Beware Of A Holy Whore

Beware Of A Holy Whore

****

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

One of the staples of the European art cinema is the self-reflexive film about the making of a film, epitomised by the likes of Federico Fellini's 8½, Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt and Francois Truffaut's Day For Night. As such, it was probably inevitable that prolific German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder should also contribute to the sub-genre sooner or later, with Beware Of A Holy Whore drawing from its predecessors and his own experiences making the quasi-western Whity earlier in 1970.

Although Fassbinder incarnates the producer Sascha rather than the director, Jeff, who is played by Italian-based spaghetti western and art-house star Lou Castel, Jeff emerges as an obvious and somewhat unflattering stand in. Nevertheless, as he berates all around him for their inability to really understand his art and genius and help realise his vision, the method in Fassbinder's own madness becomes clear, Jeff's abject failures transforming into his own triumph. (Anyone looking for a bizarre western double bill, by the way, could do worse than pair Whity with Matalo!, in which the Columbian-born Castel plays a 'gunfighter' whose weapon of choice is the boomerang; those whose tastes run more towards grindhouse than arthouse may also be interested to know that low-budget impresario Dick Randall has a small role as the receptionist at the hotel, spending most of his time lying slumped forward either asleep or drunk.)

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Other than the iconic Eddie Constantine, playing himself in the film and Lemmy Caution in the film within the film, the remainder of the cast largely comprise familiar members of Fassbinder's anti-theatre circle such as Ulli Lommel, Kurt Raab and Hanna Schygulla.

The anti-theatre approach in turn is very much to the fore in the bulk of the inaction, which takes place in a Spanish hotel occupied by the production crew for the shooting of a thriller in which Jeff seems intent on deconstructing the myth of the Caution character, exposing the violence inherent in him and the systems he ultimately represents and endorses.

In truth, however, with the production funds not yet in place – and quite possibly never forthcoming – there is little for the cast and crew to do except sit around the bar; talk about politics, relationships, sex and whatever else that might come to mind; listen and dance to the jukebox; drink endless Cuba Libres – excepting Constantine who, naturally, orders whiskeys instead, perhaps further reflecting and commenting upon the confusion of actors and roles, reality and representations – and generally fail to communicate when they aren't actively intent on tearing each other other apart.

Also at times reminiscent of Alain Resnais's Last Year In Marienbad, through the otherwise deserted hotel setting, and the Andy Warhol/Paul Morrisey films, through the emphasis on time and process, and featuring a melange of German, English, Spanish, French and Italian on the soundtrack as a reflection of the reality of post-dubbed international co-productions of the time, Beware Of A Holy Whore is unsurprisingly somewhat difficult going at times.

As with most of Fassbinder's work it is very much an acquired taste, requiring that one accept the notion of film as something more than just entertainment, as a tool to make one think. As such, it probably won't win any new converts to the cause, but taken on its own terms succeeds admirably.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2007
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Beware Of A Holy Whore packshot
Film within a film about a movie cast who try to make the best of a bad job when they find themselves short of funding. Out to own on the RW Fassbinder Commemorative Collection: Vol 1.
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Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Writer: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Starring: Lou Castel, Eddie Constantine, Marquard Bohm, Hanna Schygulla, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Hannes Fuchs, Marcella Michelangeli, Karl Scheydt, Ulli Lommel, Kurt Raab

Year: 1971

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: West Germany

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