DIAGONALE: FESTIVAL OF AUSTRIAN FILM

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By Claudia Siefen

ZABBADOING!

This year’s “Diagonale“, Festival of Austrian Film, located in the city of Graz, provided a few heartfelt pulsing productions of austrian filmproduction. You have been simply on the safe side not going with the flow, to find yourself in the end on the right side. And then you have been not alone.

Das haus meines vaters by Ludwig Wüst. Andrej (Nenad Šmigoc) wakes up in his car parking on a meadow, countryside, sunshine in the morning. A woman (Martina Spitzer) comes along, staring through the window, trying to wake him up and last but notleast: bringing some coffee in a Thermos flask. The conversation is cautious and a little awkward, clumsy and friendly but finally they slowly start the engine and with that their little trip. Andrej came back to his native village for the last time to see  Das haus meines vaters (My Father’s House). He is there to pick up some spirits, some gestures and memories of his dead parents. The woman with him, his former classmate and teenage crush, is there to support him but she is full of expectations. Andrej is strolling the empty rooms, full of dust and spider webs. He got lost in himself, trying to handle his feelings and her  unspoken cravings. They talk a little, they walk around. But with every step the distance between them grows, just like the struggling. His, because he wants to keep that distance and hers, because she wants to overcome it.

The director Ludwig Wüst has been using ¨his technique¨: in months of preparation he has been talking to the actors and to the director of photography (Klemens Koscher), just to leave them alone while shooting, trying to capture all of the story in one long shot: ¨Do you want some?¨, she asks softly and offering him a piece of freshly peeled apple. Again Wüst is producing a documentary-like atmosphere, a certain sadness but also a certain relief in the end. And again he stirred up the audience.

Perfect garden by Mara Mattuschka. After that enormous conversation almost without words I came to see the latest cooperation of painter and director Mara Mattuschka and choreographer and dancer Chris Haring. Dream and reality are one and the same in life. All that energy needs its way out. Dancing, movement and words: ¨N-n-n…¨ one dancer starts, ¨n-n-n-nack-nack-naked- Naked n-n-n-noodles. Naked noodles!!¨ Bursting and flaming. And the dancer goes on: ¨Penetration, penis, pussy, peppers, paradise, prostitute, perfection¨. But there is also a story in this wonderful orgy of movement called Perfet Garden. A mafia boss seeks control of a cosy establishment and while watching and listening to the dancers he finds unexpected his own happiness. Again Mattuschka and Haring are putting emotions into wonderful movements, sounds and the climax of grimacing. Erotic is still not easy to define, whether in a person’s speech or movements, and they bring them all together and leave the audience with that cheerful desire to move every inch of your body because you have something to say: „Naked noodles!“ „This movie is like a drug“, Mattuschka warned us before screening. She was so right.

Diamantenfieber by Peter Kern. Again the director Peter Kern is sharing with us his craving for revenge. Representing everything that is bad-mouthed in a clean, straight and healthy world. But he also talks about a strong sensibility and a tremendous tenderness. Kern laments society, above all its lack of understanding. Society for him always equals the nice and beautiful, the healthy and trimmed people. There does not seem to be a chance that he will ever change his point of view. On the contrary, over the years he seems to be almost reassured in his position; in other words more at ease nowadays while he still loves to provoke his audience. After the death of his parents 16years old Hans (Johannes Nussbaum) provides for his four brothers and his grandmother. He works as a courier for his uncle, who sells counterfeit diamonds to wealthy clients with plenty of illicit funds. Hans is forced to fight against the establishment and the greed of the rich, and with that for justice for the poor. In that fight he won’t be alone and so Diamantenfieber (Diamons fever) feels a little like the viennese version of Kästners „Anna Louise and Anton“ in modern times, full of charme and cheekiness. Peter Kern might like it or not, but Diamantenfieber  holds so much warmth and tenderness that Kern this time gives you something more: it is nothing less than hope. – The actor Nussbaum got awarded with the Diagonale Prize for the Best Leading Actor.

I was a teenage Zabbadoing by Carl Andersen. Also the first presentation of the Austrian Pulp-Retro and the deviant national film network of the Institut Schamlos took place, the lobbying platform for more sex, violence, genre mayhem and unhealthy attitudes in Austrian Cinema. It included Eddy Sallers’ austrian exploitation Shamelessly (1968) featuring Udo Kier as a leather dandy and wannabe gangster in his first starring role. Also Helmut Pfandler’s The she-wolf from the Devil’s moor aka Death in November (1978) is again an Austrian peasant idyll located somewhere in the fantasy-horror piece full of demons, archaic masquerade and black magic. One evening was dedicated to the late filmmaker Caro B. aka Carl Andersen (1958-2012), a veteran of the Vienna underground cinema, highlighted by his Vienna garage splatter film I was a teenage Zabbadoing  (1988), an avant-garde amateur hardcore porn shot on Super-8 with a good dose 1980s flair in which a studded belt-Vampirella from the planet Arus fights the secret society of Fun Helsing. She spreads her sex addiction virus through contaminated blood and olive oil (!), to which Vienna is sinking into street riots and bloody orgies. It was all pure pleasure and there is only to hope that the Institut Schmlos  will be able to continue their important work.

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