Part-Time Work of a Female Slave (1973)

28 05 2008

A brilliantly composed film, as one should expect from Alexander Kluge, that builds up too much momentum in its first couple of minutes. To his credit, it must be extremely difficult to live up to showing close-ups of a live abortion but he does fairly well thereafter. If anything I wish Kluge would simply tone down some of the more overt political statements. While some of that stuff is quite funny, at least in this case, it also threatens to date this otherwise wonderful film.

In order to put food on the table, Roswitha performs abortion while her husband, Franz spends all day researching. Her operation is uncovered by a rival abortion clinic and forces her to find a new way to support her family. Franz takes a job in a research facility, which enables Roswitha to have more free time. Instead of turning her focus to her children, she becomes deeply involved in politics and social work.

The opening section is fantastic and perhaps even a bit overwhelming. As always, Kluge demonstrates an innate understanding of capturing images and doing so with beautiful results. The big deal, so to speak, behind this film lies in the fact that an abortion is shown in great detail. It is with the same confidence and spontaneity that the rest of the film is shot with, even though the content never comes close to being so grotesque. Perhaps I’m alone in finding sequences of people washing their hands to be riveting but it is to Kluge’s credit that he can make something like that be exciting. The first half of this isn’t all too different from Harmony Korine’s Gummo, a film which I reference here far too much as the standard of “poetic cinema.” I did intend for that to be a compliment.

Then out of nowhere, the film slips into an outspoken (but not heavy-handed) satire. This is all fine by me but I also wish he would give up on some of his political tendencies and make a film that is more representative of his abilities as a filmmaker. Still, there’s nothing really wrong with this film. It’s about as perfectly crafted as anything he’s every done and for my money, probably his most immediately intriguing. A very problematic film, but a wonderful one, too.

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3 responses

28 05 2008
Jan S

It’s rather ironic that a scene in a Kluge film is the only one that ever made me have to look away from the screen. That shit is disgusting. 😦

28 05 2008
Jake Savage

I thought it was surprisingly tame, actually. It certainly could do wonders for pro-life groups, though.

4 11 2010
Cooker Hoods ·

i think that once in a while, we should do some social works too because we should help other people “

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