Tuesday 22 August 2017

Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Brisbane - Cinephiles exchange views on RWF's life

Brisbane’s GOMA is planning a major season of films by the German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder. You can find the details if you click on this link to the two-part showcase. As a lead-up a couple of pieces have been posted about the program which you can find if you click on this link Eight Hours Don't Make a Day and a post by Ben Cho here.  Ben’s piece prompted an exchange with long time cinephile David Hare which is reproduced below.

David Hare: Two quick responses to points in Ben's excellent summation of the RWF season and the writer/director himself. I refuse to accept the spurious proposition he was bi-sexual (even were one to subscribe to the notion that we are all bi-sexual in some reductionist Freudian sense, i.e. existing and identifying on a spectrum.) Fassbinder’s marriage to Ingrid Caven is also something not specific to implied hetero or bi-sexuality, and Caven herself acknowledges unambiguously, Rainer was gay. The he's not queer line is one that is argued completely irresponsibly and absurdly by Fassbinder’s de facto "curator" and, alas, surviving archivist, the pig-headed Juliane Lorenz who, for all her good work, cannot get it into her brain that RWF despite all evidence and recollection of his peers, was quite simply gay. Not bi, not hetero. Gay.

What he did not want to be thought of was some kind of precious, sensitive queen, and modern day gender politics would probably appall him (as they do me) but also send him into paroxysms of laughter (as they do me). To me and other post-gay queer critics his Faustrecht der Freiheit/Fox and his Friends is not only one of the earliest gay movies - gay material, milieu, intention ... but one of the most powerful critiques of bourgeois gay society in art and one that is decades ahead of its time. His eyes would be rolling and head spinning at the new world of the gay middle class with weddings, children, and happy families (as is mine.) and submersion into bourgeois patriarchal hetero-normativity. Like it or not both Fox and Querelle in their own extremely subversive way, are satires and commentaries on gay life and culture, with secondary relevance to non-gay audiences, and they express nakedly and directly male homosexual desire and power as seen through the eyes of a vehemently anti-sentimental artist. Sentimental is something he never ever was. It's the last word to use in his context.

Ben Cho: David - fair points but let me clear something up. I suspect he was gay in the sense that he had multiple gay lovers and had intense love affairs with men. But then I also read some articles about the women he fucked so I guess I was being charitable in the term "bi"... In regards to the term "sentimental" this isn't necessarily in the "hallmark" sense of the word but I stand by that as one of the things I do love about his work is the ability to one minute evoke extreme tenderness and sadness but then spike that with a heavy dose of acid.

David Hare: Ben it's a sensitive point with me. Juliane has made something of a career for 20 years plus now, and a fool of herself, claiming him for the other team. She is misguided in this because she is promulgating the "He's really one of us " theme and trying to erase a part of his life that is fundamental to his whole life's work. His range is incredible I agree. Forgive me if I sound a bit harsh. (I dont really bite!) But Juliane is one of those fucking revisionists one has to counter at every step. Many of us have wandered across the stream from time to time but everyone you can speak to about Rainer knows him as a gay man. A profoundly complex and wide-ranging one, and not one the kids today would probably like very much. Kempy and I used to know one of his late film period producers, Mike McLernon and others here met or knew members of his ensemble. There is no doubt.

I wish Wildwechsel/Jailbait (1973) were somehow legally available. But it's still tied up. There are various sources for it in the usual backchannels. It's a scream. Only funnier movie is Whity (1971) (in parts) and The Third Generation which I saw in Paris in 1982. Even having to manage with not frequent French subtitles, I was in gales of laughter, while the highly "rad" audience (who all smelt slightly stale) sat there in silence without a peep. His humor is something that is never far away. Part of his range.

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