In modern-day Berlin (1987), Frau Kutowski goes insane, believing herself to be the (real-life) notorious Anita Berber, a nude art dancer/drug addict/scandalous figure of post-WWI Berlin. (...
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In modern-day Berlin (1987), Frau Kutowski goes insane, believing herself to be the (real-life) notorious Anita Berber, a nude art dancer/drug addict/scandalous figure of post-WWI Berlin. (Berber died of tuberculosis in 1928, having achieved significant success and recognition throughout the dance world.) Frau Kutowski is placed in a mental hospital, where in her own mind she acts out Berber's final days, including in her fantasies the hospital's staff and patients, to represent Anita's friends and associates. She relives the adventures, scandals, triumphs, trials and tribulations of Anita Berber, and finally merges her own real existence with that of her imagination, until fantasy actually becomes reality. The film makes use of both color (Expressionist style) and black & white (documentary style) to draw the line between fantasy and reality, respectively. Watch how this line is crossed over! Written by
The structure of "Anita: Dances of Vice" is like a postmodernist updating of Karel Reisz's "The Loves of Isadora," with its framework of the fat, decrepit, middle-aged Isadora Duncan just before her death interposed with vignettes of herself as a revolutionary modern dancer. Even more it reminds me of Ken Russell's wonderful docudramas about composers and artists, with their combination of razzle-dazzle showmanship and compassionate insight into the personalities involved. But "Anita" is very much a tour de force on its own terms, stylistically and substantially.
As befits a German film about a German heroine "Anita" is filled with classic Germanic motifs. There is the Nietschean superwoman Anita who turns the tables on her audience: revealing her naked body, it is SHE who leeringly objectifies THEM, joyfully savoring their reactions to her defiant poses. The film is also filled with Doeppelgangers. There is the beautiful, sharp-as-a-tack Anita whose double is her raddled, cocaine-crazed dancing partner Droste; there is also the doubling effect of the terrifyingly seductive young Anita in her dancing days juxtaposed with the comical old fat woman who "channels" Anita's soul, articulating the meanings behind the dance. Naturally, the subject of Hitler comes up, with Anita explicitly embodying the anarchic life force that flourished between the two world wars--and that we would do well to recognize and respect in our own time, uncomfortable as it may make us.
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