Release Date: January 9, 1981
Runtime: 98 minutes
Rating: NR – Adults Only
Studio: Exportfilm Bischoff & Company
Director: Frank Ripploh
Cast: Frank Ripploh; Bernd Broaderup; Peter Fahrni
This is an interesting piece for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is notable for being a pioneering film for gay cinema. Released in 1981, “Tazi zum Klo” (Take Me to the Toilet” in German…nice), was a fairly mainstream movie, one that could never be made today, at least not without being labeled as out-and-out porn. Secondly, it showcased the sometimes blissful, sometimes complex relationship between two gay men in pre-AIDS, early 80’s West Berlin. One must not forget that at that time, it was somewhat shocking and definitely controversial to show two men, not only in a sexual relationship, but in ANY emotionally binding relationship. Thirdly, the lack of modesty of the main character: writer, director, star, Frank Ripploh. This film is clearly an exorcism of demons for this guy and he holds nothing back in chronicling his life for us. He is unapologetic for his rather hedonistic lifestyle and wants us to join him in this journey. In fact, the first words spoken in the film are, “Do you want to come cruising with me? Good.”
Herr Ripploh is an average 30-year-old single guy living in a single guy flat in West Berlin. He’s a schoolteacher during the day, but by night he trolls West Berlin’s decadent gay scene, looking for sex in public toilets, the woods, bars, you name it. Sometimes he finds it, sometimes he doesn’t. One fateful evening after arriving late to the show at an adult theater, he encounters the theater’s manager, a handsome, low-key guy named Bernd. For some reason, Bernd strikes a chord with Frank. Ostensibly, intended to be a hookup, they are soon living together and carrying on like any couple in a relationship (straight or gay). The problem is, while Frank likes the idea of being with Bernd, he isn’t quite ready to let his behavior follow his heart. Bernd wants to settle down and find a nice cottage in the country; Frank, meanwhile, likes the action of the city. These two guys care for each other, as evidenced in some cute scenes between them that almost appear to be improvised, but are clearly not on the same page in terms of where they want their relationship to go.
Props really must be given to Ripploh, above all, for producing what is obviously a passion project. The film gives off the sense that Ripploh corralled his friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. to join him in this unique venture.
He is certainly not a modest person, as his mind-blowing number of nude scenes will attest. In all honesty, this movie’s nudity and frank sexuality might end up being a turn off to some. Graphic oral sex, anal sex, rectal exams and water sports all pop up at one point or another. Yet, none of these scenes, no matter how extreme, is presented as porn, that is, for titillation’s sake. They are presented as a means to show the connections between characters and what they offer to one another. Whether it is instant, meaningless sex, or non-gratifying release, none of the sex in the film comes across as gratuitous. In fact, the blithe presentation of the nudity and sex only serves to enhance the cinema verité style of the work.
Make no mistake, the movie is definitely rough around the edges and isn’t polished with a studio sheen, but for a filmmaker clearly out to tell his story, Frank Ripploh does a good job with regard to mise-en-scène and character development. His script has a certain truthfulness and naturalness about it that probably served as a mirror through which a lot of gay men in that time and place saw themselves. “Taxi zum Klo” is definitely one to check out as a trailblazer for the history of gay cinema.
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