|The Criterion Collection's|
BluRay Special Edition
is quite the treat!!!
Dir. Liliana Cavani
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Liliana Cavani's 1974 depiction of the post-war resumption of a violent sadomasochistic relationship between a former S.S. officer (the prim, grim, perversely dashing Dirk Bogarde) and a concentration camp survivor (an icily sensual, waif-like Charlotte Rampling, alternating twixt childlike pleading and a grinning, thin-lipped malevolence), is one of a mere handful of pictures to inspire genuine revulsion amongst critics and audiences (both upon its initial release and even to this day).
|Dirk eyes Charlotte's open sore.|
The fun is only beginning.
|DIRK BOGARDE as MAX|
TORMENTER? LOVER? Maybe both.
|Concentration Camp Dentistry|
|The culpability of MADNESS|
|Clearly not a garden variety|
hotel night-desk clerk
The events of the film are simple enough to summarize. It's 1957. Max (Bogarde) works as a night porter in a swanky Vienna hotel. Quiet, efficient and officious, he tends to the needs of the guests with an almost slavish fastidiousness. No request is too tall an order. He even matter-of-factly pimps out a stud bellboy to service a decadent, mildly repulsive old countess who requires a hunky bedfellow to keep her warm on cold, lonely nights.
Max is a former S.S. officer whose duty included the medical "welfare" of prisoners in a concentration camp. He belongs to a secret society of prominent Nazi war criminals who are devoted to eliminating any potential witnesses that could bring them down for their heinous activities. Most of the men seek the sort of exoneration that will restore them to elite positions in German society. Max has goals that are far less lofty. He wishes to toil in obscurity as the hotel's night porter, earning a modest living whilst at the same time, commanding a respect, albeit meagre, within the confines of his tiny little world.
|Charlotte Rampling as Lucia|
With this relatively simple narrative, Cavani carves out deeply complex thematic, dramatic and emotional levels which are, to be sure, provocative, but transcend that of being strictly prurient. Rituals of the most pure, yet clearly demented kind represent the sick entitlement of the Nazis, but also their desires to infuse life in the camp with fragments of cultural expression which provide some semblance of familiarity to life before the madness of WWII. We not only follow the juxtaposed then and now relationship of sadomasochism between Max and Lucia, but Cavani emphasizes ritual even in the day-to-day existence of the S.S. with flashbacks to cabaret-styled entertainment (featuring Lucia as a topless chanteuse adorned in trousers, suspenders and S.S. hat) and even the performance of a ballet featuring a near-naked male dancer displaying his prowess as an artist whilst also offering up the spectacle of his gorgeously-sculpted body for the edification of the Nazi officers.
|Yes, even the S.S. appreciated lithe male dancers.|
The repugnance of this is surely what caused critics and audiences to emit bilious condemnation of The Night Porter, but in fact is the very thing that rubs their noses in the notion of complicity in such evils. The exploitative elements of the Nazi aesthetic being tied into sexual gratification works on two levels - that of the participation in said activities by characters in the film and the movie's contemporary audience who are forced to participate in sexual dominance and subjugation, albeit that which is clearly reversed, at least initially, in Lucia's favour.
That captor and prisoner, both become prisoners of latent desires brought to the fore by the evils of war and its lingering influence in peacetime. This is surely hard to accept, but accept we must if we're to become open to the true and genuine horrors of war.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** Five-Stars
The Night Porter is currently available in a brand new 2K transfer on both Blu-Ray and DVD formats in a sumptuous new home entertainment offering from the Criterion Collection. Included on the disc are several important extra features: an all-new interview with director Cavani which offers a wealth of illumination upon the production and thematic concerns of the film, a gorgeous booklet that includes an essay by scholar Gaetana Marrone plus a 1975 interview with Cavani. The real gem of the package is the inclusion of Women of the Resistance a fifty-minute 1965 documentary by Cavani which focuses upon female partisans who survived the German invasion of Italy.
In USA and the rest of the WORLD - BUY The Night Porter - HERE!
In Canada - BUY The Night Porter HERE, eh!
In UK BUY The Night Porter HERE