PART-TIME WORK OF A DOMESTIC SLAVE (Alexander Kluge, 1973)

“In order to have more children herself, Roswitha runs an abortion practice.” — the narrator

Although its usual English-translated title sounds severe (Occasional Work of a Female Slave sounds better), West German writer-director Alexander Kluge’s Gelegenheitsarbeit einer Sklavin delights. Although its style is Godardian-disjointed, with photographs, film clips and voiceover narration interrupting, exceptional emotional fluidity invests the protagonist’s restless personality. Roswitha Bronski is played by Alexandra Kluge, Kluge’s sister.
     Roswitha begins as an illegal abortionist, and we see her work close-up; presumably, an actual procedure is being documented. Perhaps it is the intense sobriety of the surgical team in action that renders the passage hilarious; perhaps my own queasiness made a substantial contribution to this outcome. But I “lost it” again, laughing until I cried, when Roswitha—from force of habit?—performs a simulated abortion on her bathroom sink drain. In any case, dogged by the police, Roswitha turns the abortion clinic into a veterinary clinic.
     Roswitha’s next stop: self-bestowed work as a labor activist at the chemical factory where husband Franz works. When higher-ups, shielded by a loyal secretary whose pregnancy she undid, deny rumors that the factory is relocating to Portugal for cheaper labor, Roswitha sleuths about in executive offices to confirm the truth; when this fails, she drives to Portugal in search of the relocation site. This is my favorite thing about the movie: discovering it, Roswitha doesn’t photograph the sign announcing the planned relocation. It is enough that she has seen it with her own eyes.
     On occasion, Roswitha cleans up her apartment. The point is, there’s more important work to do, including opening a sausage stand so she can wrap up her sausages in potent political pamphlets!
     Not a great film, this, but a lot of fun.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

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