wed 23/07/2014

DVD: Taxi Zum Klo | Film reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Taxi Zum Klo

First ever DVD release for early Eighties journey through Berlin’s gay scene. Explicit and uncut

'Taxi Zum Klo’: Bernd and Frank enjoy a night out at Berlin’s Queen’s Ball
'Taxi Zum Klo’: Bernd and Frank enjoy a night out at Berlin’s Queen’s Ball

Frank is a primary school teacher in Berlin. His pupils love him as he treats them as individuals rather than little pegs for fitting into holes. What they don’t know - and what Frank doesn’t advertise - is that he is gay. Their dictation homework is marked in the cubicle of a public toilet while Frank sits waiting to see what’ll pop through a glory hole. Taxi Zum Klo is explicit – extremely so – but it’s also a deadpan, matter-of-fact depiction of a carefree lifestyle. The subject of bans, seizures and cuts in the early Eighties, this is its first release on DVD. It’s also uncut.

It’s obvious what the fuss was about: Frank attends the STD clinic and his examination is seen in full; oral sex is accompanied by ejaculation; one of Frank's random encounters takes in a golden shower. Taxi Zum Klo translates as "taxi to the toilets". And, yes, on checking out from hospital, Frank catches a cab to various public conveniences looking for a different sort of Mr to a Mr Goodbar. This is his life.

Cuts were made to allow screenings at the few (mainstream art-house) membership cinemas that would schedule Taxi Zum Klo in 1982. Nonetheless, the film gathered festival awards and a growing reputation due to its honest depiction of an unmediated way of life that’s now lost. The extras on this belated DVD release include Mark Kermode’s introduction to the film from its Film Four outing, a film festival panel interview with writer, director and star Frank Ripploh, a short German doc on the film, and a discussion of the circumstances of its initial release in the UK.

The narrative arc is straightforward. Frank holds down his job, pootles round Berlin having random encounters that lead to cinema employee Bernd moving in with him. Bernd wants an unfussy domestic life, but Frank won't commit and continues his free-spirited wanderings. The relationship is obviously doomed and after the all-night Queen’s Ball – a real event caught here – the pair split. Frank then has a meltdown where the hidden and the day-to-day collide.

So low key, and with such a linear plot, Taxi Zum Klo needs more than its non-titillating explicitness to hold the attention. Its humour and warmth are enough. Frank is feckless and Bernd is sensitively portrayed. Taxi Zum Klo is an essential document, and will always be such. But it's hard to keep patience with the self-centred, selfish Frank. He deserves a clip round the ear.

Watch the trailer for Taxi Zum Klo

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