Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Kinski's PAGANINI (1989)

One of the best things about the various Yahoo Groups I belong to is that the members often push me to read, listen to and see things I might never have tried otherwise. Such is definitely the case with the EuroTrash Paradise. The list of books and movies these guys have turned me onto would fill a notebook! Returning to a fine tradition of the group this past week was the Twisted Video Book Club in which we watch a particular film and discuss it. Dan Taylor of Exploitation Retrospect provided this crazed film that appears to have been Klaus Kinski's last. Here are the comments I added to the very long, all day talk. I'm one of the few that found something to like about this movie. Enjoy- and if you're so inclined- pop over and join in the discussions with the rest of us. We're always happy for more!

That seems to be the theme of Kinski’s PAGANINI. But then when a film is written, edited and directed by the mad man that is K2 then I guess that would have been the theme no matter what. I assume Klaus felt a strong kinship to Paganini as he throws himself into the role completely. Not that Kinski ever half-assed his way through anything but he seems especially invested in this man’s life. I wonder if he saw his own life as reflected in some of the sad events depicted here.

I have no idea of the historical veracity of this crazed film but it is at least visually arresting- not so much for its photography, although that might be judged fine if a better print could ever be found. It’s more an arresting kaleidoscope of images and partial scenes edited together to push the viewer into Paganini’s life. As laid out by Kinski the man was a rock star of his time as we are shown dozens of women swooning over him in ways that reminded me of reactions to The Beatles. Playing to sold out crowds, tearing through bows, abusing his violin as if possessed by a musical demon the man’s genius was unquestionable. But also undeniable was his sexual obsession with under age girls and by the 25 minute mark we are introduced to Paganini’s terrible treatment of a young girl whom he seduced and promised to marry. Once she became pregnant he tried to induce an abortion and nearly killed the poor child. Then we jump into his marriage, his mistreatment and neglect of his wife, her eventual suicide and this loving relationship with his son. Sadly, all of this is played out in a confusion of images, slow motion photography and pointless scenes of Kinski eating food, riding in carriages and walking across courtyards.

And yet- and yet… I was not actually bored! The film has no real story or plot and nearly no coherent through line at all, but I was kind of mesmerized. It’s not that I was unaware of time passing but even as I became occasionally frustrated with a pointless sequence I found myself caught up in wondering where things were going and what mad thing was going to play across the screen next. A constant jumble of often disconnected things the film begins to take on the feel of a dream. Perhaps a fever dream? Could this be KInski’s ideas of the imaginings of Paganini on his deathbed? A rush of memories pulled and stretched, chopped and misaligned in a brain wracked with both disease, hatred and guilt?

While it doesn’t have a plot it does have a point- and sometimes that’s enough. When something tries hard to be both about art and a piece of art simultaneously pretensions creep in. I don’t find that to be the case with PAGANINI- well –not all the time. It is far from perfect but it is unarguably alive, vital and fascinating. One could argue over the necessity of multiple scenes of beautiful women masturbating because of an unhealthy need for Paganini and question if the man was as obsessed by asses as Kinski portrays him- but why bother! This is a mad disaster and an often lyrical rumination on a life spent rolling in beauty and filth. Amazing.

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