Weekend Binge

Time to recognize Udo Kier as a great, gay international treasure

Kier in ‘Swan Song’

Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every week, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.

The Film Festival: The Essential Udo Kier

With gay actor Udo Kier earning rave reviews for his performance in Swan Song, which opens in theatres this weekend, we think it high time to give him his due. Kier boasts a long and eclectic career as one of the world’s great character actors, and a damn talented one at that. His filmography includes work with some of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th and 21s centuries, including gay directors Andy Warhol, Rainer Fassbinder, Gus Van Sant and Lars von Trier, as well as cinematic staples David Lynch, Dario Argento, Peter Hyams, Michael Bay and Paul Morrissey. He’s even turned up in music videos for Madonna (Deeper and Deeper) and Eve (Let Me Blow Ya Mind).

Kier’s piercing eyes and German accent have often relegated him to supernatural and horror movies, and as with any actor, not all his films are even good. Even some of his most notorious films (the softcore The Story of O comes to mind…watch at your own risk) are downright unwatchable.

With that in mind, we’ve picked out some of Kier’s most interesting titles which show off his gifts as an actor, and as an asset to cinematic auteurs. Have a look, grab the popcorn, and get ready to know one of the most interesting gay actors working today.

Flesh for Frankenstein (aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein)

Andy Warhol oversaw this erotic horror film for director Paul Morrissey, which features Kier in one of his earliest–and best–leading man performances. Kier plays the title mad scientist, here reconceived as a eugenic necrophile (seriously). With a plot full of man-on-reanimated-corpse sex, disembowelment and other graphic violence, we recommend watching it on an empty stomach. If nothing else, the film does show off Kier’s natural charisma, and foreshadow his long career in horror.

Streams on YouTube.

My Own Private Idaho

Director Gus Van Sant made an early queer masterpiece with this story of rentboys on the road. Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix each give two of their best performances as Scott and Mike, two street kids trading sex-for-cash with various men and women along the way. That includes Hans, played by Kier, who gives a memorable turn in a supporting role. Released in 1991 at the height of AIDS and with homophobia rampant, it’s hard to understate the courage of the cast in taking on this material. That extends to Kier, who plays his role as a somewhat predatory, very sad older man unable to find love…unless of course, he pays for it.

Streams on Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.

Dancer in the Dark

Kier only has a bit role in this Lars von Trier masterpiece, but we’re adding it here since it qualifies as one of his absolute, best films. Dancer in the Dark follows a woman named Selma (Bjork) struggling to earn money to pay for surgery for her son. Both she and her son suffer from a degenerative eye disease that will render them blind without medical intervention. To cope with the pain of life, Selma imagines the world as a musical fantasy. Bjork gives a sensational performance in the lead, and also composed the film’s Oscar-nominated music. Kier turns up as a kindly doctor aiding Selma in her plight, one member of an incredible supporting cast that includes Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Joel Grey, Peter Stormare and Stellan Skarsgård.

Streams on Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

Cinematic genius Werner Herzog continues his obsession with men gone mad in this very weird movie which also stars Michael Shannon, Grace Zabriskie, Chloë Sevigny, Michael Peña and Willem Dafoe. The story follows Brad (Shannon), an acting student accused of murdering his mother in Greek tragedy-style. Kier plays Brad’s acting coach who offers some insight into his fractured psyche. Like so much of Herzog’s work, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? examines the nature of insanity, trying to discover the cause and logic (if any) within the shattered mind. David Lynch also produced the film, which might explain the movie’s offbeat tone.

Available on DVD.

Swan Song

Kier finally nabs a plumb leading man role, diving into the part of an elderly gay hairdresser with total abandon. By turns profound and hilarious, his portrait of Pat, a man obsessed with doing his favorite client’s hair one last time–for her funeral–manages to tug at the heartstrings. Kier plays Pat as a man shunned and forgotten by the world, but one who will not drift softly into the night. We all should be so lucky to cross paths with such a man…not to mention get a few of his beauty tips to boot.

In theatres August 6. Available on VOD August 13.