The Einstein of Sex

Rosa von Praunheim's 1999 biopic sets out to link German sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld with the struggle for gay rights, but it's more coherent and less blatantly polemical than some of his earlier films. Fascinated with sex at an early age, Hirschfeld began to question the notion of abnormal behavior while attending medical school in the 1890s; he spent much of his career debunking unscientific views of homosexuality and campaigning to decriminalize sodomy, though according to von Praunheim's empathic interpretation of his private life, he repressed his own homosexuality until late middle age, when he began to fall for young men. The filmmaker mines Hirschfeld's obsession for irony and pathos, winking at his collection of phallic talismans, his debates with a gay author who condemned effeminate men, and the time he took a police commissioner to witness a transvestite ball. Von Praunheim is amused by Hirschfeld's eccentricities, but ultimately he's more concerned with the Nazis' antigay, anti-Semitic hysteria. 98 min.

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