar faces of British comedy.

The film begins with the British tourists in line to board the ferry to France. There’s a camper van with husband (David Lodge) and wife (Joan Sims). They bring along a set of parents, Grandad (Wilfred Brambell) and his Mrs. There’s an amorous honeymoon couple (Rodney Bewes and Catherine Feller) and a couple of hitchhikers (Barbara Windsor and Ronnie Stevens).

Since this is a silent film (apart from a few unintelligible phrases), the comedy is strictly visual. There’s boozing in the ferry’s duty-free pub, seasickness, driving on the wrong side of the street, and more than a few hassles with a French gendarme and a bicycle-riding Frenchman wearing the stereotypical onions around his neck. French toilets also come in for some ribbing. Grandad Wilfred Brambell is one of the best characters is the film–he strips off to sunbathe, finds every excuse to ditch his boring family, and strikes up a hilarious relationship with a former German soldier he meets in a war museum. 

Of course, since the subject is British tourists abroad, there’s more than one scene in a restaurant, and Joan Sims’s disgust at French cuisine had me in stitches. She’s only happy with a pint of beer and a plate full of chips. Keep an eye open for Warren Mitchell as the snotty maitre d’.


Filed under British, Comedy, Silent

The Admirable Crichton aka Paradise Lagoon (1957)

The Admirable Crichton aka Paradise Lagoon from director Lewis Gilbert is a wonderful film which skewers the British class system, and if you’re a fan of classic British film, The Admirable Crichton most definitely deserves a look.

The film is set at the beginning of the 20th century. Suffragettes are on the march in England, and Lord Loam (Cecil Parker), the aristocrat who owns a lavish country estate has definite ideas about equality. He does, however, draw the line at the idea of equal rights for women. Lord Loam is a bit of an eccentric, and when the film begins, we see a typical day in the Loam household. The house is basically run by the butler, Crichton (Kenneth More), but he runs the place so smoothly and tactfully that Lord Loam is left with the illusion that he’s the one really in charge.

Lord Loam decides to put his notions of  class equality to the test by inviting (in reality ordering) all the domestic servants to participate in tea with the family members. This is an occasion of embarrassment and awkwardness for the servants, and disgruntlement for Lord Loam’s two daughters, Lady Mary (Sally Ann Howes) and her younger sister Lady Catherine (Mercy Haystead). Lady Mary is particularly annoyed by the forced social engagement with the servants as she is about to become engaged to the horribly snobbish and strait-laced Lord Brocklehurst (Peter Graves)–a man whose horribly domineering mother, Lady Brocklehurst (Martita Hunt) does not approve of equality on any level whatsoever. She believes that the ‘lower’ classes should be kept in their place and that to contemplate otherwise is a very dangerous thing. 

 The youngest daughter, Lady Agatha (Miranda Connell) goes to London to watch a suffragette march with her fiancé Ernest Wolley (Gerald Harper). She’s supposed to be there observing only, but she gets mixed up in the protest and causes a family scandal. As a result of this event, Lord Loam, at Crichton’s suggestion, takes his daughters and a few indispensable servants on a cruise aboard his yacht. Things go horribly wrong, however, when the yacht is caught in a storm….

The Admirable Crichton explores exactly what happens when rigid class rules are transposed to a desert island. One of the most important characters in the film is Tweeny (Diane Cilento)–Tweeny (which basically means that she is a maid who works [between] several floors) discovers that her currency soars when beauty and culinary skills are valued more than bloodlines.

This film is essentially a comedy about hypocrisy, and we see that Lord Loam may have ‘enlightened’ views about equality with his fellow man, but these are just intellectual ideas that he really has no intention of actually altering his his lifestyle for. The first notion of hypocrisy comes in the film when Lord Loam mouths his beliefs about equality with the servants but then refuses to countenance the notion that women are equal to men. While Lord Loam may experiment with a tentative tea which he controls in his own household, he is ill prepared for a full-scale upheaval. On the desert island, there are no innate privileges, and instead survival skills become the most valuable skills of all. Just what happens when members of the upper class are forced to cohabit with their servants makes for great entertainment.

One of the notions here is that the class system may be enforced legally and socially, but it is also absorbed by all those involved. Thus we see Crichton as the ultimate snob with the other servants and a pragmatist when it comes to realising his humble position.

The Admirable Crichton is based on a play by J.M. Barrie , and here Barrie creates a very different alternate world from the fantasy world he created with Peter Pan, but it’s a viable alternate world, nonetheless.

There are two other film versions of this play: We’re Not Dressing (1934) and Male and Female (1919).


Filed under British

The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966)

“It’s an orgy!”

The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery is the fourth and final film in the extremely popular St Trinian’s comedy series. For those who don’t know, St Trinian’s School for Girls was first created by cartoonist Ronald Searle, and the cartoons became the basis for the films.

When the film begins, St Trinian’s School for Girls is homeless once again–this is the result of three arson fires in four years. Currently camped out in an army barracks and “living like refugees,” the school is on the brink of collapse.

Meanwhile, it’s Election Night in Britain. With the advent of a new Labour Party Government, officials at the Ministry of Education (normally Tories) anticipate broad cuts in private schools, so a celebration is underway with the employees at the ministry partying the night away as they predict the closure of St Trinian’s, the notorious all-girls school. But it seems that the celebration is a little premature–little do they know that the headmistress, Amber Spottiswood (Dora Bryan) counts the new Labour Minister of Education as one of her many lovers.

With 80,000 pounds in hand (a grant from the very friendly Minister), Miss Spottiswood is able to revive St Trinian’s yet again. Miss Spottiswood purchases a new home, the abandoned Hamingwell Grange for her ‘progessive education’ school and summons her merry band of mistresses to join her. The Mathematics Mistress leaves her card-sharp life, the French Mistress creeps away from “modelling,” the Arts Mistress gives up stripping, the Games Mistress abandons the professional wrestling ring, and the Deputy Headmistress is released just in time from Holloway jail to join the rest of the crew.

As the St Trinian’s girls settle in their new home, they are blissfully unaware that 2.5 million pounds is secreted away in the cellar by a gang of thieves led by hairdresser Alphonse of Monte Carlo (Frankie Howerd). And it becomes Alphonse’s mission–guided by Mr. Big who sends messages through the salon’s sterilizer–to recoup the money. Meanwhile disgruntled school inspectors–convinced that orgies commence nightly at St Trinian’s–bravely volunteer for a secret mission…

This is the fourth–and unfortunately–the last film in the original St Trinian’s series, and the only colourized film in the bunch. Made in the 60s, it has a very different feel to the other St Trinian’s films, and as fans of British 60s comedies know, The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery stars many of the great talents from that period–comedienne Dora Bryan as the dotty headmistress Amber Spottiswood is a joy to watch as she slips from her upper class accent (when she placates and manipulates the minister) to her working class voice as she empties the wallets of parents on Parents’ Day. Some of the best scenes involve Dora Bryan (her bedroom is decorated like a brothel) and her “mad Machiavellian minister.” Parents’ Day is an incredible event with the St Trinian’s girls at their worst as they fleece any parent they can. Lecherous Frankie Howerd is perfect as the obsequious, slimy hairdresser, Alphonse, who takes a turn as a Morris dancer and comedian Reg Varney appears in a small role as a crook. George Cole returns as Flash Harry, and this time he builds a bookie’s office with a special children’s entrance–and the office includes counters set at different heights so the smaller third form girls can bet their pocket money on the gee-gees too.

The film is a thinly veiled reference to the real Great Train Robbery that took place in 1963. One of the best things about the film is that it illustrates the girls’ resourcefulness and independence, so in the ‘bigger’ scheme of things, the ‘education in life’ that they receive at St Trinian’s is valuable. At no point in the film do the girls contact the ‘authorities’ for help, and the headmistress doesn’t hesitate to direct the girls in her schemes against anyone who threatens “our happy days.” The film also creates parallel scenes of the crooks gathering and the girls gathering, and the implication is that the girls of St Trinian’s form a larger, formidable gang. Check out the book titles for the school library; The Perfumed Garden, The Carpetbaggers, Fanny Hill and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Great stuff–a classic–and a must-see for fans of 60s British comedy. Directed and written by the team Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.

Some quotes:

“Lovely untamed egghead!”
“Just some young bucks visiting the sixth form, I expect.”
“They’re only a bunch of schoolkids.”
“10,000? That’s not a reward, that’s a deterrent .”

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Poor White Trash (2000)

 “You’re hotter than doughnut grease.”

The premise of the very funny comedy film Poor White Trash is that poor people have to resort to crime in order to maintain that American dream of sending their children to college. It’s a “Robin Hood kind of thing” with the have-nots taking from a corrupt society that includes the embezzling manager of a retirement home and a nasty fast food restaurant.

poor-white-trashCollege bound Michael Bronco (Tony Denman) and his nefarious chum Lenny Lake (Jacob Tierney) are caught stealing a six-pack of Near Beer from the local mini-mart, and as a result, Michael’s college plans seem destined for the toilet. An inept Public Defender bungles the case, and the lads realize they need a lawyer to get them out of the mess they’ve created. Lenny’s brilliant plan is to get his Uncle Ron (William Devane)–who owns the Land O’Law to represent them ‘pro-bono’ (Lenny says this is Spanish for ‘half-price’). Uncle Ron, “the best lawyer in town since he got out of jail” isn’t cheap, and so Michael and Lenny burglarize a neighbour’s trailer as a quick way to get cash. Soon the lads embark on a crime spree, and Michael’s mum, Linda (a deliciously cast Sean Young) forms an inept gang with Michael, Lenny, and Brian Ross (Jason London)–the son of the local sheriff (and Linda’s one-night stand).

Linda Bronco just wants to be a “normal mother,” but that’s not in the cards for this latter-day Ma Barker. In fact, there’s nothing normal in the entire film. Everyone lives in a trailer–even Uncle Ron–the legal eagle–who has made a formidable beer can sculpture garden to enhance his trailer’s attractiveness. And Uncle Ron has a pool–not quite the traditional idea of a pool–but a pool, nonetheless.

It’s the perfectly drawn characters in this film that make it so hilarious. Michael’s desire to be a psychologist runs as a standing joke, and Lenny treats his friend’s ideals with respect while noting “psychology causes people to have mental problems.” Michael’s dad is a pro-wrestler hoping for the cash to get a false eye–this is the one roadblock in scheduling a grudge match with an opponent. William Devane as sleazy lawyer Ron Lake plays the role to perfection–the clothes, the swagger, the jewelry–and don’t forget his t-shirt slogans–all add up to the lawyer who practices law with the intent of getting away with what he can. Ron Lake’s nymphette wife–the manipulative and grasping Sandy (Jaime Pressly) is the perfect complement to Ron.

But my favourite character of all the great characters in this film has to be Lenny Lake. His one-liners, antics, and faulty logic–along with the looks he casts–simply make this film one of my all-time favourite comedies. Poor White Trash is crude at times, has no socially redeeming values, and no moral message, but the film doesn’t compromise on laughs. The script is deceptively clever and moves along rapidly from the first hilarious scene at the mini-mart right up to the finale. From director Michael Addis.

Favourite lines:
“It ain’t your job to execute shoplifters.”

“I am not robbing some place with my mother.”

“For your information, my life is in the toilet.”

“You’re grounded–with the exception of your trial.”

“If you use the word angst in prison, you’ll have a five car pile up on your Hershey highway.”

“Sometimes the best way to deal with depression is to drink.”

“Disrespect me, and I’ll break it off and beat you with it.”

“Anyone fucks with us, they’ll be eating hot rifle grease.”

“Mikie, I’m a bad mother. Go to college, get good grades and write to me in jail.”

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Filed under Comedy, Cult Classics

Around the World in 80 Ways (1987)

 “Best line my tummy so’s I’m able to perform.”

Australians always manage to create some of the most demented comedies I’ve ever seen, and Around the World in 80 Ways from director Stephen MacLean makes my list of top 10 all-time great comedies.

Around the World in 80 WaysWally Davis (Philip Quast), who according to his dad has “gone funny,” owns and operates a tour bus and runs a beachfront trailer/cafe shaped like a giant banana. After the trailer is repossessed, Wally heads home with the plan to raid the family savings account, but Mum, Mavis Davis (Diana Davidson) leaves for a long-desired whirlwind world tour dumping Dad, geriatric Roly Davis (Allan Penney) at the Twilight Rest Home as she heads for the airport. Wally’s dad suffers from “galloping senility” and has “started boring himself to death” thanks to a treacherous blow delivered by neighbour and former business partner the portly, toupee toting, used car salesman Alex Moffat (Rob Steele).

As Mavis Davis departs on the low budget tour that becomes the holiday package tour from hell, her lustful neighbour Alex Moffat unexpectedly joins her. Meanwhile Wally springs Dad from the rest home with the help of his younger brother Eddy (Kelly Dingwall), an “unemployable tragedy”, but all Dad wants to do is set off in hot pursuit of his wife arguing that Moffat, his rival, neighbour and ex-business partner,”pinched my business and now he’s trying to pinch my Mrs.”

But there’s a BIG problem….Wally needs the money in Dad’s savings account to bail out his trailer from repo. So instead of spending the savings on a world tour to catch Mavis, Wally and Eddy improvise. Since Dad only has 2% vision, they simply PRETEND to travel the world in pursuit of the ever-moving Mavis. Stops on the travel tour include: Hawaii, Las Vegas, Rome and Japan, and Wally creates all of these countries aided and abetted by Eddy, his sound system, Nurse Ophelia Cox (Gosia Dobrowolska), and a small army of inflatable dummies. Oh, and Wally ‘borrows’ Moffat’s “Wedding Cake of a house” named “Tara Moffat” for his world tour. While Mavis is dragged across the world, enduring one miserable experience after another, Roly Davis has the time of his life at home.

You have to see this film to believe it–some of the best scenes, for me at least, are in “Las Vegas” when Wally is both a chorus girl and Elvis, and the way in which Wally creates fake flights and airports is brilliant, amazing, and hysterically funny. And take a good long look at the tour guide, Lotta Boyle (Judith Fisher)–she looks uncannily like Hilary Clinton. The way in which the film juxtaposes the real tour with the fake tour is brilliant, but beneath all this comedy, there’s a motto here: you don’t have to travel the world to have the time of your life. If you loved Muriel’s Wedding or Welcome to Woop Woop you will enjoy this insane comedy film too.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy

Carry On Camping (1969)

 “All my life, I’ve been like an unused clockwork toy.”

In the British comedy, Carry On Camping, Sid Boggle (Sid James) and Bernie Lugg (Bernard Bresslaw) take their girlfriends to see a film about nudist camping. The film is supposed to be an icebreaker, but the fact that Joan Fussey (Joan Sims) and Anthea (Dilys Lane) are outraged by the film doesn’t deter Sid from plotting a cosy holiday for four at the Paradise Nudist Camp. Unfortunately, things don’t go and smoothly as planned, and Sid, Bernie, Joan, and Anthea end up camping in a grotty field owned by crafty farmer, Mr Fiddler. Things look grim for Sid’s devious plans, but then a busload of budding schoolgirls arrives from Chayste Place led by headmaster Doctor Soaper (Kenneth Williams), and Matron, Miss Haggerd (Hattie Jacques). The effervescent Barbara Windsor stars as one of the more mischief-seeking schoolgirls.

To add to the merriment, various other peculiar campers also merge onto Farmer Fiddler’s field. Mr and Mrs Potter are perennial campers. Mr Potter longs to dump the tent and the tandem, but Mrs Potter skillfully ignores all of her husband’s objections while she giggles in the most annoying fashion. Charlie Muggins (Charles Hawtrey)–is a tentless hiker who “isn’t fussy” where he sleeps, and he enroaches on everyone’s politeness. The film is worth renting just to see Hawtrey in shorts.

The Carry On team produced a large number of films from the 50s through the 70s, and the team consisted of a core group of British comedians with new talent added for each film–I suppose the closest equivalent in America would be National Lampoon films. A great deal of the comedy is in the double entendre lines delivered almost non-stop. And while the films are loaded with adult subject matter, it’s really all good clean fun in the end. If you’ve never watched a “carry on” film before, I recommend starting with either Carry On Camping or Carry On Nurse. These are both gems and some of the best in the series. Carry On Camping is from director Gerald Thomas.

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Filed under British, Carry On Films, Comedy

Casanova’s Big Night (1954)

“What’s Casanova got that if I had, I probably couldn’t handle anyway?”

In Casanova’s Big Night Bob Hope plays Pippo Popolino, a humble tailor’s apprentice who tries to seduce the widow Francesca Bruni (Joan Fontaine) by ‘borrowing’ one of Casanova’s outfits and posing as the great lover. Francesca isn’t fooled for a moment–she sometimes entertains the real Casanova (Vincent Price).

When Casanova skips town leaving behind considerable debts, local merchants led by the widow Francesca camp out in Casanova’s kitchen hoping to be paid and avoid bankruptcy. The wealthy Duchess of Castelbello (Hope Emerson) arrives with her son Raphael (Robert Hutton) who is engaged to Elena Di Gambetta (Audrey Dalton). The Duchess wants to employ Casanova to test Elena’s fidelity, and she is willing to pay Casanova 10,000 ducats to seduce Elena and steal an embroidered petticoat as proof.

In a series of events, the Duchess mistakes Pippo Popolino for Casanova. The merchants decide the only way they’ll recoup their money is to coerce Pippo to pose as Casanova and collect the fee for seducing Elena. Pippo leaves for Venice–taking Francesca along to provide the incentive, and Casanova’s valet, Lucio (Basil Rathbone) to teach Pippo how to be a great lover.

At the beginning of the film, Pippo would love to be Casanova–rich, suave, and successful with women. Pippo quickly discovers that there are benefits and drawbacks to stepping into Casanova’s life. While women swoon at the mere mention of his name, wronged husbands draw their swords. Pippo is cowardly, and he’s certainly not made for court intrigues or duels, but he holds his own in this costume drama. Sheer nerve, bluffing, and buffoonery go a long way, and at one point, Pippo even dons women’s clothing and masquerades as a hefty Baroness. While Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone play their roles seriously, Bob Hope is full of asides and great lines. There are some big names here in small roles–Raymond Burr plays an evil courtier, and Lon Chaney Jr plays an incarcerated madman. Casanova’s Big Night is my favourite Bob Hope film. He’s at the peak of his career, and he’s at his funniest. Best scene: Bob Hope arrives in Venice in a gondola singing to all the besotted women. If you enjoy this film, I also recommend Monsieur Beaucaire. From director Norman Z. McLeod

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Moving Violations (1985)

“How about a little strip search and we’ll call it even.”

In Moving Violations, after committing various traffic violations, a motley group of drivers are suddenly on the wrong side of the law and on the bad side of a couple of highway patrol officers. The film begins with several scenes showing exactly why these drivers end up attending traffic school. Landscaper Dana Cannon (John Murray), for example, is no respecter of persons–especially if there’s a uniform involved. His wild careening all over the road in a dilapidated old vehicle loaded with plants lands him several tickets, and offering his communist party card instead of his license doesn’t help. Puppeteer Scott Greeber (Brian Backer) is the victim of a run-away puppet theatre. Rocket scientist Amy Hopkins (Jennifer Tilly) is also condemned to traffic school along with hypochondriac Joan Pudillo (Wendie Jo Sperber).

Dana Cannon quickly gets on the wrong side of uptight Deputy Halik (James Keach) and his partner/girlfriend Deputy Virginia Morris (Lisa Hart Carroll). But Cannon doesn’t stop there; he also annoys luscious Judge Nedra Henderson (Sally Kellerman).

One of the biggest criticisms of this film is that John Murray, who plays main character Dana Cannon, acts too much like his famous brother, Bill Murray. Who cares? Murray delivers a great deadpan comic performance, and it’s unfortunate he never really launched a film career worthy of his talents. Moving Violations is another of those great 80s comedies, and it contains one of the best chase scenes ever made in comedy film. Special note goes to James Keach who was brave enough to run around Los Angeles in bondage gear. The Anchor Bay DVD is excellent quality and the picture is a considerable improvement when compared to my old, but much-loved, VHS tape.

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Neurosia (1995)

 “This was Rosa von Praunheim’s favourite public convenience.”

neurosiaNeurosia: 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.

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Filed under Comedy, German, Rosa von Praunheim