Highfalutin & Interview: Richard Block & Martin Schwartz

Expired January 29, 2022 3:00 AM
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** This film is accompanied by a prerecorded discussion between Program Curator Martin Schwartz of Goethe Pop Up Seattle and Dr. Richard Block, Associate Professor of German at the University of Washington and author most recently of Echoes of a Queer Messianic: From Frankenstein to Brokeback Mountain. **

Sliding scale admission: $5–25. Please pay what you can!

Still images courtesy of sixpackfilm.

About this series:

GERMAN CINEMA NOW!, a celebration of the bold, new, and fantastic in German and transnational cinema, is a monthly film series presented by Goethe Pop Up Seattle. In 2022, GCN! explores states of (apparent) stasis, sameness, and standstill, inviting viewers to look closely at the countless dynamic processes that are always underway, just beneath the surface.

It’s quite a gathering at the corner tables at Diener Tattersall in Berlin. Iconic queer performers like Vaginal Davis and Susanne Sachsse, scholars like Marc Siegel, cultural overlords like Rene Pollesch, and great actors of every living generation are drinking heavily and filling up the ashtrays at their late friend Volker Spengler’s favorite bar. But this is not a funeral party. It’s not even funereal. It’s a smoky, raucous wake for an actor of shocking force and dedication; a crude, intense, and untamable lover and joker, and the strangest, funniest person they ever knew.

Immortalized in the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, especially through his unforgettable performance as Elvira Weishaupt in In a Year of 13 Moons, Spengler emerged from a murky boyhood and an apprenticeship at sea to become one of Germany’s most prolific actors. In the grand theatres of Berlin, famed and feared directors ate out of his hand. And indeed, in the Diener, his friends share stories of his professionalism and his humble, all-out approach to acting. But what they wonder at most is the man’s truly overwhelming warmth and joie de vivre. The way he invariably answered the door naked. The way he always smelled nice. The photos of lovers’ faces and other body parts he kept. His loud and foul-mouthed quips at every bar in town. His high-decibel cackle and his massive fleshiness. The dirty jokes he told to old ladies. The way he effortlessly and contemptuously dispelled false seriousness and the way he made his friends feel loved.

Shot over the course of a few gatherings, Hans Broich’s film is put together in the eternal present tense of the corner booth, registering waves of jollity and exhaustion. With glimpses of European theatre culture, Fassbinder’s core ensemble, and the radical camp that originated in 1960s New York, Highfalutin circles around a character who hated conventionality and probed anarchic, Dionysian ways of life and of acting. Is it possible to offend without being “offensive”? Can resistance be a matter of the body and not of the intellect? Is it a good idea to pour gin in an IV? Volker Spengler was a white, European man. But as Highfalutin shows us, the way he lived gives us a taste of universal liberation. (Martin Schwartz)

Still images courtesy of sixpackfilm.

In what may be the most beautiful moment in Highfalutin, a throaty laugh suddenly breaks out from the off… A laugh that seems to respond to everything said about the man, but that betrays nothing, that presents itself as a riddle. In response, the group pauses, smokes, and reflects. The séance for Volker Spengler as Eurydice figure, called from the kingdom of the dead, seems complete.” – Daniel Moersener, Die Tageszeitung (Berlin)

About the filmmaker:

Hans Broich, born in 1991, has been studying production and directing at the Vienna Film Academy since 2017. During this time he produced the debut feature film Die Ängstliche Verkehrsteilnehmerin by Berlin director Martha von Mechow and together with editor Felix Leitner his first own film Highfalutin. He is a founding member of the Berlin-based theater and film production company Tentakel Industries.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    96 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
    Austria, Germany
  • Note
    with English subtitles
  • Director
    Hans Broich