Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)

I have very little to say about Beware of a Holy Whore. Maybe if I watched it again I’d have better insight (if not a better opinion), but having already spent $34 at Le Video on rental/late fees, it just isn’t worth it.

As even cursory research will tell you, Beware of a Holy Whore was made as a sort of emetic after Whity, RWF’s first bigg(ish)-budget film, to purge the indignities of production (especially financing) on a larger scale than RWF had previously worked. The filmtakes place on the set of a movie being shot somewhere on the Mediterranean coast (Spain, perhaps?). The director is not on the set for a good portion of the production, however, so the beleaguered production manager (RWF himself) must captain the rudderless ship. The problem is, the money needed to continue (or maybe begin) shooting has not come in as expected, so nobody has anything to do. Predictably, this results in some bad behavior on the part of the cast and crew, isolated as they are in their opulent, sun-drenched prison; they spend a lot of time drinking and politicking and, of course, bed-hopping. Things only get worse when the high-strung and abusive director (Lou Castel) turns up. (The much needed funding never does.)

This movie was a huge disappointment after the baroque mannerism of Whity. There are some good performances by some great actors, including Eddie Constantine, as well as most of the Fassbinder stable (Schygulla, von Trotta, Schaake, Harry Baer, Ulli Lommel, Kurt Raab, Ingrid Caven, et al.), but they don’t have enough to do to sustain interest. I found myself marveling at the quality of Hanna Schygulla’s tan for far too long. (She turns a really rich nut brown. I didn’t expect that.)

Beware of a Holy Whore is one of those films about filmmaking that seem to have become de rigueur for young auteurs at a certain point in their careers in the 1960s and ‘70s. Ushered in by Fellini with 8 1/2, this genre probably peaked with Day for Night (Truffaut) and was pretty much exhausted by the time Wim Wenders made The State of Things in 1982. (It was downright irrelevant by 1996 when Assayas made Irma Vep, but that’s another story.) And a good thing, too. Self-indulgent and self-important, I have never understood why anyone in the film industry ever thought anyone outside the film industry would find movies about the politics of making movies interesting. I certainly don’t. (With the exception of Godard’s Contempt, which is in a different league altogether as a meditation on art in the age of international capitalism). And frankly, if it was so hard to get financing to make one film, why squander precious resources to make another whose primary purpose seems to be to lampoon the process? Shouldn’t that money go towards something more worthy?

I have no doubt that if you spent enough time studying Beware of a Holy Whore, the inside jokes and references to RFW’s other work—as well as to the film industry at large—would reveal themselves, to great delight. But who has time? I have 36 more movies to watch.

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