Breaking Glass // 1981 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 9th, 2011
A dirty, filthy, honest look at being gay in Germany before AIDS.
Taxi Zum Klo is an unlikely title that translates to "Taxi to the Public Toilet." Try naming a romantic comedy that nowadays! This is certainly not something Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan would appear in anytime soon. It's a passion project of writer, director, star Frank Ripploh who made it on location in West Germany during 1981. It's extremely autobiographical, and a look at contrasts between the life of a school teacher and a guy who likes to cruise local bathrooms for casual sex.
In the frank film we get to see him get with strangers for sex in a bathroom stall, try to have a successful relationship, and get checked out for STDs by a doctor who administers an anal probe. It is very sexually explicit, in fact "pornographic" would be an easy label for the film to earn without much hesitation. The story is all about the trysts though, so it has to be there. This is not the gay film to show your family over Thanksgiving, but it is an honest portrait of what life was like in Western Germany before AIDS ravaged the party atmosphere. The film is important because it is the first time we got to see an unapologetic sexualized gay man in film, and it became all the more poignant that it would be the last for quite some time thanks to a tragic turn in history.
DVD Verdict was sent a screener of this film. Our copy had a clear transfer, and the sound seemed fine. There were no extras, which is kind of a bummer given that I wondered what happened to star Frank Ripploh. Two years later he appeared in Fassbinder's homage to Genet Querelle. Then he sort of fell off the cultural map until 2002 when he died from cancer at only 52 years old. There's nothing on the disc to put this film in to any sort of cultural relevance, and so you just have to take the film at face value.
This is the 30th anniversary year, and to celebrate we get to see the full uncut director's vision. In many cases this movie was spliced by censors, and now we get to see all of it. Yep, you get anal warts and all. It's definitely an important project for gay cinema, although it will be tough to get past the frank sexuality for some people. It will never have any sort of mainstream appeal. The pity is that thirty years later that issue is still what divides gay men from the rest of the world. So watch this, and think about how little the world has changed.
Guilty of being an explicit reminder of what being gay was like in 1981.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Breaking Glass
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (German)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated