Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Der Tanzstundenreport (4 Stars)

This is a German film made in 1973. Literally translated its title means "Dance School Report". The name identifies it as an Aufklärungsfilm (a genre of German educational films), but in actual fact it has nothing to do with the typical Aufklärungsfilme of the 1970's, such as the Schoolgirl Reports. It's a pure exploitation film. That makes it all the more amazing that the film has never been released on DVD by itself, it's only available bundled together with the Schoolgirl Report collection. It shows a dance school where young adults (25 to 35) take lessons, but they are all more interested in sex than dancing. Quite inappropriately, the film makes fun of the horny fat girl who can't get a man, even when she runs around naked at parties. My tastes in women must be wrong, because I find the actress Dorothea Rau prettier than the slim women surrounding her.

However, the DVD contains a documentary entitled "From Sex to Simmel", which I enjoyed even more than the film itself. This is about the two most popular types of films made in Germany in the 1970's, the sex films and the Simmel films. Johannes Mario Simmel was an Austrian novelist and screenwriter who wrote very melodramatic stories. They were either murder mysteries or spy stories, but there were several common features. They always revolved around better stationed people, i.e. rich people or the nobility, not the normal German on the street. Love in his stories was always tragic; if a couple loved each other one of them was always killed. In the 1950's he wrote screenplays for 22 films, but from 1960 on he concentrated on writing novels. More than 30 films were made based on his books over the next 20 years. His books and the films based on them were regarded as trash by film critics, but the German public loved them.

Johannes Mario Simmel
7 April 1924 – 1 January 2009

The German sex films of the 1970's were divided into two main groups. The first were the already mentioned Aufklärungsfilme, the most successful German films at the time. The others were the sex comedy films, which were usually set in Bavaria and parodied the German Heimatfilme of the 1940's and 1950's. (I attempted to explain what Heimatfilme are in my review of "Romy", but it's a film genre that's almost impossible for non-Germans to comprehend). "Der Tanzstudenreport" is a tangent on the Bavarian sex comedies; it takes place indoors, not on the mountains, but many of the actors have Bavarian accents.

During the 1970's there were many critically acclaimed German filmmakers, such as Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. This was real cinematic art, and the German film critics heaped endless praise on them, but they had very little financial success. The public wasn't interested in them. Germans wanted to see the Simmel films and the sex films. Wolf C. Hartwig, the producer of the Schoolgirl Report films, became a multi-millionaire during the 1970's. He made his last film in 1984, and now lives a life of luxury in France. He's very outspoken when talking about other German directors of the 1970's. He says that they were getting it all wrong. A good director doesn't create works of art, he makes films that the public wants to see.

Wolf C. Hartwig

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