Guest Post: Why Marlene Leaves – Some Thoughts on The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

As the icing on the cake that is the Queer Film Blogathon, my best friend in the whole wide world, Lillian Behrendt, has contributed the following essay. She justifies her choice of subject thusly: “I kicked off the month of June with the American Cinematheque’s Fassbinder retrospective. I saw ten Fassbinder films in ten days, and still missed three of the screenings. My dreams were in German for a week, and I don’t even speak German. My best friend is hosting a queer blogathon. Not writing about Fassbinder just isn’t an option for me right now.” Thank you Lilsy!

In 1968, Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed his first original play. One year later, he had made his first feature film. In 1982 (thirty years ago this month) he died at the age of 37 — with about forty films under his belt. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), originally produced as a stage play, is the first of Fassbinder’s “woman’s pictures” and the only film he ever made with an all-female cast. It’s a movie about class, desire, oppression, longing, loneliness, performance and power.

Margit Carstensen stars as the eponymous Petra, a recently-divorced fashion designer who lives with her silent assistant/secretary/maid/submissive Marlene (Irm Hermann) in a sparsely-furnished apartment filled with bald, naked mannequins and porcelain dolls. Petra falls in love with Karin (Hanna Schygulla), a young working-class woman who hopes to enter the world of modeling. Several months later, Karin returns to her husband, leaving Petra in pieces. After throwing a drunken birthday tantrum (giving new meaning to “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”) and lashing out at everyone who cares about her, she apologizes to Marlene, the only person who remains. When Petra suggests that they leave the Mistress/slave dynamic behind and live as equals, Marlene packs her bag and leaves.

The whole unrequited-lesbian-love-ending-with-the-object-of-desire-reverting-to-heterosexuality thing is a pretty tired trope, and already was by 1972. Pulp novels and exploitation films (and Lillian Hellman plays) of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s usually pathologized lesbianism as a (titillating) tragic disorder rather than a (also titillating) delinquent behavior. (I would argue that Fassbinder was referencing some of this by subtitling the film “A Case Study.”) The progression of the relationships in Petra von Kant have several superficial similarities to those in Ann Bannon’s famous Beebo Brinker pulp novels (1957-1962): a (relatively) masculine main character involved with two femmes — one cruel and dominant, one kind and submissive. Main character prefers cruel, glamorous, dominant femme, is dumped for a man, and returns to the patiently-waiting submissive femme with the promise of “happily ever after.”


Queer Film Blogathon: That’s a Wrap!

The 2012 Queer Film Blogathon has now come to a close, and boy am I tuckered out. We ended up with 45 posts from 29 different bloggers, with contributions covering 98 years of cinema from all around the world — amazing!! While last year’s event had about 60 contributions, I must say, what we lacked this year in quantity we more than made up for in quality. (No shade to last year’s group — but the caliber of this year’s posts was really off the charts!) I’d like to thank all of the wonderful participants for their insightful, witty, and thought-provoking posts. You are all my heroes. I haven’t finished reading everyone’s contributions yet, but I plan to comment on every single one. If you get a chance, remember it’s not too late to keep the party going by reading some of the other posts and leaving your two cents. Everybody loves comments!

I’d also like to thank my partner in crime Andreas over at Pussy Goes Grrr for helping me to pull it off. Wonderful having you on board this year, Andreas!

And congratulations to raffle winner Jake Cole of Not Just Movies who, by the grace of the random number generator, shall be receiving The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a late contribution to the event by my best friend Lillian Behrendt, who is sharing with us her thoughts on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972). Wish I could get it up today but, like I said, tuckered. (As most of you in the classic film blogging/Twitter family know, it’s been one helluva week!)

After that I’m going to be taking a teeny tiny break from blogging, but shall return in July. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you all for making this event such a roaring success. Hope we’ll see you again next year!


Ho. Lee. Crap. Can you even handle this gorgeous My Favorite Wife artwork done for me by the amaaaaaaaazing Mollybot? I think I love it even more than last year’s Rebel Without a Cause piece. THANK YOU MOLLY. I’M GOING TO TATTOO IT ON MY FACE.

Alright, folks! This is the place! Comment below with a link to your post(s) and I will put them all up here as official contributions to the Queer Film Blogathon 2012, co-hosted of course by the lovely Pussy Goes Grrr. (Why do I feel like I’m going to get a lot of misplaced traffic from putting that adjective next to the first word of that site name?) Remember, you can also enter our raffles for a copy of The Celluloid Closet (from me) and Celluloid Gaze (from PGG).

If you’re wondering where my contributions are, honey, they all happened last week: Dracula’s Daughter (1936), My Favorite Wife (1940), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Victim (1961), and Together Brothers (1974). Give ’em a gander if you’re so inclined.

Without further self-promotion ado, let the blogathon begin!!! If you run into any problems with leaving a comment, or if I missed your post, don’t hesitate to send me an email at or tweet me at @GarboLaughsBlog.

Friday, June 22 (Day 5)

Stacia of the world-famous She Blogged By Night (is it world-famous? it should be) joins us on this final blogathon day asking some tough questions about the cultural endurance of Freebie and the Bean (1974).

The Filmatelist compares Beautiful Thing (1996) and Happy Together (1997).

Christianne tells us about a fascinating documentary about gays and lesbians in Uganda in her review of Call Me Kuchu (2012).

Yvette from in so many words… holds our hands through the heartbreak of Brokeback Mountain (2005).

Joseph over at the Queer Film Blog (you mean you get to do this kinda fun stuff all year ’round?!?) provides us with a delightful queer interpretation of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012).

Mary tells us why Todd Haynes’ glam rock extravaganza Velvet Goldmine (1998) is one of her favorite films.

Margaret is back to share with us 5 Films That Changed the Way We View Sexuality.

Brandie returns to ruin enhance all our childhoods by queering Disney!

Thursday, June 21 (Day 4)

Peter Nellhaus joins us one more time with his review of the 2009 Japanese drama Kakera: A Piece of Our Lives.

Christianne also returns (and is definitely a shoe-in for the Most Prolific Blogathoner Award) to share her impressions of The Wise Kids (2011).

My brilliant partner Molly (who is also responsible for our official Queer Film Blogathon artwork above) just saw Psycho (1960) for the first time and writes about why reading Norman Bates as queer is homophobic. THANK YOU MOLLY!

Chris Edwards over at Silent Volume re-posts his review of Wilhelm Dieterle’s Sex in Chains (1928).

Jesse Ataide of Memories of the Future provides us with an excellent queer re-imagining of His Kind of Woman (1951)!

The lovely Lê is back with a look at “devious” queer characters in the cinema of the 1950s.

The incomparable Brandie of True Classics reviews Barbara Stanwyck’s turn as a female prison inmate in Ladies They Talk About (1933).

Good friend Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear contributes a review of the quirky romantic comedy Different for Girls (1996).

Wednesday, June 20 (Day 3)

Sam has got us covered with his Top 5 LGBT Themed Films over at A World of Gods and Monsters (itself a hat tip to gay director James Whale and his brilliantly-camp Bride of Frankenstein).

Christianne continues her excellent series of contributions with a look at several trans documentary features, what they get right and what they get embarrassingly wrong.

The wonderfully insightful Stephanie Hammer at Magically Real shares with us her reminiscences of John Schlesinger’s Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971).

Wednesday’s Child joins the party with a review of Heaven’s a Drag (1994), a gay-themed supernatural romance.

What Happened to Hollywood tucks us into bed with a worrying question: did homophobic bullying contribute to Rudolph Valentino’s untimely death?

Tuesday, June 19 (Day 2)

Joseph starts off Day 2 with a bang as he explores Susan Sontag’s infamous “Notes on ‘Camp'” in relation to Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg.

Peter Nellhaus of the awesomely-named Coffee coffee and more coffee takes us to Thailand with his review of Yes or No? (2010), touted as that country’s “first lesbian romance.”

Jake Cole from Not Just Movies is back for another round as he looks at Fassbinder’s In a Year of 13 Moons (1978).

Christianne Benedict again graces us with her presence and a review of Bernie (2012) starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black.

The fabulous Angela over at The Hollywood Revue takes us all the way back to 1914 with the silent gender-bending comedy A Florida Enchantment.

Monday, June 18 (Day 1)

The always-insightful Christianne over at Krell Laboratories has started the celebration early by sharing her musings on Tomboy (2011), Bound (1996), The King and the Clown (2005), Open (2010), and Weekend (2011).

My dear friend Lara over at Backlots explores the queer side of our beloved Greta Garbo in her review of Queen Christina (1933).

Rich of Wide Screen World takes a look at director George Cukor and five notable women he made shine on the screen.

The Lady Eve joins us with an excellent profile of movie songwriter Jack Lawrence.

Sarah, the newest member of the True Classics crew, kicks things off by comparing and contrasting Lillian Hellman’s controversial play The Children’s Hour with two big-screen adaptations.

Richard Finch writes about Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends (1975) on his fantastic blog The Movie Projector, where the William Wyler Blogathon begins June 24.

Jake Cole at Not Just Movies join us with his analysis of Todd Haynes’ feature film debut Poison (1991).

Margaret Perry of The Great Katharine Hepburn jumps into her very first blogathon (welcome to the cult, Margaret!) with her post on Sylvia Scarlett (1935).

Kevyn Knox of The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World re-posts a “retro review” of Brokeback Mountain (2005) written right after the film’s release.

Lê of Crítica Retrô graces us with a post on Sylvia Scarlett (1935) and Yentl (1983) — em Português! Just click on the handy translator widget in the sidebar to transform the post into the language of your choice using the magic of Google.

Marc Heuck writes about By Hook or By Crook (2001) on his blog The Projector Has Been Drinking.

From The Depths of DVD Hell come C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), Nowhere (1997), The Doom Generation (1995), and Kaboom (2010), all by Elwood Jones.


Here it is, kiddos! The OFFICIAL Queer Film Blogathon Raffle Post! (Not the place where you submit links to your blogathon contributions. That’ll go up in the morning.)

As I’ve already explained, both Garbo Laughs and Pussy Goes Grrr are running two separate raffles for two separate prizes. My prize is:

The Celluloid Closet (1981) (Revised Edition) by Vito Russo

“A colorful and fascinating treasure trove of trivia, some of it delightful, some of it appalling, all of it irresistibly intriguing.” – Philadelphia Gay News

“A definitive, masterful book.” – San Francisco Sentinel

“The best researched and illustrated book on its subject — entertaining and intelligently written. . . . It deserves to be considered a significant reference point and a source of reference in the years to come.” – Soho News

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of this ground-breaking book, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. The raffle entry period ends Friday, June 22, 11:59PM PST. To enter Pussy Goes Grrr’s raffle for Boze Hadleigh’s Celluloid Gaze, comment here.

Remember, if you also make a contribution to the blogathon, you’ll be entered into the raffle twice. Double your chances of winning! (However, only one comment and one post will be counted per person, so nobody can enter more than two times.) Good luck and happy queering!

My Interview with The Cinementals!

Check me out! I was this week’s guest on The Cinementals podcast (which can also be found on iTunes here), talking about the Queer Film Blogathon, my TCM Picks for the week, the ambiguous relationship between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, my bizarre obsession with Sal Mineo, how classic movies help us cross the political aisle, and a lot of other juicy things! Thank you so much to Will and Kellee for having me on. SUCH a fun show! I had a great time and hope to do it again in the near future.