The operative sensibility of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s cinema is panoptical. One is always being watched by the indiscriminating, playful eye of seductress and demagogue, treating filmmaking as a messy encounter between fantasy and reality that transpires across rooms rather than on stage. For Fassbinder, rooms are prosceniums that enchant the camera. His Beware of a Holy Whore, from 1971, makes an inventory of its characters as they slouch on sofas and sprawl across beds. They’re the cast and crew of a troubled film headed by an incongruously tempered director (Lou Castel) supplemented by an aged Eddie Constantine and a Monroe blonde dressed in a skimpy variant from The Seven Year Itch. And as an inventory in images, Fassbinder’s film is peculiarly elusive, its camera almost always panning and surveying, its characters dancing in rococo rooms to the sound of American pop music. It’s a film stocked with incidents that deceive, and with moments of alleged narrative import that devolve ad infinitum into fragments that resist narrative coherence.
From ‘An Enchanting Proscenium: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore’ by Ricky d’Ambrose.