A potentially interesting pic too often sandbagged by its camp credentials, “The Einstein of Sex” won’t make much impression beyond gay fests and aficionados of Berlin bad-boy filmer Rosa von Praunheim (aka Holger Mischwitzki). Specialist, vid-lensed item — a biopic of real-life sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) — seemed a perverse choice to rep renascent German cinema in the Locarno festival’s competition.
Shot in a restrained and conventional style (by von Praunheim’s standards), pic canters through the doc’s youth until, as a young man (Kai Schuhmann) he pens the book “Sappho & Socrates” and sets up a sexuality clinic — to the horror of his aunt and uncle. By the ’20s, his pioneering Berlin-based institute of sexology is world-famous, but the rise of Nazism forces the middle-aged Hirschfeld (Friedel von Wangenheim) to flee to the U.S., abandoning his young lover, Karl Giese (Olaf Drauschke), and transvestite maid (Tima die Goettliche). Film’s satire of German machismo and militarism (best expressed in a funny cameo from well-known thesp Boris Becker) is consistently blunted by throwaway gay jokes and the overall camp tone. Perfs are OK, and transfer to 35mm is clean.