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Werner Schroeter: Magnificent Obsessions

Saturday, April 6, 2013
8:20 p.m. The Rose King
Werner Schroeter (West Germany/Portugal, 1986)

(Der Rosenkönig). Magdalena Montezuma (in her last film) stars as the regal mother of a lonely “rose king” in this feverishly romantic tribute to Technicolor melodrama, fueled in equal parts by Jack Smith, Douglas Sirk, Jean Genet, and Maria Callas. In a gothic Portuguese castle of cobwebbed corridors and shattered windows, Montezuma presides over her son, who farms roses with a peculiar obsession. “You aren’t a gardener; you’re a dreamer,” she states, a comment made truer once a handsome stranger arrives, whom her son quickly imprisons in the barn, to feed by hand and fawn over. "Languidly elliptical and enveloped in a mystique of erotic suffering,” wrote J. Hoberman in The Village Voice, “The Rose King is pitched somewhere between the epicene froth of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier and the tortured mysticism of Jean Genet's The Miracle of the Rose.” One of Schroeter’s most visually gorgeous works, the film constructs its dream world from a surplus of dark blues, deep rose-reds, and darkened shadows, not to mention the shattered beauty of its centuries-old chalets and castles (all filmed along the Lisbon coast). For Chuck Stephens in Film Comment, The Rose King is “one of the high points of eighties world cinema.”

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Schroeter, Magdalena Montezuma. Photographed by Elfie Mikesch. With Montezuma, Mostefa Djadjam, Antonio Orlando. (103 mins, In German, Italian, English, Portuguese, and Arabic with English subtitles, Color, Blu-ray, From Munich Filmmuseum, permission film & kunst)