giovedì, marzo 27, 2014

German homework

German classes are going well. It's really gratifying how quickly I feel like I'm picking things up, for which I should thank Chinese for being so slow and difficult to pick up. In comparison it's as though I'm studying a dialect of English, though more properly I guess English is a pidgin version of German - all the tough bits removed. Grammatically it's striking how similar German is to "poetic" English - like reading a Walter Scott novel sometimes - and between a study of German and French I feel like I'm getting a whole new understanding of English, which is fun.

More about that another time. One of our bits of homework last week was to watch Free Rainier, a bit of television-grade, good-enough left-wing feel-good fluff about sabotaging the TV ratings system in Germany, which I got a little bit of extra enjoyment out of by virtue of having worked in the television industry back in the noughties, around the time the film was released. The really significant thing about it, though, was it mentioning Fassbinder, and me recalling that I was pretty much ready to start watching Fassbinder films as the F-word had been bothering me to do for years, to see what everybody meant about how great he was and what an interesting perspective he had on women and all sorts of things.

Well, fuck.

We started with Martha, which I've since been told was probably a bit of a heavy place to start. It made me laugh out loud and want to vomit, and I'd say I don't want to see it again but the lead actress was such a comedic genius that she made it really watchable. I don't think I've ever seen such a movie before. It had the sort of heavy hand of a parable, archetypes rather than characters, and - blessings - wholly simple, if deeply disturbing dialogue that helped with language acquisition. And making me want to vomit. And laugh.

A long time ago I watched and blogged about a film called Secretary, which I liked. It was based on a short story, which I later read and didn't think much of. The author accused Secretary's makers of making a Disney version of her story. Well, no, they didn't, they made a better, more developed story about a dominant/submissive relationship and gave her money because both of them had a secretary in it. They did make a Disney version of Martha. Secretary was cute while Martha has big, damning things to say about being bourgeois and being a woman and all sorts of heavy shit while being funny.

Anyways, I couldn't stop there. While I was still processing, I decided to watch Veronica Voss. That didn't make me want to puke, and it had nice simple dialogue again, which was great for language acquisition, again. I don't have as much to say about it besides that it might have been the best film I've ever seen. Performances, cinematography, everything. It probably also made a bigger emotional impact than it might have otherwise because I saw it while reading Gabor Mate's In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which I started to help me deal with a friend's descent into terminal alcoholism. Sometimes it gets so irresistable to dismiss somebody's behaviour - and hence them - because of their addictions, even if you reckon you're doing it "compassionately" by considering their addiction a disease instead of a wilful, stupid, stupid choice. But it's not that simple, is it?

Not that the presentation of addiction in Veronica Voss wasn't simple, which was probably down to Fassbinder being a dedicated addict himself and seeking to see himself as a victim of chemicals, rather than of anything more personal or internal. But it made you stare rather unflinchingly at addiction in a way that was more than watchable, and ultimately, even funny. Sometimes.