while some men try everything to hide their visits to public toilets to have sex, mister ripploh just takes a cab and makes a tour of his favourite tearooms – and lets the cabbie wait, of course.
taxi zum klo (taxi to the toilet) is certainly a classic – a german gay movie that came out in 1981. it triggered of course quite some reactions at the time – not all of them favourable. a lot due to the explicit sex-scenes – sometimes lovingly intertwined with other scenes: so while the main character has coffee and cake with a colleague in front of a massive wall unit (german oak?), we also see him having some rather interesting sex with his filling station attendant. interesting in this context means the use of a belt and the exchange of bodily fluids other then saliva.
then we get quite some sex in public places, well, we get a lot of sex. that is part of the story: it is the story of two lovers, one, bernd, longing for a monogamic, peaceful relationship with cooking at home, saving money for the little farm on the countryside and all that. the other one, frank, likes the city for providing a never ending string of sexual opportunities. so the movie is like an experimental situation with two extremes. the one extreme being bernd, imitating heterosexual cliché roles, and the other extreme being frank, the hunter at night… of course it does not really work – but it is also not a movie showing us the mechanisms of destructive relationships to the bitter end like fassbinder did. so to a degree one is at a loss about what that movie wants to get at. it is rather a snapshot of the life of frank ripploh – the name of the character in the movie as well as its director and his name in real life, and yes, you guessed it right, he played himself. so that already seems to me quite interesting – what is real life, what is film? like in the movie, frank ripploh was also a school teacher – and there is at the beginning the interesting commentary in the movie that he separates his private life from his professional life. during the movie this separation becomes fuzzy, culminating in a scene where he shows up in the morning at school, after a costume party, still in his schehezerade trash-drag. so i think there lies the interesting part: how much do you want, how much do you need to separate private and professional life? a question ripploh answered already before making the movie: he came out in one of germany’s biggest magazines der stern in 1978. and therefore he was not accepted anymore as a teacher (an exceprt of that article (in german) you find here). so the explicit sex and its grounding in daily life and common situations and its showing without an apology makes even more sense. so it is a movie to muse about the private and the public.
and it is a berlin movie: there are recurring drives through berlin at night – and berlin at night in the early eighties looks like david bowie’s collaborations with brian eno sounds (yes, his famous berlin trilogy: low, heroes, lodger). it always rains, there are big roads and a lot of neon, and somehow it always seems to be grimy and clammy.
and it is also a sweet movie – showing the two tendencies in gay politics that then got real political enemies: the mainstream, bourgeois, we are normal fraction and the radical sex and promiscuity fraction. but at the time of the movie they could still have a love affair. and it is of course always refreshing to see a gay movie with gay sex and being – well, normal about it.
and that makes it now also a melancholic movie – where the scene at the dermatologist is kind of cute, because this was before aids.
taxi zum klo was frank ripploh’s biggest and only success. he did a follow up, taxi nach kairo, which i have never seen and is seemingly difficult to obtain (if anybody has it – let me know). as a little bit of trivia: as an actor he played in several movies, and yes, he played also in fassbinder’s querelle. it is all connected.
frank ripploh died in 2002 of cancer – but was able to finish the director’s cut for taxi zum klo, which has been re-issued in 2003 on dvd.