Taxi Zum Klo – Directed by Frank Ripploh
Now I’m not going to pretend that I am incredibly knowledgeable about film or even particularly well-versed in gay culture, but at the moment I am really interested in Contemporary Queer Cultures and as such am researching the rise of gay pride, the backlash against it and this new term “queer”. As part of this I am watching films that may be categorised as ‘gay films’ and learning how they fit into the representation of gay identity in contemporary film and literature, as well as how indicative they are to the changing gay movements.
Taxi Zum Klo is a German film directed by Frank Ripploh and released in 1980. The lifestyle it portrays is late 70’s however, when a promiscuous life-style was not yet under threat from the AIDS epidemic. Within the film Frank Ripploh plays the main character; the bearded teacher Frank – who is sometimes referred to as Peggy amongst his friends. We are introduced to two sides of Frank; there is the school teacher who doesn’t socialise much, making minimal contribution to the social activities amongst the other teachers. However as Frank himself tells us – this is because he prefers to separate his personal life from his professional one.
His personal life is an erotic feast of men; he often frequents public toilets and parks where he meets them for casual sex. Indeed we do see his professional life intrude into this as he marks school textbooks whilst waiting in the toilets to meet someone. Frank/Peggy’s life is then altered by the arrival of Bernd, and what starts as a one-night stand turns into a relationship. However the contrast between the two soon becomes apparent and this, for me, was the really interesting part of the film. Bernd wants them to be able to assimilate with heterosexual norms; he pictures a house for them in the country, some land and the even possibility of children is mentioned jokingly. This stands in stark contrast to Frank who thinks that monogamy is outdated; he beleives that the role of a relationship should be reconsidered as he loves Bernd but can’t stop seeing other men. These differences come to a head and (spoiler alert) the film ends with them arguing and walking in different directions.
I feel like for some people this film will be shocking as the sex scenes are graphic, and the film includes quite explicit scenes of S&M as well as Frank urinating over a man’s face. I wasn’t expecting it to be so graphic – but I think that it was suited to the mood of the film. You gain a sense of the casual, varied, sexual encounters that gay men enjoyed without the fear and stigma of disease that AIDS caused. The relationship between Frank and Bernd raised questions for me about the assumed ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ model of the heterosexual couple, which is the basis for so much culturally – and yet there is a great proportion of people for whom this model fails them. Not only gay or lesbian couples, but for those who are happy being alone – or those who have a need for multiple partners.
Overall I really enjoyed this film – a lot more than I expected to! I felt surprisingly engaged as a viewer considering the amount of sex scenes included – but I think this is because the film does question cultural norms and traditional values which I enjoyed thinking about and considering as I watched it. Perhaps not one for a lazy Sunday viewing though. Have any of you seen this film? What do you think of my review? Would you be interested in seeing more posts like this?