Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Lili Marleen (1981)

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Late Fassbinder melodrama. In Switzerland German singer ‘Willie’ falls in love with Jewish composer ‘Robert’ who offers resistance to the Nazis by helping refugees. But his family thinks that ‘Willie’ is also a Nazi and may be a risk for them. One day ‘Willie’ helps ‘Robert’ but has to stay in Germany. As Willie starts to sing the song ‘Lili Marleen’ she becomes very famous and every soldier hears that song via radio at 8 pm. Although even Hitler wants to meet her she still does not forget ‘Robert’ and helps to smuggle photos of concentration camps to the free Switzerland. When ‘Robert’ wants to visit her he is captured he can finally get free again but he will never see Willie again until war is over. Continue reading Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Lili Marleen (1981)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Mutter Küsters’ Fahrt zum Himmel (1975)

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Like all of Fassbinder’s best films, Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven is many things at once. It is simultaneously a deeply compassionate portrait of a working-class woman and a scathing satire of her exploitation; emotionally rich but politically and intellectually dense, filled with arguments and counter-arguments galore; psychologically astute yet highly stylized and visually lush. It is a comedy, a drama, and much more. It is also an excellent example of how Fassbinder uses image and sound, often in subtle ways, to develop – and play with – his themes. Continue reading Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Mutter Küsters’ Fahrt zum Himmel (1975)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant AKA The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)

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One of Fassbinder’s most controversial films, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is an obsessive, highly stylized look at the shifting power plays in relationships. Petra von Kant is an arrogant, caustic and self-absorbed fashion designer. She lives with her assistant who she constantly mistreats. Petra employs a new model and a lesbian affair unfolds. Fassbinder transcends the homosexual nature of the circumstance in this transparent exploration of dominance and submission.

Shot in a series of very long takes, The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant is as claustrophobic a cinematic experience as you can have short of watching a movie in a wardrobe. It’s a rare thing to spend an entire film in one location and with Fassbinder reluctant to move his camera we have no choice other than to engage with this group of women as the room they inhabit begins to close in on them. Continue reading Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant AKA The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Fontane Effi Briest (1974)

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It’s a non-traditional black and white film based on the 1894 novel by Theodor Fontane. It’s for an audience that is more aware and welcomes something addressed to the intellect, rather than the way the average casual moviegoer sees a film expecting a story handed to him on a silver platter with a beginning, a middle and an end (usually a happy ending). This is not a film for the casual moviegoer or the critic chasing down blockbusters. Director-writer Rainer Werner Fassbinder has said “It’s a film that really only works in the German language.” What makes the film so difficult for an outsider, is that much of Fontane is nuanced only for the German and therefore someone unfamiliar with the finer cultural points or historical facts will have a tough time of it. Fassbinder based the film on the parts of the novel by Theodor Fontane he agreed with (discarding the parts of the book he disagreed with) and did not make it into a topic about a woman as the title would suggest (a debate grew between the film’s star Hanna Schygulla, who wanted to play it as a story about the titular character; thankfully she couldn’t budge Fassbinder off his intended aim to keep it as a societal moral play and as a result we have a film that is full of conviction and as faithful to a book as you can possibly be). Continue reading Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Fontane Effi Briest (1974)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Angst vor der Angst AKA Fear of Fear (1975)

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Margot, who lives in a comfortable middle class apartment, fears that she is losing her mind after having had her second child. Her husband Kurt, who is busy studying for an exam, does not understand her situation. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law Lore are openly hostile to her. She resorts to valium and drink, and looks for sympathy, but to no avail. Continue reading Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Angst vor der Angst AKA Fear of Fear (1975)

Robert Fischer – The Cinema and its Double – Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Despair’ Revisited (2011)

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This absolutely top-notch documentary by Robert Fischer is a fascinating look back at not just the film in question, but Fassbinder’s meteoric career which ended all too soon with his untimely death. Archival footage of Fassbinder is utilized (including several fascinating snippets culled from interviews he did at the disastrous Cannes premiere of Despair), as well as many others involved in the film and its release. Even if you’re not a particular fan of Despair, or even in fact of Fassbinder, this is stellar documentary filmmaking and is an intriguing look at one of the most enigmatic masters of the New German Cinema. Continue reading Robert Fischer – The Cinema and its Double – Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Despair’ Revisited (2011)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Ich will doch nur, daß ihr mich liebt AKA I Only Want You to Love Me (1976)

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A man is interviewed by a sympathetic woman. His tale unfolds, of hard work that never pleases his parents, of a father who denigrates his efforts, of an indifferent mother. He builds them a house. Instead of offering their flat to him and his bride, they give the flat up, so he goes to Munich to work in construction, bringing his wife who is soon pregnant. They buy things on credit; he works overtime. He shows up with flowers and expensive gifts. When construction slows and he works less overtime, he cannot adjust his spending habits: he needs to be loved. Pressures mount. When he snaps, and violence ensues, who will be his victim? Continue reading Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Ich will doch nur, daß ihr mich liebt AKA I Only Want You to Love Me (1976)