Eddie Constantine and Hanna Schygulla in Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte (1971)

BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE (Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte)

(director/writer: Rainer Werner Fassbinder; cinematographer: Michael Ballhaus; editors: Thea Eymèsz/Rainer Werner Fassbinder; music: Peer Raben; cast: Lou Castel (Jeff, Director), Eddie Constantine (Himself), Marquard Bohm (Ricky), Hanna Schygulla (Hanna), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Sascha, Production Manager), Margarethe von Trotta (Babs, Sascha’s wife), Hannes Fuchs (David), Marcella Michelangeli (Margret), Karl Scheydt (Manfred), Ulli Lommel (Korbinian), Kurt Raab (Fred), Monica Teuber (Billi, Makeup), Magdalena Montezuma (Irm), Benjamin Lev (Candy), Herb Andress (Coach), Tanja Constantine (Linda, Interpreter), Katrin Schaake (Scriptgirl), Ingrid Caven (Film Crew); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Peter Berling; New Yorker Films; 1971-West Germany-in German with English subtitles)

“Whore of a film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This whore of a film is a film within a film about making a film the avant-garde way, perhaps in a more brutal way than how Warhol worked at the Factory. It could be construed as the rabid 25-year-old Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s more amusing and brutal version of Godard’s “Contempt,” as it supposedly tells it accurately about Fassbinder’s bad experiences shooting Whity in Spain. There’s a madness, a serpentine sense of movement, a chaotic despair and self-indulgence to the fascinating plotless film, that makes it an indescribable film experience with too many characters to keep track of and not much to draw on to try and piece things together without being an insider.

It opens with a long extended shot that shows a German film unit making a film that denounces state-sanctioned violence, but ironically the film crew is being tormented by those in charge of the film (the surly director (Lou Castel) and the equally surly production manager (Rainer Werner Fassbinder). The film crew is hanging around the gloomy lobby of a seaside Spanish hotel acting manic, restless, brooding, telling inside tales, throwing temper tantrums, breathing sex in every encounter (the men pounce on both other men and the gals) and everyone is almost foaming at the mouth from a pent up petulance while waiting for key people such as the director and star Eddie Constantine to arrive as well as the materials and for a bounced check to clear. In the background, Leonard Cohen songs from his first album play on adding to the indolent romantic mood. One guy (Kurt Raab) for no reason at all cries and plops down on the bar and cries out “I can’t bear it”; the makeup gal (Monica Teuber) tells her girlfriend, the production manager’s wife (Margarethe von Trotta), that she finds the Spanish light technician attractive and wonders if he’s queer; her friend, who is having an affair with the director (who is also having an affair with one of the handsome actors (Marquard Bohm), says the place is crawling with queers; the speech coach (Herb Andress) tells another man “I could help you if you came to Rome”; the laconic Constantine arrives and takes the talkative star (Hanna Schygulla) to bed to the resentment of the others who could have had her if he didn’t show; and when the director arrives he goes into a scream about the crew’s incompetence (even intimidating the production manager, who was the main intimidating person before his arrival). The director later slaps an actress (Magdalena Montezuma) after she kisses him and tells him she believed him when he said he would marry her, and fires her when she can’t stop blabbing.

It’s a cruel pic whose humor is deadly, that works best when digging out the sexual lay of the land and how antsy everyone is to make it with someone before the shoot is over. As for letting the secret out of the bottle on how to make a film, that gets lost sight of in all the paranoia on the set. It ends with the quote from Thomas Mann “And I say to you that I am weary to death of depicting humanity without partaking of humanity.”