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 – 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

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

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 – Angst vor der Angst aka Fear of Fear (1975)

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For a long, in-depth review; see Jim’s Reviews link

From Bill’s Movie Emporium:
The story presented in Angst Vor Der Angst isn’t original by any means, although in 1975 I’m sure it had some originality to it. Originality doesn’t matter though, because Angst Vor Der Angst is about a quality director taking a relatively simple subject and turning it into a great movie. Angst Vor Der Angst is a dramatic tale, yet it is a tale we can relate to. Some of the characters may seem cliche, but they aren’t over the top and most of us have had a domineering mother-in-law or a bothersome sister-in-law in our lives. Continue reading

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Chinesisches Roulette AKA Chinese Roulette (1976)

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Like most Fassbinder films, it’s seemingly simple, but there’s a lot too it when you walk a bit closer. This one sets up a great tragicomic situation: a disabled teenager manipulates her parents each to bring their lover to their summer mansion for the weekend. When the father arrives with his lover (Anna Karina, in a very quiet role), he finds his wife pinned to the floor by her boy toy. A bit later the daughter arrives with her caretaker (and possibly her lover?) who is deaf and mute. Mrs. Kast and her blonde son, Gabriel, take care of the mansion, cook, and so forth. Kast is played by Brigitte Mira, who was so wonderful two years earlier in Fassbinder’s Fear Eats the Soul. She’s a lot more cruel in this one. Continue reading

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Katzelmacher (1969)

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Katzelmacher was a revelation. One of only a handful of Fassbinder films which I had not seen before, it seems among his best, and most challenging, works.

Fassbinder’s second feature film, Katzelmacher (1969) is a tour de force of stark visual beauty and ambiguous but riveting characters. Fassbinder adapted his own original play, of the same title, which he had also starred in on stage. (The theatrical script is included in the anthology Fassbinder’s Plays.) Continue reading