October 14, 1973 [The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant]

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is filled with doppelgangers-in-reverse: at the periphery mannequins stand and recline, disrobe and embrace, are attended to with practiced hands--but they do not mimic the humans in the room; no, Petra and Marlene, her silent servant (as unnerving as Harry Langdon in a de Sade dungeon), and Karin, the dream-lover/model--they seem to be the dolls, smooth like plastic--even the birthday present is a doll, lying there in the room draped in Renaissance manhood, Roman muscles almost flabby as they hang over the women's heads, all of them calling it love. It's lush and desolate, Petra's bedroom-as-anteroom, waiting for someone to begin living. Maybe the mannequins--but who are they?

And so, is it too easy to see Petra's name as a sneering pun? After all, Marlene is there only as a Kewpie-doll fetish, something to be flogged, and Karin stays just long enough to x-ray Petra for us, the hollow bones pale. But Petra weeps for love, and how can we hate that? Oh, the movie makes it easy--too much so, maybe, banging on the hollow gong so bitterly that Petra's exhausted decency barely sounds, a kind of thud at the end, the conventional blunt object.

I saw the movie yesterday, and last night dreamed I was in a room talking to a woman I knew many years ago, someone I thought I was in love with--but I was lonely, and that makes one inventive, so that even today I can dream about her and imagine that she knew I wanted to love her, and that she could still sit in a room with me without reproach. But in the dream the light kept fading--and I kept looking at her because the light was behind her, the darkness at my back, and I knew if I turned around to face it, everything would end. So I can't hate Petra, even though she begs me to.


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