is sort like Luchino Visconti’s version of Grey Gardens, especially because it stars his “muse,” Helmut Berger. Dear, oh
dear, has the Oscar nominee for The
Damned seen better days. You may think you have seen revealing
documentaries, but you are still not prepared for the train wreck that is
Andreas Horvath’s Helmut Berger, Actor (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.
his prime, Berger was a ferocious “bad boy” of international art cinema, known
for films like The Garden of the
Finzi-Continis, Ludwig, and The
Romantic English Woman. By 2013, he was appearing on the German edition of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. He
made a quick exit for health reasons, but it was still a good payday, according
to Viola Techt, his long-suffering housemaid and general caretaker, who sadly
passed away after Horvath’s chaotic filming sessions.
Berger’s flat is even more of a disaster area than the Beales’ raccoon-infested
mansion. The squalor would be disturbing enough, but Berger’s behavior takes it
to a whole new level of voyeuristic wackness. Throughout the film, Horvath
incorporates samples from the voluminous voice messages the actor left for him,
which range from delusional and grandiose to downright hostile.
is hard to understand why Berger let loose these verbal torrents or why Horvath
include them, until they make an incredibly awkward trip to the actor’s old
stomping ground, St. Tropez (just how that was paid for is never adequately
explained). However, we hear Berger repeatedly proposition Horvath in no
uncertain terms. Likewise, it is crystal clear how unwelcome Berger’ advances
were. That leads to more tantrums from the actor, but Horvath got his revenge
in the editing bay. If Berger can still get any work after HB, Actor, it will most likely be of a freak show variety.
normally the term “trigger warning” makes us cringe, but viewers should be
forewarned, Horvath shows Berger self-satisfying himself, right down to the
concluding secretions. It is disgusting and pathetic and disturbing. This is a
film that somewhat took John Waters aback—but he could still roll with it.
Separate and apart from the doc’s already
notorious sequences, HB, Actor is a
bizarre, unsettling spectacle of a not so cold war fought between the subject
and director. The most comparably fraught documentary would have to be Kung Fu Elliot (as it is now known), but the bargain basement
action star is no match for Beger’s dissipation and self-absorbed bubble
-perspective. Yet, like Weiner, it is
perversely compelling to watch him keep digging at rock-bottom. Recommended for
documentary patrons with a tabloid taste for the extreme, Helmut Berger, Actor will generate visceral responses when it
screens this Sunday (5/29) as part of this year’s Mammoth Lakes Film Festival
(along with the first-rate Last Summer, boasting
a heart-breaking performance from the luminous Rinko Kikuchi).
Labels: Documentary, Helmut Berger, MLFF '16