Beware of a Holy Whore

Beware of a Holy Whore

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Comparisons between Beware of a Holy Whore and Godard’s Contempt and Truffaut’s Day for Night are unavoidable, but even if the film is not quite as successful as those two films it’s infinitely funnier. At once Fassbinder’s most accessible and self-indulgent film, Beware of a Holy Whore catalogs the emotional baggage of actors holed up inside a Spanish seaside hotel during a tedious and under-financed movie shoot. The film is, at first glance, about making movies. Upon closer look, though, it’s really about Rainer Werner Fassbinder making movies. The many events depicted here are more or less variations of similar melodramas his actors suffered on the set of the remarkable Whity, which was filmed in Andalusia the year before. The film-within-the-film’s vicious director, Jeff (Lou Castel, wearing Fassbinder’s signature leather jacket throughout), sleeps with both men and woman and tortures everyone around him with unrepentant passion. There are entirely too many characters in the film to keep any of their many emotional and physical entanglements straight (the women are all drama queens, the men latent queens), which is of course the point of this offbeat self-caricature. Beware of a Holy Whore is essentially Contempt by way of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Similar to what Warhol was doing in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, Fassbinder spent his all-too-brief career in Germany cultivating a radical free-form aesthetic with a select group of actors. The characters in Beware of a Holy Whore are all prone to random emotional fits and schizophrenic outbursts, and as such it’s almost impossible to truly appreciate the film without some knowledge of the camp classics Paul Morrissey directed for Warhol (from 1966’s Chelsea Girls to 1970’s Trash). The film begins with one actor telling an elaborate child-like joke about a poor little girl coming to terms with the fact that she’s really a three-foot tall male criminal and ends with a famous quote by Thomas Mann (“And I say to you that I am weary to death of depicting humanity without partaking of humanity”) that points to Fassbinder’s distancing approach. Even when they were at their most comical, Fassbinder’s films were always about the same thing: human brutality. With Beware of a Holy Whore, Fassbinder seemed to acknowledge that his portraitures of human suffering on film meant nothing if he was subjecting his actors to the same melodrama he thrust upon his characters. This is cinema as apology.

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DVD
Distributor
New Yorker Films
Runtime
101 min
Rating
NR
Year
1971
Director
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Screenwriter
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast
Lou Castel, Eddie Constantine, Marquard Bohm, Hanna Schygulla, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Hannes Fuchs, Marcella Michelangeli, Karl Scheydt, Ulli Lommel, Kurt Raab