As his idol Jean-Luc Godard had done so frequently in the sixties, Fassbinder subverts the very conventions of the genre he works with in, essentially divorcing the Western of its ‘Western-ness’. Colour, in its every manifestation, is of utmost importance in the film. In addition to the expected dusty yellows and browns, the screen is populated by florid reds and pinks, almost shocking in their appearance. More bizarrely, racial difference is marked by burlesque makeup – everyone except for the protagonist is literally black or white. Hanna Schygulla, a regular collaborator of Fassbinder’s, has a fantastically demented turn as a singing prostitute, several marks off Marlene Dietrich in her coquettish crooning. It’s clear that Whity was a preferred project of Fassbinder’s, as his kitsch parody attempts to tackle many controversial subjects – racism, sexism, sadism, bestiality – and though it is more likely to provoke than inspire, Fassbinder makes it clear that it’s not to be taken too seriously.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
A unique, feverish spin on the Western, Whity centres on the troubled life of a man caught between several worlds. The illegitimate son of proud town official Ben Nicholson and his African-American servant, Whity serves as whipping boy for many of the townsfolk, even being shunned by his own mother. When Ben claims to be dying, his wife and sons each try to seduce Whity into killing off the others, effectively leaving them to inherit all of Ben’s money. Ben, of course, is perfectly healthy, and witnesses his test of faith go terribly awry.