by Johannes Goransson on Jun.28, 2012
I’ve been watching as much Werner Schroeter films/clips as possible recently as well as reading about him. You can read more about him on his wikipedia page here, but to put things briefly, he was a German film-maker of the same generation as Fassbinder, through he never achieved the same amount of international fame (Fassbinder apparently thought he deserved much more acclaim).
An important note for Montevidayo is that apparently the essential influence was that of Jack Smith, whose films Schroeter watched in the late 1960s. You can see the influence for example on this early film, Eika Katappa:
He shared with Smith the love of somewhat kitschy divas – but instead of Maria Montez, Schroeter made a movie dedicates to Maria Callas (he also made movies starring Candy Darling).
Here’s an excerpt from a later movie, The Rose King:
I love the black ink. (In fact my next book, Haute Surveillance, re-writes this scene and some others.)
WERNER SCHROETER’S ”Rose King,” opening today at the Film Forum 1, is one of those supposedly avant-garde films that aren’t easy to write about without cracking up, but I’ll try.
When Fernando is alone, he wanders around the church, taunting the Virgin Mary, apparently waiting for Albert to tie him up again. I say again, though this is the sort of film in which so many shots are repeated I’m not at all sure that anything happens more than once. The movie begins with an aphorism that is, possibly, intended to be funny: ”If two children kiss, without knowing each other, one of them must die.” It concludes – I’m sure I’m not giving away anything important – with a shooting and the crucifixion of a cat.
Mr. Schroeter has a formidable reputation in Europe. He composes his images as deliberately as a high-fashion photographer. The lighting is sometimes exquisite, and the soundtrack contains bits and pieces of canned classical music. The Film Forum bills Mr. Schroeter as the ”enfant terrible of the new German cinema.” At 42, he’s not an enfant.
I like this dismissive review because it seems to capture the essence of Taste: it’s a form of moderation, a form of growing up, of having the grown-up sense to say when. If you don’t have the sense to stop, to moderate, you are laughable, not even worthy of an analysis. In short, this is to repeat Daniel Tiffany’s claim that kitsch is not a lack of artistry, but “excessive beauty.” It is not that it doesn’t accomplish art, but that it does it too much, possibly repeating itself without sense of proper arc. Like “sincerity,” taste provides a kind of currency-control, and art that moves beyond, that does too much, that becomes too much, causes/is inflation, generates too much has to be dismissed as kitsch.
Also, in keeping with Kim’s comment to Lucas’s post. it seems Canby wants to laugh *at* Schroeter’s tastlessness. But I find that movies like this (and most art that interest me) is conceived in a spirit where hilarity and seriousness are not bracketed off from each other. I mean Smith’s Normal Love is both the most beautiful and hilarious movie I’ve ever seen.