In Fassbinder’s Lola, distanced shots of courtyards with cobble stones and fields where fresh ground will soon be broken, appear in a clear, if not somewhat misty light. But everything else–from the interior of the church, to offices, apartments and restaurants–are hued with the electric pink light that showcases Lola and brothel.
And, if the long-awaited commencement of construction at the end of the film is any indication, the pink light will soon embolden the outline of everything. Little Marie asks for a pink lemonade, after all.
In considering plot, we’re considering a kind of path, the method chosen to take us somewhere. This makes it linear. The permeation of the pink glow in Lola is ultimately what rights everything, what provides a happy ending. Shuckert, as the primary purveyor of capital, is who consummates a marriage to the woman he both is and isn’t marrying. He instructs then-gleeful Lola/Marie-Louise to keep her veil on while they do. That, she lets him know, will of course cost extra.
Their interplay parallels Lola’s earlier encounter with the older, naïve von Brohm, who after being devastated to discover his young girlfriend is a prostitute–belonging to Shuckert no less–goes to her brothel again. He returns upon Shuckert’s encouragement to take Lola, to walk up and grab her, have his way. But once at the brothel, Shuckert is whom von Brohm approaches, telling him he’d like to “buy his whore” with all the shaky assertion of one’s first time at auction.
When they enter Lola’s room, von Brohm orders her to strip naked, to which she replies for the first time in the film, that this will cost more. He asks if she has any slutty lingerie, to which she tells him yes, and then reminds him once again that it will cost extra, too. He eagerly nods, some desire suddenly unleashed–although not for the sole enjoyment of a creamy thigh in black lace it seems, but for the realization that he can pay for it.
What is most striking between the parallel scenes is just how similar they are, how they both lead to the same outcome. The flow of currency is not only necessary in creating the roles of these characters, but also continually solidifies the same ones. Expressions, comfort in interactions are different. But everyone stays in his or her part. Lola, of course, has more than one, but they, too exist simultaneously. Precisely why the veil should stay on when she and Shuckert fuck after the wedding, and why she reminds him that costs more: Lola is whore and innocent, is bride and brothel-owner.
Sexuality is the only drive that is in itself hindered, perverted: simultaneously insufficient and excessive, with the excess as the form of appearance of the lack. On the one hand, sexuality is characterized by the universal capacity to provide the metaphorical meaning or innuendo of any activity or object–any element, including the most abstract reflection can be experienced as ‘alluding to that‘ (suffice it to recall the proverbial example of the adolescent who, in order to forget his sexual obsessions, takes refuge in pure mathematics and physics–whatever he does here again reminds him of ‘that’: how much volume is needed to fill out an empty cylinder? How much energy is discharged when two bodies collide?…)
The universal surplus–this capacity of sexuality to overflow the entire field of human experience…is not the sign of preponderance. Rather, it is the sign of a certain structural faultiness: sexuality strives outwards and overflows the adjoining domains precisely because it cannot find satisfaction in itself, because it never attains its goal.
Cannot all the same be said of capital and its movement? And so if sex, in the way we perceive it socially, can’t ever be realized, can only live in the realm of desire, of the “before,” trapped in a mysterious place, what does that mean for capitalism? We believe now in always needing to reach, to long for reaching. Whatever we ultimately grab at, secondary.
My sister has been watching a lot of political TV and it raises her blood in a way that shows she’s trying to assign the notions of reason her world-thus-far has told her is how it’s been built, that she still believes there’s a narrative that will her take her to an end.
I remember once feeling the same at 17, watching C-Span in my bedroom, thinking I was doing something, connecting. But mostly, I was waiting. I trusted things would get better. I believed I was being taken somewhere. I was still seduced by progress.
Some three years later, I drove to a friend’s apartment, the one he lived in that faced the water. It was a weekday afternoon, and we were all probably supposed to be somewhere else. I recall leaving our house full of people. We wanted to escape for a few hours.
We found him in his living room with all the lights out. It was overcast and the whole place felt heavy and gray. The light of the large-screened TV beamed back and forth in front of his head, casting shadow after shadow.
I’m watching the fear machine, he said. I can’t stop.
We sat down, and he slipped pills into our hands. The grayness became grayer and the TV more fuzzy. He flipped back and forth between CNN and Fox News, an attempt to feel, to get our blood up like my sister’s does still. But all the words, everything projected, got mangled together and I felt a dip, I felt a very great dip. My phone buzzed and buzzed but I ignored it.
We left the house dark and slid down the cliffs across the street, which were being pounded with waves of early tide. We watched them. We smoked. We climbed back up and into my car. I didn’t know then that the dip would get steeper.
I walked along a highway. I was looking for a place to sit down, for some grass I could walk in, for a wood I could explore. I walked for hours. All land on both sides of the highway, cultivated and wild, was private. I had to keep walking on the highway, Kathy Acker writes in Blood and Guts in High School.
I thought that people today when they move move only by car, train, boat, or plane and so move only on roads. They perceive only the roads, the map, the prison. I think it’s becoming harder to get off the roads.
Acker writes a lot about roads in that book, about their increase and the way they, too, change the way everything moves –or perhaps, they’re being built to align themselves with the movement of capital, of the narrative proposed, to take us to the end we’re supposed to reach.
What I like most about Acker’s quote is its reminder of the wild space, that it still exists. But it’s becoming harder to see, harder to envision as possibility, as anything other than road as path of linear movement. In Lola, the circular marching and chants of the protesters don’t disappear, but remain a low hum, a buzz in the back drop. And most stories, most narratives, remain surprisingly steady on only the well-traveled roads. Instead of new ones, instead of a veer that takes us into long grass that reaches our noses and hides the dirt, there’s more artificial glow, more black lace–failure to be seduced by what’s not on the snake-like curves of concrete, to want a drink that hasn’t been colored pink.