J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, March 21, 2016

EU Chicago ’16: Last Summer of the Rich

Fascists and fetishists share a similar taste in shiny black clothes. Hanna von Stezewitz’s old National Socialist grandfather was the former, whereas she has the latter covered. With the old man on his death bed, she has already taken the reins of the multinational he built in rather unsavory ways. Arguably, she is sort of a more engaged Paris Hilton. However, von Stezewitz’s hedonism might finally lead to her undoing in Peter Kern’s Last Summer of the Rich (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Chicago European Union Film Festival.

Despite a well-earned reputation for her lavish orgies and lesbian S&M sessions in brothels, von Stezewitz has made herself a kingmaker in Vienna politics and a patroness of its art scene. Its because of her money. Like John Gielgud’s Hobson in Arthur, the loyal Boris tries to smooth over her scandals as best he can, but the family of a sixteen-year-old model roughly molested by von Stezewitz is being difficult. Of course, she refuses to give it much thought.

Instead, she decides to hasten her ailing grandfather on his way to his infernal rest. However, through a rather dubious O.Henry-esque twist, she also finds herself in the hitman’s crosshairs—or at least she thinks she is. It is not clear just how firm her grasp on reality becomes, as the film progresses. Regardless, she will not let such matters dissuade her from romantically pursuing Sarah, the young nun who tended to her grandfather during his final days. In fact, von Stezewitz has rather fallen head-over-heels, which is out of character for her.

So, obviously Last Summer is about three parts Rainer Werner Fassbinder and one part Tinto Brass (the worst part). Kern (who also has extensive acting credits, including Fassbinder’s Despair) apparently never met a taboo he couldn’t put in a film. That probably makes Last Summer unreleaseable in American, unless a distributor can somehow remove the scene with Stezewitz and the under-age model, while maintaining narrative cohesion. Good luck with that.

Clearly, it is all rather ridiculously over the top, particularly the masked assassin stalking von Stezewitz like the Pink Panther. Seriously, these folks spend more time in brothels than the characters of Game of Thrones. The tacked-on fig leaf of class-consciousness just makes it all even sillier.

At least, everyone understands what is required of them. As von Stezewitz, Amira Casar vamps it up like a poor man’s Asia Argento. Nicole Gerdon’s Sister Sarah seems almost ethereally unreal, but she still has her moments. Yet, it is Winfried Glatzeder who steals the show as dour, vinegary Boris.

Last Summer is not a great movie, nor is it bashful or apologetic, but there are still reasons to see it. You should know by now whether those are your reasons. Ludicrous and lecherous, Last Summer of the Rich follows in the tradition of Teutonic art house exploitation, so fans of Brass’s Salon Kitty can have at it when it screens this Friday (3/25) and next Tuesday (3/29) at the Siskel Film Center, as part of this year’s Chicago EU Film Festival.

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