Anita--Dances Of Vice

  • 1987
  • 1 HR 25 MIN
  • NR
  • Biography

Applying his eccentric, flamboyant style to the biography of one of 20th century Germany's most notorious counterculture heroes, Anita Berber, camp filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim has created another unusual, original, and beautiful film. Berber, a nude dancer in 1920s Germany, became famous for her decadent life-style--a life-style which changed with the...read more

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Applying his eccentric, flamboyant style to the biography of one of 20th century Germany's most notorious counterculture heroes, Anita Berber, camp filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim has created another unusual, original, and beautiful film. Berber, a nude dancer in 1920s Germany, became

famous for her decadent life-style--a life-style which changed with the Third Reich's emergence and the restoration of "moral" order. It would hardly be expected that a director like von Praunheim (A VIRUS HAS NO MORALS, RED LOVE) would approach such a subject in a straightforward manner. Instead,

he juxtaposes fragments from the dancer's life with those of a modern-day figure, the 75-year-old Huber, a woman who claims to be Berber and who was placed in a mental hospital after baring her rear end on the streets of Berlin. (Berber actually died in 1928 at the age of 29 from tuberculosis.)

The modern tale, which occurs mainly inside the mental hospital, is photographed in a harsh black and white, while the scenes of the young dancer, played by Blum and presumably the product of Huber's imagination, are in lush, vibrant color. These scenes are also without dialog, using title cards

that recall the movies of the day. This gives these sequences an expressionistic feeling that is something of a cross between the baroque style of Visconti and the silent features of Clarence Brown. There is virtually no semblance of a strict narrative form in relating the plights of these two

women. The overweight, exceedingly obnoxious Huber is brought to a mental hospital where she does her best to make life miserable for the stuffy doctors and nurses, and bullies the other patients in her loud, crass manner. She is convinced that she is Berber, and wants to continue in the same

decadent life-style as the dancer. When a nurse attempts to inject her with Thorazine to calm her down, she asks for cocaine. When another patient incessantly talks about politics, Huber responds by saying she is more concerned with having a go at it "between the sheets." By the film's end,

Huber's temporal existence has come to an end. Her body lies on an operating table where an autopsy is performed. The doctors and nurses leave the body alone; Huber's spirit rises. There is a bewildered look on her face as she wonders where everyone has gone before she waddles off in search of

more fun.

The 1920s sequences concentrate more on visual effect than the camp comedy and social satire that are von Praunheim's trademark. A variety of scenes show Blum as she dances, seduces both men and women, and desperately searches for cocaine. She is often accompanied by her dance partner, Sebastian

Droste (played by Honesseau, a man with a chiseled body and face), an ardent cocaine user with a sexual preference for boyish-looking young men. Some aspects of Berber's history are suggested: that her extreme behavior resulted partly from a strict, bureaucratic father who never showed her the

love she needed; that Berber considered her dances an art form to be appreciated for its revelations about the human moral condition, while her audiences were mainly hedonistic men who wanted to see her naked; and that because of her many followers, she found it virtually impossible to find work,

and was forced into poverty and an early death. Von Praunheim uses the majority of his actors in roles in both periods. For instance, Blum and Honesseau, who play Berber and Droste in the 1920s, also play a nurse and doctor in the modern sequences. Blum looks exceedingly plain in the modern

scenes, a stark contrast to her appearance as the exotic Berber. There are instances when Blum's profile is photographed as beautifully and enticingly as any ever done of Greta Garbo under Clarence Brown's direction. The other bit actors were chosen mainly for their eccentric, sometimes bizarre,

facial qualities. The most interesting of all these characters is the elderly Huber, whose energetic presence (amazing for a woman of her age) never ceases to entertain. Though she may not possess the beauty of Anita Berber, she does have that same spirit that sparks the desire to live

instinctively, despite society's criticism.

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  • Released: 1987
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Applying his eccentric, flamboyant style to the biography of one of 20th century Germany's most notorious counterculture heroes, Anita Berber, camp filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim has created another unusual, original, and beautiful film. Berber, a nude dance… (more)

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