(out of series) Il portiere di notte (my tv)

Dismissed as trash by most professional movie salespeople, Liliana Cavani’s film makes an important contribution to the cinematic decryption of the concentration camp structure of post war cities. Max (Dirk Bogard) was a Nazi officer during World War II who raped and protected Lucia (Charlotte Rampling,) a camp inmate. More than a dozen years after the war, Lucia comes to Vienna with her husband, and the odd couple start having sex again. Cavani makes it clear that something on the order of love connects Max and Lucia, or perhaps that the practices they engaged in during the Shoah have become postwar sex’s essence. Since my dream project Man-Sex In Birkinau seems to have stalled out in development,  Il portiere di notte seems as close as we’ll ever get to understanding camp sexuality without actually having to read Giorgio Agamben. In the film’s final movement, an encounter group for former Nazis worried about being unmasked trap Max and Lucia in their apartment and starve them out. The ease with which the former Nazi and the former inmate can be thrust back into the circumstances of the camps in the middle of 1957 Vienna makes the social structure of that city plain. Throughout the film, various shots combining zooms and camera movements find and lose characters in the architecture, figuring the the city as a matrix that produces subjectivity. Furthermore, Il portiere di notte does as well as a film can in depicting the utter vacuity of post-coital moments: the seconds after sex provide the metronome for what devotees of the actors studio call the thespian “beat.” Would obviously make a good critical double feature with Schindler’s List, given that films moronic and exploitative portrayal of period sex.

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