Cuckoo and more August 2, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I was hoping to give you locals another helpful cinema tip but now, looking at Kino Krokodil’s website, I see that the film I wanted to recommend to you finished yesterday. I’d be a hopeless agony uncle. So you’ll have to make your own efforts to find Kukushka (The Cuckoo) now, or hope, as is Krokodil’s wont, that it reappears at some point in the future. But it’s a fun film, especially for language nerds. Four languages on the go: German, Finnish, Russian and Sami, which, while I got the linguistic equivalent of a stiffy about, also made me think that it might be an idea for subtitles to somehow cleverly indicate what language is being spoken, which I first worried about when watching Kolja, when there were moments at which it was significant whether people were speaking Czech or Russian and which must have passed lots of people by.
But bugger all that. Going to the cinema alone remains the greatest pleasure life has to offer beyond having your ears syringed. But I don’t know if it’s a new thing at Krokodil or I’ve only noticed it thanks to my new, improved ears, but as you sit, almost alone – I can’t believe the cinema makes any money at all – waiting for the gent to start the film for you and looking at the photos of Eastern European cinemas on the wall and getting another language-stiffy at the one of the cinema in Belarus with the permanent notices written in Belarusian while all the actual film stuff is in Russian, there is now a sort of lounge-music to lull you filmwards. And it’s poor enjoyment enhancement. It sounds like a group of posh children, whose parents have told them that whatever they do is brilliant, have swallowed helium, tinkled pencils on milk-bottles and then expressed their glee. Silence please.
So, films may also be watched at home. There, not only can I prevent myself from accidentally switching on music and having that annoying wait while the film starts twenty minutes after it’s meant to (admittedly, a crime against humanity which Krokodil manages not to commit), but I can also have the inner satisfaction of watching with headphones so as not to rile the easy-to-rile neighbours (and I try to limit any gleeful reactions, helium-fuelled or not, and make sure all bottles are stored at a safe distance). And so I watched Coming Out, which my ex thoughtfully sent me from London, thinking, rightly, that it would float my boat. It is East Germany’s most famous (or perhaps only?) gay film. As I live in a bubble of flagrant ignorance, I had no idea it existed and, as I watched it, was already dreading expressing my (quite quiet) enthusiasm to German friends and saying I knew nothing about the bastard film as I worried I’d be met with the looks of kind weariness that met me when I mentioned to a gentleman in France that I was new to Rimbaud. (Honestly, the French are too well educated. I was only 2 and a half.) (But, fucking hell, better late than never. Read some of his correspondence with M. Verlaine if you haven’t already. The heterosexual males amongst you might have to pretend you don’t find it moving, but dash into the loo where no-one can see you and let some tears be jerked.)
Anyway, Coming Out is fun to watch at a squillion levels. If you’re in Berlin, because you can look out for the places you know and marvel at the cars and wonder which station used to be called Marx-Engels-Platz. And because it’s the end of an era. So end-of-an-era, in fact, that it premiered on the night the wall came down. The film portrays the lot of a gay schoolteacher in Berlin and his struggles to admit that he’s an out-and-out screamer and how this affects his career, his loved ones and the men he gets involved with. An old queen gives him a you-were-lucky lecture, explaining how he’d ended up in a concentration camp for being gay (and going on to explain how his Communist comrades helped him later, though the film makes no paeans to Honecker) and how now, gays in the East German paradise are the last discriminated-against group (which was bollocks, of course). Gayness was tolerated in the GDR, and the film used real gay venues for the gay-scene scenes, but, when those scenes stray from raucous hedonism and painted faces – today’s scene is very boring in comparison, let me tell you. Though it would be shit to live in a place again where you have to hide your gayness a bit, such societies do tend to have a much more interesting scene. Give me St. Petersburg with its tacky fun over too-cool-to-exist Berlin queenery any day – there is talk of fear, loneliness and anonymity.
And excuse me being frivolous, for a change, when it comes to dealing with a serious film, but the fashions are quite marvellous. There are lots of tight jeans. Some exemplary mullets. A brilliant Bananarama haircut or two. Luckily, our hero is staid enough not to do anything too drastic on the hair-front, and he is thankfully called upon to parade around the screen wearing nothing but his one pair of very tight, very high-waisted jeans, for much of the film. Woof!
I won’t hear a contrary word. Be warned, Russian, and anyone who thinks I need to be advised against it, but when Herr Freihof comes up to me on the street one day, as is probably almost bound to happen, and tells me that I am the man he’s been waiting for all his 44 years, I might not put up much resistance at all.