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1. Effi Briest
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2. Beware of a Holy Whore
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3. Ali - Fear Eats the Soul - Criterion
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4. The Bitter Tears of Petra von
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5. Querelle
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6. Fox and His Friends
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7. Fassbinder 4-Pack (Love Is Colder
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8. Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven
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9. The Merchant of Four Seasons
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10. Fear of Fear
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11. Martha
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12. In a Year with 13 Moons
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13. Whity
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14. Chinese Roulette
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15. The Niklashausen Journey
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16. Katzelmacher
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17. Love Is Colder Than Death
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18. Satan's Brew
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19. Rio das Mortes
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20. Gods of the Plague

1. Effi Briest
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Asin: B00007M5HB
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 14950
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Amazon.com

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film begins with young Effi Briest (HannaSchygulla) recounting how her mother, though in love with a young man, marriedan older one with an established position. That young man--now older andwell-off--comes back to their town and asks for Effi's hand in marriage, which herparents grant. But gradually her husband's aloof behavior leads her into anaffair with a handsome soldier--a brief affair, but one that comes back to hauntEffi when she thinks she's left it far behind. The gorgeous black-and-whitecinematography of Effi Briest captures the stark, stratified world ofEffi's life; Schygulla's delicate performance expresses her sad and tenderheart. Though the movie is perhaps too tied to the slow rhythms of the novel from which it wasadapted, its elegant style and meticulous analysis of a rigid and hypocriticalsociety has won great acclaim. --Bret Fetzer ... Read more


2. Beware of a Holy Whore
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Asin: B00008L3WK
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 25208
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Fans of the prodigiously gifted Rainer Werner Fassbinder will find Beware of a Holy Whore the German director's most revealing look inside his filmmaking process. A kind of neurotic backstage comedy, the movie details the struggles of a film crew in Spain:the jealousies, tantrums, money problems. He doesn't spare himself in this process, as the movie's director (played by Lou Castel) is a petulant manipulator given to screaming fits. RWF himself plays a long-suffering production manager; the great pock-marked star of French B movies, Eddie Constantine, plays himself (looking somewhat bewildered by the deadpan jokes and frequent lulls). If the slack pacing and Warholian weirdness limit the movie, it nevertheless looks very vivid, thanks to future Hollywood cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. Fassbinder made around 40 features in his brief life, and this self-portrait gives hints about the maddening, mercurial personality that could pull off such a feat. --Robert Horton ... Read more

Reviews (5)

2-0 out of 5 stars Unfocused Fassbinder
In the early seventies, director Rainer Werner Fassbinder was making an incredible four or five movies a year. But not even the Wizard of Babylon was capable of making four or five GOOD movies per year, and although Fassbinder apparently considered "Beware of a Holy Whore" to be one of his important films it has not aged well. Obviously a diehard Fassbinder fan will want to see or own this movie. Wellspring and the Fassbinder Foundation have done a great job in making these films available on DVD and the transfers are excellent - although the original audio could use some work in places. For me, however, the film is important for two reasons. Firstly, because Eddie Constantine is in the cast - although the iconic actor seems to be wondering what he got himself into. Second is the fascination of watching Fassbinder himself in a self-parodying role that is fun, albeit bitter-sweet. That said, in subtitles, it's hard to get the humor that is intended, and I strongly disagree with those that claim this film is on the same level as more mature introspections on the moviemaking process - like Truffaut's "Nuite Americaine". If you're new to Fassbinder, viewing early classics such as "Ali: Fear Eats The Soul", "The Merchant of Four Seasons" or "Fox and his Friends" may give you a better idea of how striking and important a filmmaker he was.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of Fassbinder's best
Don't let the tongue-in-cheek title, which refers to cinema, deter you! Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) looks even better - and more complex - than when I first saw it theatrically several years ago; and Wellspring's DVD transfer is gorgeous (you can also choose either the original mono or new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack). Fassbinder himself ranked this his best film on the list he made, shortly before his death, of "The Top 10 of My Own Films." Not only is this knowing satire - part screwball comedy, part existential pseudo-documentary - one of his two out-and-out comedies (1976's Satan's Brew is the other), it is also a probing, wickedly funny, yet celebratory film about filmmaking. Although some will heartily disagree, for me it ranks with such classics of this rarefied subgenre as Godard's Contempt and Fellini's 8-1/2 (both 1963), and seems more illuminating, and even entertaining, than Truffaut's wonderful Day for Night (1973).

But there is much more of interest than its behind-the-scenes peek at dysfunctional moviemaking. There are its autobiographical layers (Fassbinder not only appears in a crucial supporting role as the harried production manager Sascha, he parodies himself wickedly through the central character of the tyrannical director, Jeff); a brilliant use of rhythm, both within scenes and in the overall flow of the film (Fassbinder was also the co-editor); some of the most beautiful, subtle and complex visual design - and camera movement - of any of his films up to that point (the great Michael Ballhaus was the cinematographer; he now shoots Scorsese's films); an ecelctic, brilliantly deployed soundtrack ranging from Peer Raben's haunting original score to songs from Leonard Cohen, Ray Charles, and Elvis Presley to a haunting Donizetti aria; a superb ensemble cast (it follows about a dozen major characters - although it focuses on Jeff - and looks ahead to, say, Altman's Nashville); not to mention psychological insight, and some surprising yet on-target character revelations.

Fassbinder delves into extremely dark and tangled emotions in this comedy; and although there are many laughs, they often stem from violence. When a character asks Jeff what type of movie he is directing, he replies, "It's a film about brutality. What else would one make a film about?" Fassbinder was an enormously complex artist, and man, who understood from personal experience the cruel power plays, and blindness, of people in love. He admitted that he was capable of oppressing the people close to him (often his crews and cast were also his friends and lovers), yet he showed enormous compassion - in his life and work - for both victims and victimisers; and he understood that the same person could play both roles. And although this pivotal film - which looks back to his earlier, more abstract works and ahead to his unique melodramas - often has a languid pace, Fassbinder never stops digging beneath the surface, exploring the sources of human need: love, desire for power, longing, dependency, repressed wishes, unfulfilled dreams, and all manner of frustrations. With emotional meltdown possible at any moment, it is no wonder that the title begins with "beware," immediately telling us that that this is a cautionary tale. The title's other two words suggest the struggle, in each of us, between the spiritual and the raw.

Filmmaking proves a fascinating combination of those two distinct yet intertwined qualities, especially as embodied by Jeff. On the one hand, he makes life a living hell for his producer Manfred (Karl Scheydt) - who's in love with him, his production manager Sascha (Fassbinder), his fling Babs (Maragrethe von Trotta) - who happens to be Sascha's girlfriend, his ballistic ex named Irm (Magdalena Montezuma) who has convinced herself that she would "bear his children," and especially his on-again/off-again boyfriend Ricky (Marquard Bohm). Not to mention everybody else. But we also see Jeff's redemptive love for filmmaking, such as the spellbinding scene in which he tells his cinematographer exactly what he wants in a complicated shot and why. There is real fire in Jeff, and a natural poetry in his words, as writer/director Fassbinder turns cinema into language, even as the camera movement he uses counterpoints Jeff's vivid description of what he plans to film. But film is not all "holy," and throughout the camera often suggests voyeurism, both of cinema and of us, the audience. It often seems to be peeking around corners or pillars, as if it were eavesdropping.

Although film production is not part of most people's lives, Fassbinder manages to make it a probing metaphor for universal human experience, in one of his most hilarious, disturbing yet deeply moving pictures.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting Early Fassbinder
This (relatively) early Fassbinder effort deserves to be seen. It has several flashes of brilliance but remains of interest mainly in light of what was to come. The film has a certain Morrissey/Warhol deadpan charm--you could almost envision Viva! or Joe D'Allesandro showing up any minute. Visually it can be quite striking. The cast varies in acting ability and star quality. There's a hint or two of Hanna Schygulla's later greatness. Fassbinder appears in a significant role (not merely the usual cameo) and is affecting. Ultimately one of those meta-films about making a film that young directors are partial to. Whether it provides the viewer with much insight is another question. Just how much do you care to know about this demimonde? Something of a curio thirty years after its release.

One has to wonder though why this film is available when "Maria Braun" is out of print. Of course the entire Fassbinder oeuvre should be on the market, but "Maria" remains one of his masterpieces, and it's scandalous that it's not currently available.

5-0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT EARLY FASSBINDER
An early masterpiece from the German New Wave,a hilarious and human portrait of the making of a film on the set of a monstrous director.More than self parody, Fassbinder created a vivid melange that is alive with pleasure.His characters are classic.This thrilling film should not be missed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perverse and Hilarious Genius!
One of Fassbinder's best -- visually ravishing while at the same time invigoratingly threadbare, brutally funny and self-deprecating, squalid and sexy and filled with cutting-edge glamour still, more than 25 years after its release -- you cannot miss this one! Watch for the breathtaking set piece on the hotel balcony with Hanna Schygulla's strangely affecting Marilyn Monroe dance, an outrageous drag-queen hanger-on getting his hair done, "Let's Go Get Stoned" playing in the background, and the funniest fistfight you'll ever see in a German movie....it'll take your breath away. Sheer genius. ... Read more


3. Ali - Fear Eats the Soul - Criterion Collection
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
list price: $39.95
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Asin: B000093NQY
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 23153
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Description

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, already the director of almost twenty films by the age of 29, paid homage to his cinematic hero, Douglas Sirk, with this updated version of Sirk's All That Heaven Allows. Lonely widow Emmi Kurowsky (Brigitte Mira) meets Arab worker Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) in a bar during a rainstorm. To their own surprise (and to the shock of family, colleagues, and drinking buddies) they fall in love. In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen seele auf), Fassbinder expertly uses the emotional power of the melodrama to underscore the racial tensions threatening German culture. ... Read more

Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars An intimate portrayal
Undoubtly, Fassbinder made this film thinking in Douglas Sirk. The script is carefully made, around a woman in her third age who decides breaking the rules.
"It's easier to break an atom instead a prejuice". The Einstein's statement is translated to this picture with all its consequences.
Once more , Fassbinder becomes in the warning voice of a troubled Germany surrounded by past phantoms.
A simply movie , but in hands of Fassbinder reached the major possible level.
Watch this film. It will let you thinking.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant film
Ali - Fear Eats the Soul is a somber German tale by Rainer Werner Fassbinder of racism in Munich of the 1970s. An older woman, a widow, happens into an Arab bar to escape the rain. This is post-1972 Munich, where the bombing of the Olympic games by Islamic terrorists is still fresh in peoples' minds. But this woman is Emmi, who married a Polish worker years ago despite her own family's prejudices. She raised 3 children with him before he died of an ulcer. Now she's ready to love again.

And love she does - she falls for Ali, a Moroccan worker with a gentle soul and a partial command of the German tongue. Ali is 20 years younger than her, but he falls for her gentle ways. They sleep together on the first night, and despite the hostility of her family, her co-workers and local group, she marries him quickly. They are very happy together, but the anger of all around her wear her down. Finally she goes off on a vacation with Ali, promising him that when they return everything will be better.

An in an amazingly bizarre plot device, things ARE better. Suddenly everyone who was mean to them before finds reasons to be nice - selfish reasons. The grocer wants her money back. Her son wants her to care for the granddaughter. The apartment-mates need help moving equipment. Emmi doesn't care - she's just happy that everybody is being nice again. But Ali is getting frustrated. He gave up his soul to be with Emmi, and while Emmi is regaining her friends again, Ali has nothing. He is still stuck with a foreign tongue, living in a foreign landscape. All he asks for is some cous cous to remind him of hime - and Emmi harsly tells him to get used to German cooking.

So Ali, who is a drifting reed through most of this story, drifts back into his Arab world. He hooks up with a female Arab friend of his who cooks the food he loves and who snuggles with him at night. He plays cards with his Arab buddies while listening to Arab music. Emmi realizes her loss and comes after him. She tells him it's OK if he has other women, other friends. All she wants is his love and his presence, to fight off the loneliness. And Ali admits to her that he loves only her, that he doesn't know how this got so confusing.

Then Ali collapses with an ulcer, just like Emmi's immigrant husband did. The doctor tells Emmi that he can't help Ali at all - he can only fix him for now, send him off and expect him to return in 6 months with another ulcer. But Emmi promises that she will make this work - she will reduce the stress so Ali is happy.

I really enjoyed this movie, especially in modern day times with all the arguments going on about gay and lesbian marriages. It wasn't that long ago that the color of your skin was enough to bar you from marrying. It's very scary to think that, with so many people hoping someday to find happiness, that we would put barriers in the way of any two human beings who have managed to find it, even if they are years apart in age, or shades apart in color.

5-0 out of 5 stars Moving and beautiful.
This movie is not simply about racism, xenophobia, or any soap box preaching - these are simply the background. In the foreground is a touching story about human frailty, love, and compassion.

4-0 out of 5 stars a stereotyping habit has consequences
As Lisa Nary elsewhere points out, the actor was the director's lover. Gee whiz.... It is a woman, Lisa Nary who notices this insignificant detail, not an "Inquirer" reporter. Homosexuality is important to her, as it would be to other rewievers of the "everyman" disposition. Yet, Fassbinder had commited suicide in a supremely liberal society that let him explore subjects no Spielberg would touch in the U.S. with a ten-foot pole.
(...)

5-0 out of 5 stars Want some couscous?
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a wonderful story with a strong socioeconomic message that can be compared to Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows (1956) and Far From Heaven (2002) by Todd Haynes where an older woman loves a younger man from a different ethnic group. Fassbinder's film takes place in Munich in the shadow of the 1972 Olympics when Arab terrorists took part of the Israel Olympic team hostage, which ended in a blood bath. Nevertheless, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a completely unrelated story to the bloodshed that took place in 1972 as it is told around Ali, a Moroccan guest worker, and Emmi, an older German woman, who fall in love with one another. Ali and Emmi come across each other at a local Arabian bar as Emmi seeks shelter from the rain outside. Ali and Emmi dance, converse, and Emmi invites Ali home for a nightcap as she is suffering from loneliness. Together they have to confront prejudice and racism as their relationship progresses since Ali looks and speaks differently than the German people around them. During their struggle they decide to go on a short vacation in order to escape the intolerance that surrounded them and as they come back Ali and Emmi begin to have their own doubts of their relationship. Fassbinder's film is a brilliant story and it uses some interesting cinematography that elevates the cinematic experience. However, the sound quality of the dialogues removes the realistic tone of the environment which sounds recorded and the characters are sometimes awkwardly portrayed by the cast. Nevertheless, Fassbinder created a truly unique cinematic experience as he colors the environment with his own touch and it leaves the audience with a great feeling. ... Read more


4. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Asin: B00006IUHE
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 28122
Average Customer Review: 4.15 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Rainer Werner Fassbinder adapted his own play for this modern twist on The Women, the great all-female Hollywood classic of sex and social conventions in high society. Margit Carstensen is successful dress designer Petra, Irm Hermann her silent, obedient secretary/servant/Girl Friday Marlene (whom she alternately abuses and ignores), and Hanna Schygulla the callow, shallow young Karin, a seemingly naive blond beauty Petra treats as part protegée, part pet, until the calculating kitten turns on Petra. Michael Ballhaus's prowling camera finds Marlene silently hovering on the borders of Petra's dramas, looking on through doors and windows like an adoring lover from afar. Bouncing between catty melodrama and naked emotional need, it's a quintessentially Fassbinder portrait of doomed love, jealousy, and social taboos. The DVD features commentary by Fassbinder scholar Jane Shattuc, the early 1966 Fassbinder short films The City Tramp and The Little Chaos, the bonus documentary Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and filmographies. --Sean Axmaker ... Read more

Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent DVD also incl. both Fassbinder short films
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), one of Fassbinder's masterpieces, explores the tortured connections between desire and power. Not only is the DVD of exceptional quality, it includes both of Fassbinder's fascinating short films ("The City Tramp" and "The Little Chaos") plus a revealing documentary.

Although Bitter Tears remains one of Fassbinder's most controversial films - in part for its severely limited depiction of women's lives - it is also one of his most powerful. Fortunately, the range of lesbian-themed films in the past thirty years has presented women's experiences in considerably more diversity and fullness, so perhaps now we can better evaluate the film's considerable merits.

Fassbinder's casts are always uniformly strong, but this one is extraordinary, especially Margit Carstensen in the title role (she won several awards), Hanna Schygulla (with whom Fassbinder made 20 pictures) as her new lover Karin Thimm, and Irm Herrman as Petra's mysterious assistant Marlene who, without uttering one word, at times dominates with her sheer presence.

The film is astonishing for its interweaving of raw emotion with stunning and meticulous design. Fassbinder and director of photography Michael Ballhaus (who shot about half of the director's films, and now does all of Scorsese's pictures) wrest every bit of visual interest from the single claustrophobic set (we never leave this one apartment). The endlessly inventive deep focus compositions provide a series of emotionally penetrating, and technically virtuosic, comments on the action - ironic, allusive, symbolic, and visually gorgeous. The only picture which approaches this level of achievement - in making limited physical space utterly compelling as cinema - is Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles (1948), but he had all of two sets!

Fassbinder also makes acerbic use of every carefully placed object in the lavish apartment. Most notable is a gigantic blowup of Poussin's painting "Midas and Bacchus," which reminds us that Petra - like Midas, whose life was blasted by the "golden touch" - should be careful what she wishes for. The nude Bacchus stands in the center of the mural - and not infrequently Fassbinder's compositions - with the body of, well, a Greek god, a larger-than-life male in a film peopled entirely with women. Some critics argue that this overbearing backdrop represents the patriarchal system which underlies, and perhaps even dooms, the relationship of Petra and Karin. Fassbinder includes many other witty, even playful, elements throughout the film, both to give it greater resonance, and to keep it from descending into bathos. For instance, dramatic form has rarely been so drolly encapsulated as when Petra changes into a new wig - "symbolically" indicating her emotional state - in each of the film's five scenes (each unfolds in continuous time).

Although it would be unfair to reveal the ending, a tentatively optimistic reading may be possible: For one character it revolves around a newfound self-respect, for another because she has, for the first time, genuinely reached out to someone else. The film is so rich, on so many levels, that you may find yourself seeing it differently on each viewing. Few works so creatively, and powerfully, manage to subvert our desire for cathartic drama while simultaneously fulfilling it.

FASSBINDER'S SHORT FILMS ARE ALSO INCLUDED on this DVD. Both were made in 1966, when he was 19. "The City Tramp," about a homeless man who finds a gun, is a work of extraordinary, stark visual design and intriguing commentative sound (street noise juxtaposed with classical music juxtaposed with silence). It boasts excellent performances, with Fassbinder raising it far above the level of a "vanity piece" for financial backer cum star Christoph Roser. It also introduces several of the filmmaker's recurring themes, including alienation, the role of the outsider, exploitation, and violence, while its sporadic playfulness highlights another vital, and fun, aspect of his work. "The Little Chaos" is about three friends who use their knowledge of American crime movies (and Godard's 1964 film Band of Outsiders) to rob a woman. Although not as visually striking or emotionally rich as "City Tramp," it features first-rate performances and has a refreshing exuberance. The DVD also includes "Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977," an engrossing half-hour documentary.

5-0 out of 5 stars "I can no longer go back and start again."
Decadent German fashion designer, Petra Von Kant (Margit Carstensen) rules her business world from her apartment. Here she exploits silent, faithful Marlene--her assistant designer, cook, secretary, slave and general dogsbody. Marlene worships Petra and shifts seamlessly between work roles while accepting everything dished out to her. Petra is cruel, self-focused, and arrogant--her success allows her to be unpleasant to everyone.

Petra is introduced to married model, Karin (Hannah Schygulla), and Petra falls madly in love with her. Karin--who seems to be vulnerable and gentle--agrees to move in with Petra, and so their relationship begins. With a great ironic display of the absolute corruptibility and viciousness of human beings, Fassbinder then shows how love and worship weakens Petra. Karin--the love object--holds all the power in the relationship, and in a strange reversal, Petra becomes the tiresome slave.

This film has a very small all-female cast, but the huge mural of a naked man serves as the token male presence. The placement of the mural and its anatomically diminished male is no accident, and I cannot recall a film in which the set is such an integral part of the film. Note Petra's bedding, and Petra's body is just a clothed version of the naked mannequins that sprawl all over Petra's apartment in various poses. Petra seems like a mannequin, and she dons the most fantastic outfits. She begins the day looking rather haggard, but with her wigs and make-up, she becomes glamourous and seductive by noon. Hannah Schygulla as Karin looks positively dumpy next to the sharp elbows of Petra. Note Marlene's silent participation during the dialogues that take place. Marlene often shows her displeasure or anguish in the subtlest ways, and again, it's all part of the set.

"The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant" is one of my favourite Fassbinder films, and one I re-watch ever year during my annual Fassbinder Festival. I think Fassbinder's film illustrates perfectly the inherent problem of possession and power in all love relationships. In the beginning of the film, it is difficult to imagine anyone besting Petra, and it seems as though Karin may just become another victim. After all, Petra holds all the power--the money, the apartment, the influence, and the position, but the power in the relationship moves to Karin, and all she does is exploit and torture Petra under Marlene's watchful and disapproving gaze--displacedhuman

5-0 out of 5 stars Fassbinder's take on a Mankiewicz classic, All About Eve
Considerable journalism and scholarship has been devoted to Fassbinder's admiration for works of Danish-born film director Douglas Sirk. However Fassbinder did, in fact, loosely borrow from many melodramatic texts, Mildred Pierce for The Marriage of Maria Braun, Sunset Blvd. for Veronica Voss, both in the BRD Trilogy, and in the case of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, from Joseph's Mankiewicz's All About Eve.

In the audio commentary, popular arts critic Jane Shattuc makes reference to Fassbinder's theatrical renderings in the film, Petra's couture costumes, tightly framed background shots of the Poussin painting in Petra's apartment, and use of lighting, all of which provide the viewers with every bit of intimacy as a performance on stage.

Obviously his own background and training in theater was one source of inspiration for the film. But certainly another was his fascination with Hollywood melodrama, and specifically in this instance, Joseph Mankiewicz's characteriztion of Broadway legend Margo Channing and her idol Eve Harrington in All About Eve.

While same class consciousness dyanamics are evident in both films, so are elements of lesbianism and bi-sexuality. Only in the case of Fassbinder the class differences between Petra, her appentice, and the Hanna Schgulla character become stark and more exaggerated. As for sexual oreintation, what's implied in All About Eve is more evident in Petra von Kant and worthy of a enough consideration to do a doctorial dissertation on the subject.

i love this film because it provides the most vivid and detailed characterizations of female intentions, wants, and desires of any other film in the Fassbinder canon, including the female characters in the BRD Trilogy or Berlin Alexanderplatz.

1-0 out of 5 stars The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
I don't know if it was bad acting or simply a bad script. The acting was stiff. Maybe something was lost in the translation. But it seemed they took a 10 min dialogue and stretched it to 2 hours. Basic story left me saying get over it, get on with it. I fast forewarded through most of it and didn't miss anything. If you're a lesbian looking for a movie with strong female interaction, it's not this one. This movie, definitely was not worth the money.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting...yes
My rating is actually 2.5 stars. I was intrigued by the synopsis of this film and then the overall production design(the single divded loft space, the central positioning of the big bed, the vibrant wall painting in almost all the shots, and of course the costuming) really drew me in. Given that the film only has five or six scenes, each scene is 20 to 25 minutes long. The majority of each scene consists Petra Von Kant rambling on about her ethics, philosophies, and tragedies. She is completely self-obsessed. While there is sympathy for her life's pain and admiration for her sense of independence, her treatment of everyone around her is either callous(Marlene), patronizing(Sidonie and her daughter), predatory(Karin), or wheedling(Karin and her mother).

Even her love for Karin, however doomed, is poisoned by her inability to see anything outside of herself. Before their affair begins, Karin tells Petra exactly who she is in terms of her goals, discipline, desires, and damaged world view. Yet Petra refuses to acknowledge the real Karin and is shocked to find herself used and cast aside by Karin.

Throughout the film, Marlene, Petra's assistant, is a silent witness to Petra's dramatic highs and lows. She toils like a machine. Maintaining a patient grace, Marlene withstands Petra's demanding viciousness and suffers the presence of the callow ..., Karin. Every once in a while, Marlene's expression reveals her abject love for Petra. Marlene's devotion to Petra is not tragic unto itself; Marlene is happy in her submissive role. It is Petra's willful ignorance of Marlene's sacrifice that is the issue.

While Petra's dissolution into a lovelorn harpy is strangely humorous, her utterly destructive will toward all of her other relationships is the ultimate realization of her selfishness. This quality, not Petra's lesbian desire, is the deviant "other" of the film. ... Read more


5. Querelle
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
list price: $24.95
our price: $22.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00005JXY5
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 19558
Average Customer Review: 3.38 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (21)

2-0 out of 5 stars Wild Boys
An ambitious and original movie, Rainer Werner Fassbider`s "Querelle" is an interesting effort with some compelling moments but ends up being too flawed as a whole. This experimental release presents a surreal and dreamy mood that showcases Querelle`s (a marine played by Brad Davis) search for himself and his true nature. His search will lead to some risky relationships with a couple of his mates, presenting a movie that combines campy moments with some introspective and symbolic ones. What we have here is a film that explores human desire, narcisism, homo(sexuality) and seduction in an unique and peculiar way, even if the characters are too self-absorbed and the plot drags in many scenes. "Querelle" is too ambiguous and ethereal to deliver a convincing resolution, even if it delivers an unusual dark atmosphere with compelling settings and brilliant direction (the photography is also good, displaying excellent colours and textures). The acting is not very intriguing and the weird characters turn this into an unusual yet cold cinematic experience. Fassbinder presents some good ideas here, still this effort is to sparse and disjointed to become a solid movie.

Not bad, just too uneven to convince.

4-0 out of 5 stars Rub a Dub Dub
First of all when you get the DVD version, you have the opportunity to watch the film as it was originally filmed - in English. Anyone who speaks French and can read lips knows that the film was dubbed into French (and not just bad sync-sound) - the film was later released back in the states with English subtitles under the French dub (talk about a triple threat).

I must say that I love this movie for tackling issues that 20 years ago were definitely still taboo in the mainstream. Although not a masterpiece in terms of plot development, I believe it stays true to the development of Jean Genet's characters - and of course the cinematography is stunning. Like watching a live action Tom of Finland cartoon directed by David Lynch at times... Wonderful.

1-0 out of 5 stars Wings Of Querelle? Little To Desire?
These comments refer to the DVD edition. First of all and for the record, this flick was obviously filmed in English (!) as anyone who watches lip movements can readily detect. Of course, if you only saw it on VHS or a VHS derivative, you probably couldn't see any lips, much less lip movements.

This flick is so bad that it rapidly becomes a parody of a cheap porn flick without the porn part. HEALTH WARNING TO PROSPECTIVE VIEWERS: The ubiquitous voice-overs, presumably reflecting the deepest and innermost feelings of the particular character involved in a given scene, can send viewers into uncontrollable spasms of laughter! Just when one expects some profound reflection by a character on the current state of affairs (no pun intended) what emerges are increasingly banal sexual descriptions that, were they to be quoted here, would be canned by the censors along with the rest of this review. If you could somehow cross this flick's "thought-bubbles" with those in Wm. Wender's fatally dull and unimaginative "Wings Of Desire", you would have the instantaneous creation of not one, but two cult classics!

Wooden acting by Brad Davis and others makes this flick a parody. Stay away from this turkey unless you want to liven up a party with the X-rated unintended hilarity, where caustic comments by the audience can greatly add to the fun. A zero-star flick if ever there was one.

1-0 out of 5 stars sorry, this is not a good farewell for Fassbinder
It's very sad that this film became his last. I too love Fassbinder's work and Brad Davis is great, but you can't say that by watching this piece. Please see this after you went through all other movies from this master otherwise you would get wrong impression about his talent.

4-0 out of 5 stars Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
This movie truly made me rethink my pompous blow-hard nature: that is to say, I'm fanatical about Jean Genet, madly in love with Brad Davis, and I even MOSTLY like Fassbinder. But for some reason, I can never seem to get through the first half of this movie.

Jean Genet's forbidden story of Querelle was, simply put, never meant to be translated into a movie. The internal struggles of Querelle were too innate, too complex...to ever be categorized and flow-charted and minced down into two hours of a panel-by-panel film script.

Now, with that said, I think Fassbinder made an excellent attempt to put you right up inside the taboo story of our favorite murderer/hero. The scenery is luscious, the costumry finely detailed, the casting superb. Not to mention the delicious sailor booty of a certain leading man, Brad Davis.

Still, I find this movie left me with much to be desired. After the torrid affair of Querelle and Nono, I wanted to roll over and go to sleep (no underlying meaning meant). Even THEN, there was only so much tension up until that point, and the plot manuevering that Fassbinder undertook did nothing to appease me. For example, the lusty leiutenant who writes of Querelle in the novel, keeps, instead, a tape recorded diary. With any horribly tedious passages taken directly from the text. In terribly stiff monologues.

Scary stuff.

All in all, I rated this movie with four of five stars. It perfectly compliments any Genet collection and makes for wonderful ornamentation on your DVD shelves. But if you've never heard of Jean Genet or never saw a Fassbinder movie, you should probably buy a different homoerotic brothel-lined story of metamorphoses and love. ... Read more


6. Fox and His Friends
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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5-0 out of 5 stars Powerful film & excellent DVD transfer
FOX AND HIS FRIENDS is one of Fassbinder's most poignant and accessible works. The story and performances are direct, and the look of the film is polished. Yet it also deals powerfully with some of his central themes, such of the search for love, and exploitation in its many forms (both homosexual and heterosexual). Wellspring Media has released a pristine DVD of the film, from a carefully restored print. If offers both a vivid new Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, as well as the original stereo, plus filmographies and Web links.

Fassbinder is very effective at shattering, or at least twisting, stereotypes in his films, whether they concern people from a "different" class (MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS), race (ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL), age (MOTHER KUSTERS GOES TO HEAVEN), or physical ability (CHINESE ROULETTE). In FOX AND HIS FRIENDS he focuses on homosexual men, in one of the first films ever to depict their lives - warts and all - as complex lived experience. (Of course, in the years since FOX's 1975 release, film has come a long way in exploring the diversity of homosexual experience.) Fassbinder made only a handful of other films dealing with homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people: 1972's THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, 1978's IN A YEAR OF 13 MOONS, and 1982's QUERELLE. All are worth seeing, and each remains among his most controversial works.

Since some people consider FOX to be homophobic, it's worth noting that there are perhaps as many unscrupulous straight characters (including Fox's new lover's mother and father - who swindle him for the "noble" purpose of keeping open their business, which employs 70 people) as homosexual ones. Also, Fox's bar buddies include several caring and likable homosexual and transgender characters, who represent a diversity of ages, body types, and demeanors (some are "straight-acting," others love to camp it up). And Fassbinder, in his most demanding role as an actor, gives his most nuanced performance. There are many complex layers to Franz "Fox" Biberkopf, and Fassbinder explores them all, from street-smarts to sweetness to pain to defiance to despair, and more.

When I first saw FOX, I was horrified by the final scene (although it is vintage Fassbinder). Now, after watching it again, I have to wonder if the film actually ends inside Fox's mind (for his sake, I hope so). That metro/subway stop is unnaturally - eerily - clean and quiet. Everything is blue and white, even the clothes worn by all the characters who pass through. Yet this comes at the end of one of Fassbinder's most naturalistic films; nothing earlier is as stylized. So, is this just a nightmare vision? (But as a friend noted, if you are going to include one dream state in a film - and make it the final scene - be sure the audience understands the ambiguity.) Has Fox learned, from his devastating experiences, that the glitzy "lifestyle" he has just lost was what was destroying him? So maybe - just maybe - Fox is ready to begin putting himself back together... if the final scene is just a nightmare.

5-0 out of 5 stars An overlooked Fassbinder gem!
This is one of Fassbinder's funniest and most heartbreaking films. Playing the title role himself, Fassbinder delivers an unforgettable performance as Fox--a directionless carnival worker who finds himself lured into a relationship with an upper-class German man after winning the lottery. A very visually striking and emotionally engaging film. Certainly one of Fassbinder's bests.

As for the DVD transfer, it's as good as if not better than the version I saw on VHS. ... Read more


7. Fassbinder 4-Pack (Love Is Colder Than Death / Gods of the Plague / Fear of Fear / Chinese Roulette) (Amazon.com Exclusive)
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Love Is Colder Than Death
The first feature in the frantic career of Rainer Werner Fassbinder is, like Godard's debut Breathless, a nod to the traditional gangster movie. This time, however, the tough-guy attitudes are imparted to a trio of typical Fassbinder losers, slouching about in the drab underworld of Munich. They are played by Alain Delon lookalike Ulli Lommel (who poses in a trenchcoat and film noir fedora), Fassbinder himself, and the director's blond goddess Hanna Schygulla. The film works hard to subvert conventional notions of movie storytelling, with lots of loooong pauses and stylized gestures--and as such, feels more like a trial run than a full-blown Fassbinder meisterwork. But everywhere, in the insolent opening shot or the final thrilling cut from car interior to bleak landscape, you can sense the utter confidence that burbled out of this gifted German: he was only 23, and he was going places in a hurry. --Robert Horton

Gods of the Plague
The short-lived skyrocket named Rainer Werner Fassbinder began his prolific directing career with a burst of rule-breaking movies in 1969-70. Gods of the Plague, from that early eruption, is a kind of homage-deconstruction of the American crime movie, in the same vein as RWF's Love Is Colder Than Death and The American Soldier. An ex-con (zonked-out Harry Baer in an ankle-length leather jacket) wanders through grungy Munich, on an eventual collision course with a botched supermarket robbery. The film has virtually no narrative momentum, and carries the cheeky attitude of experimental theater--the movie stops cold as the hero listens to a German nonsense song in its entirety. Yet from the first five minutes you can sense the eye of a great filmmaker behind the exquisitely poised camera (clearly influenced in this one by the anything-goes spirit of early Godard). Fassbinder regulars Hanna Schygulla and Gunther Kaufmann are especially good here. --Robert Horton

Fear of Fear
If not among the better-known films by the gifted German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fear of Fear is nevertheless an absolutely characteristic work. A housewife, locked into a dull life with her distracted husband and two small children (plus nattering mother-in-law and sister-in-law living in the apartment upstairs) finds herself seized by uncontrollable anxiety. Although the wife has an affair with a doctor, there is little conventional melodrama; instead, Fassbinder strips away plot mechanics in favor of a complete identification with the woman's mysterious angst. The central role is tailor-made for one of RWF's favorite leading ladies, Margit Carstensen, whose regal cheekbones and elegant air belie the instability beneath the skin. Fassbinder's eye is exacting--the apartment is a dead-on purgatory of bourgeois nothingness--and his framing shows the influence of his Hollywood idol, Douglas Sirk. This is a small work in the bulging Fassbinder canon, but it's impeccably realized. --Robert Horton

Chinese Roulette
An elegantly baroque exercise from the middle of his brief and brilliant career, Chinese Roulette finds Rainer Werner Fassbinder exploring the sinister side of a weekend in the country. At an isolated mansion, a husband and wife bump into each other--with their lovers in tow. Their lame daughter shows up with her mute nanny, adding to the tension, and the festivities culminate in a spiteful truth-telling game. Fassbinder choreographs the claustrophobic action as though it were Last Year at Marienbad filmed as soap opera parody, with glittering contributions from cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and RWF's longtime composer, Peer Raben. It's fun to watch, although the decadent sense of a snake chasing its tail ultimately makes this one feel like minor-league Fassbinder. Along with stock-company regulars Margit Carstensen and Brigitte Mira, the cast includes a pair of former Godard heroines (still looking stunning), Anna Karina and Macha Meril. --Robert Horton

... Read more


8. Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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When Hermann Kusters goes berserk at his factory and murders his managerbefore killing himself, a media blitz descends upon his middle-aged wife(Brigitte Mira) and her adult children. Her daughter attempts to use thesituation to improve her cabaret singing career, but Frau Kusters remainsdistraught that her husband has been depicted in the papers as a boozingmaniac. Her search for some solution leads her to the communist party,then finally to a group of anarchists who take drastic action. WhileMother Kusters Goes to Heaven isn't one of German director RainerWerner Fassbinder's more lively films--the pace is almost monotonouslysteady--but Fassbinder's eye for selfishness, hypocrisy, and manipulation remains sharp. The movie shifts from a darkly comic tone to a deep sadness; perhaps unable to decide which mood to commit to, Fassbinder shot two strikingly different endings, both of which are presented. --Bret Fetzer ... Read more


9. The Merchant of Four Seasons
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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10. Fear of Fear
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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If not among the better-known films by the gifted German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fear of Fear is nevertheless an absolutely characteristic work. A housewife, locked into a dull life with her distracted husband and two small children (plus nattering mother-in-law and sister-in-law living in the apartment upstairs) finds herself seized by uncontrollable anxiety. Although the wife has an affair with a doctor, there is little conventional melodrama; instead, Fassbinder strips away plot mechanics in favor of a complete identification with the woman's mysterious angst. The central role is tailor-made for one of RWF's favorite leading ladies, Margit Carstensen, whose regal cheekbones and elegant air belie the instability beneath the skin. Fassbinder's eye is exacting--the apartment is a dead-on purgatory of bourgeois nothingness--and his framing shows the influence of his Hollywood idol, Douglas Sirk. This is a small work in the bulging Fassbinder canon, but it's impeccably realized. --Robert Horton ... Read more


11. Martha
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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12. In a Year with 13 Moons
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Average Customer Review: 3.67 out of 5 stars
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When the object of his affection off-handedly commented, "too bad you're not a girl", Erwin disappeared to Casablanca and returned as Elvira. Now, adrift and alone amid the maze of the Frankfurt streets, Elvira revisits the people and places of his past, desperately searching for the identity and love and she's never known.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's masterpiece defies categorization, equal parts melodrama, dark comedy, tragedy, and almost clinical character study. Featuring a breathtaking central performance by the great Volker Spengler, In a Year with 13 Moons is ultimately a tender and moving portrait of a lost and fragile soul. Begun only weeks after the suicide of his lover, Fassbinder wrote, directed, photographed and edited what is perhaps his most personal and powerful film. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary late Fassbinder film
Despite the flaws of '13 Moons,' I still believe that this is one of Fassbinder's best films. Part of that conclusion is of course the understanding that every Fassbinder film has flaws. But I judge films on how effective they were in telling a story and how effective they are in making me think. And this film still has a strong impression on me 10 years after seeing it last. For me, the film is best understood during the skyscraper sequence. We have an unknown character peeping through a keyhole in an abandoned office tower and laughing hysterically. That of course, is Fassbinder's little jab at the audience, as we are all voyeurs. Later, we see an executive playing a kind of "movieokie" / imitation of a Jerry Lewis sequence on television. A total carbon copy of a preexisting text, done in the twisted humorous style that only Fassbinder can deliver. We later see that same executive subject himself to a staged kidnapping drill by his security staff, which places the film in historical context as left-wing terrorists attacked CEO's during the 1970's. And finally, we see a man hang himself in an abandoned suite. It is over the top, unrealistic, and I'm sure it is torture for most viewers (if they weren't driven out by the early slaughterhouse scene), but it is still a masterpiece as it is a compelling example of post-modernism in the true sense. If you are a student of New Wave or Avant Garde cinema, 13 Moons is a must-see. I can't convince you that it is a masterpiece. You just have to see it for yourself. It ranks with "The American Soldier," "The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant," "Love is Colder than Death," "Chinese Roulette," and "Fox and his Friends," as Fassbinder's best works. If you want to see the darkest work of art to come of out West Germany in the late 1970's, this is it.

5-0 out of 5 stars A BLOODY MASTERPIECE
THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST STYLISH FILMS EVER MADE. NOTHING IN IT IS EXCESSIVE - THE DIRECTOR IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING WITH EVEN THE MOST DISTURBING SLAUGHTERHOUSE SCENE.

5-0 out of 5 stars Unpleasant and Unforgettable
The other reviewers are correct to write that this is a difficult film to watch, as are all of Fassbinder's films. But that's why "In a Year with 13 Moons" is such a masterpiece: the director isn't trying to slip you a wink; he has made a brutal film to convey brutal ideas. And whether you agree with those ideas or not, Fassbinder's violence here is never insincere or gratuitous. (There are also a few well-timed moments of comic relief.) An astonishing combination of craftsmanship and raw emotion from a filmmaker at his very best. It makes other films look lazy or cowardly, or both.

1-0 out of 5 stars Spend your day getting wisdom teeth removed instead!
Fassbinder inflicts his personal pain and suffering upon his viewers. I've seen graduate film students walk out of this film. In fact, the INSTRUCTOR of the class walked out as well. The relief felt when he/she finally commits suicide was not worth the utter hell of watching the protagonist's torment for two hours. The remaining students actually cheered when death finally ended not only his suffering but our own.

Call me insensitive and closed-minded, but only after you have experienced this ordeal for yourself. This is the worst film this film instructor has ever seen.

3-0 out of 5 stars Middle-of-the-road Fassbinder
My first response to '13 Moons' is that it is not a great Fassbinder film. I'll admit, though, that maybe it's just too tragic to be "enjoyable" in the normal sense.

Volker Spengler is an excellent actor, and the chance to play a character like Elvira must have been fascinating for him. Ingrid Caven is as seductive as ever, although not quite as intriguing in this film as she is in 'Merchant of Four Seasons' or 'Mother Kusters.' The biggest treat is Gottfried John as Anton Saitz -- a real hoot of a character. It's a shame that not all corporate hot-shots can be as outrageous and fun as Saitz. We see him and his hirelings playing what is apparently a daily game of a shoot-out (with blanks, of course) in the company parking lot. You also get the sense that Saitz wears those white tennis shorts to work every day. Saitz is the real high point of the film.

But '13 Moons' is ultimately a tragedy, and a deeply affecting portrait of a transvestite's humanity. You'll be shocked by the horrid slaughterhouse scenes; and also by the irony that a sensitive character like Elvira could work in such a bloody place. A metaphor of a feeling soul in a sublimely horrible world? Worth a look, but still not one of Fassbinder's greatest. ... Read more


13. Whity
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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14. Chinese Roulette
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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An elegantly baroque exercise from the middle of his brief and brilliant career, Chinese Roulette finds Rainer Werner Fassbinder exploring the sinister side of a weekend in the country. At an isolated mansion, a husband and wife bump into each other--with their lovers in tow. Their lame daughter shows up with her mute nanny, adding to the tension, and the festivities culminate in a spiteful truth-telling game. Fassbinder choreographs the claustrophobic action as though it were Last Year at Marienbad filmed as soap opera parody, with glittering contributions from cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and RWF's longtime composer, Peer Raben. It's fun to watch, although the decadent sense of a snake chasing its tail ultimately makes this one feel like minor-league Fassbinder. Along with stock-company regulars Margit Carstensen and Brigitte Mira, the cast includes a pair of former Godard heroines (still looking stunning), Anna Karina and Macha Meril. --Robert Horton ... Read more

Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Hypnotically stylish, witty, but problematic Gothic thriller
Chinese Roulette (1976) is a hypnotically stylish, witty and puzzling Gothic thriller. Its several intertwined mysteries - some of plot, all of character - make it diabolically involving. Yet while its ambiguities are a strength, some nag more than they resonate. The DVD transfer is vivid.

After focusing on films about individual characters in the previous three years (Effi Briest, Fox and His Friends, Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven), Fassbinder here creates a striking ensemble piece. Although each actor gives a finely-etched performance (including Fassbinder regulars Margit Carstensen, Ulli Lommel, and Brigitte Mira; plus two actresses associated with his idol Jean-Luc Godard: Macha Meril and Anna Karina), the screenplay is another matter. Several of the characters' names seem heavily symbolic, with some kind of tension between names with a biblical resonance (Christ, Angela, Gabriel), and others with a Greco-Roman bent (Ariane/Ariadne gave Theseus the thread to find his way out of the minotaur's labyrinth), Irene in Greek means peace. The implications behind each of those names can be forced into a reading of the film as a whole: Gabriel "announcing" a new world order (in his loopy "philosophy"); Ariane, in the final moments, helping lead Gerhard out of a sexual "labyrinth," etc. But after three viewings, the film feels top-heavy with symbols, yet they never come together as clues to reading the film, either straightforwardly or ironically. And the film's final image of a ghostly throng (their banner looks vaguely Nazi) marching outside the Christs' chateau does not meaningfully help clarify, or complexify, anything. The screenplay feels half-baked, although in other films Fassbinder is usually dead-on in his writing - including his use of subtle layers of meaning.

However there are several details to admire, including the sly way he plays with our expectations. Instead of some hand-wringing melodrama about infidelity, his four "adulterers" are remarkably sensitive to each other's foibles. And they are in committed, long-term infidelities (not a paradox in Fasbinder's world): Ariane and Kolbe have been together for seven years, Gerhard and Irene for eleven. And it was a stroke of twisted genius for Fassbinder to make sweet-faced, disabled little Angela, who loves to hug her dollies, the antagonist. Although we understand the possible motivation for her revenge on her parents, she is still a chilling creation. She also embodies one of Fassbinder's key themes in her manipulation of other people - either directly (her sadistic bossing of the sinister housekeeper), indirectly (her constant but unspoken provocation of her mother), or both (masterminding the climactic Chinese Roulette game).

Although Angela's scheming helps keep the narrative moving, like the other characters she never gels either as metaphor (too murky) or as a person (too vaguely drawn). Of course in many other films, Fassbinder did create characters who are simultaneously symbolic and real, like Effi Briest, "Fox" Biberkopf, Mother Kusters, and dozens of others. Despite many fine, small moments, the problems of character in this film also affect the overall dramatic scheme.

The dramatic problems reveal themselves clearly in the brief final act - the Chinese Roulette scene (reputedly one of Fassbinder's favorite pastimes). Although he masterfully builds up to the game, when it arrives the characters were not developed enough to give this climax its necessary force. I expected it to reveal something momentous not only about them but about the picture's themes. But it does not. And although there is plenty of psychosexual ambiguity, it feels more atmospheric than integral.

Throughout, Fassbinder seemed to use his eight characters to create a microcosm - but of what? A critique of the upper crust and/or upwardly mobile; of materialism? A satire on the foibles of desire, romantic habit, matrimony (at the end Fassbinder prints the marriage vows over that final eerie long shot of the possibly-Nazi ghosts)? Or, more darkly, does this group represent the profound failures of self-understanding which lead to fascism (the recurrent Nazi motif)? This film needed more of the psychological and thematic fullness of, say, Renoir's Rules of the Game (1939) or Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), which may have inspired it. (Fassbinder is a great filmmaker, who worked under tremendous strain: In 1976 he wrote and directed three feature films, plus staged a major production of Clare Boothe Luce's play The Women, even as he prepared to film it.)

The film is much more successful in the mysteries it suggests through image, which resonate long after memories of the story fade. Some are hauntingly poetic: Angela's diabolical dolls, a shot of a forest reflected onto a window and all of that reflected yet again in a mirror, the decaying head of a stag in the forest, and several more. Those images feel like a gloss on the macabre nature of Gothicism itself (with its love of death, decay, and doppelgangers), as much as on the particulars of this film. Those fleeting images seem to have bubbled up from some dark recess of Fassbinder's fantastically rich imagination, and that instinctively he put them in where they felt right. They do not have a pat meaning, which you can easily put into words; they are genuinely, richly ambiguous.

[3-1/2 stars rounded up to 4, because this film is worth seeing. Also, many Fassbinder fans consider this one of his greatest works.] ... Read more


15. The Niklashausen Journey
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Michael Fengler
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In the 15th Century, Hans Böhm, a shepherd, claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary. He began preaching and gathered around him thousands of disciples who believed him to be the New Messiah. He was arrested and burned at the stake by the church. Fassbinder uses this true story to reflect the sexual and political upheaval in Germany, showing how and why revolution fails. ... Read more


16. Katzelmacher
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Katzelmacher follows the lives of an aimless group of friends whose lives take an interesting turn when a Greek immigrant (R.W. Fassbinder) moves in. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Katzelmacher is a tour de force
Fassbinder's second feature film, Katzelmacher (1969), is a tour de force of stark visual beauty and ambiguous but riveting characters. The DVD transfer from Wellspring is pristine.

Shot in just nine days on a shoestring budget (DEM 80,000, then US $25,000), Katzelmacher explores the rootless but circumscribed lives of a group of young working class people in a Munich apartment complex. Violence lies just below the surface, as we see when a Greek "guest worker" named Jorgos (played by Fassbinder) moves in and becomes involved with one of the women, Marie (played by the great Hanna Schygulla, who appeared in half of Fassbinder's films). The men's increasing hostility towards the "Katzelmacher" (a Bavarian sexual slur for a foreign laborer), coupled with the immigrant's incomprehension, leads to the film's powerful climax. The film won several prestigious awards (the substantial prize money financed Fassbinder's next projects) and decisively established its 23-year-old writer/director/actor - and editor (using his pseudonym of "Franz Walsch") - as a rising star of German cinema.

While stylistically austere, like his other early films, we can already see Fassbinder's trademark interplay of social criticism and melodrama. And although he based Katzelmacher on his original play, he uses purely cinematic - visual and sound - means to explore his inarticulate but richly-drawn characters. Fassbinder takes visual cues from such then-recent works as Godard's My Life to Live (1963) and Bergman's Persona (1966), yet his film feels wrenched from life, not made up from earlier works. The severe images (bare walls, bare lives, and sometimes bare bodies) viscerally convey not only the world which these people inhabit but their deepest natures.

Despite, or perhaps because, of its relentlessly minimalist style, the film achieves a compelling momentum. Each scene is done in a single continuous shot; some go on for several minutes, others are just one quick, evocative image. Throughout there is no camera movement, except for a series of brief, formally identical tracking shots which punctuate the film. Even then, the camera maintains an even distance as it pulls straight ahead of two people walking in parallel, further emphasizing the flat space which confines them.

As the picture lulls you along with its extended use of dialogue, delivered in a flat manner by people who almost never look each other in the eye, suddenly a man will strike his girlfriend. And she will let him. He may recently have given her money in exchange for sex (the divisions between love and casual prostitution are blurry, and include both hetero- and homosexual varieties). A moment after the slap, their impassivity returns.

The bland surfaces (emotional, architectural, cinematic) and mundane conversations conceal, but barely contain, a violence waiting to erupt. Jorgos discovers this at the climax, when the "real Germans" beat him for bringing "difference" into their little world. But Katzelmacher is much more than a tract about the still-relevant issue of xenophobia. Since Fassbinder lets us uncover at least some of the reasons for that violence, we are not simply clicking our tongues in disgust at these slack "tough guys" and their "girls;" we are able to understand them. We see, more clearly than any of the characters, their inability to communicate, even as we feel their profound longing to connect.

Even at this early point in his career, Fassbinder is an artist who can transform such raw, painful, and deeply personal material into a visually arresting film, which is at once fiercely unsentimental and tender.

4-0 out of 5 stars Meditative, revelatory, early Fassbinder
RW Fassbinder's second feature won't be a hot rental at Blockbuster anytime soon, but it is a rewarding film--meditative, revelatory, KATZELMACHER unfolds without urgency but envelops the audience in its characters' anomie (angst?) in 1969 Deutschland. Exploring the dead-end lives of working class stiffs (who don't seem to do much work), the story concerns the upheaval caused by the arrival of a Greek worker (played by Fassbinder) to their staid neighborhood. DVD quality is excellent, part of Wellspring's gorgeous RWF Foundation-sponsored reissues, considering the 16mm B&W source material. Hans Hirschmuller, so memorable as the title character in THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS (also on Wellspring DVD with commentary by Wim Wenders), shows much of his early promise in this film. Highly recommended to Fassbinder fans, New German Cinema fans, indie cineastes, students of film, gastarbeiters and Harry Baer lovers. Keep an eye out for THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, THE NIKLASHAUSEN JOURNEY, RIO DAS MORTES, MARTHA, WHY DOES HERR R RUN AMOK and IN A YEAR OF 13 MOONS, all coming soon to DVD from Wellspring and Fantoma (who put out the excellent WHITY and PIONEERS OF INGOLSTADT). ... Read more


17. Love Is Colder Than Death
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Asin: B00008UAPY
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 15737
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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The first feature in the frantic career of Rainer Werner Fassbinder is, like Godard's debut Breathless, a nod to the traditional gangster movie. This time, however, the tough-guy attitudes are imparted to a trio of typical Fassbinder losers, slouching about in the drab underworld of Munich. They are played by Alain Delon lookalike Ulli Lommel (who poses in a trenchcoat and film noir fedora), Fassbinder himself, and the director's blond goddess Hanna Schygulla. The film works hard to subvert conventional notions of movie storytelling, with lots of loooong pauses and stylized gestures--and as such, feels more like a trial run than a full-blown Fassbinder meisterwork. But everywhere, in the insolent opening shot or the final thrilling cut from car interior to bleak landscape, you can sense the utter confidence that burbled out of this gifted German:he was only 23, and he was going places in a hurry. --Robert Horton ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fassbinder's prodigious debut film
This is Fassbinder's prodigious debut film, a revisionist film noir of stark visual style, seething but repressed emotions, and sardonic humor. Even as it draws on his extensive work in theatre, Love is Colder Than Death (1969) points to the 40 incredibly diverse films to come, in several of its themes, stylistic techniques, and psychological insights. But this is no mere warm-up for later triumphs (and tribulations); it seems more resonant with each subsequent viewing.

It opens at a crime syndicate, where - in between brutal interviews with the bosses - small-time Munich pimp Franz Walsch (played by Fassbinder) strikes up a friendship with Bruno (Ulli Lommel), another recruit. Relishing his independence, Franz refuses to join the mob. He returns to his prostitute girlfriend Joanna (Hanna Schygulla, one of Fassbinder's greatest actresses). Bruno tracks Franz down for enigmatic reasons: Is it because he already feels drawn to Franz (their unexpressed homoerotic bond is key to the film), or has he been sent by the syndicate - or both? The three go on a small wave of shoplifting and murder. But when Bruno begins planning a bank robbery, Joanna's distrust and jealousy of him cause her to make some arrangements of her own.

Shot in harsh black and white by cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann, Fassbinder designed this film (with Lommel) and edited it, using his frequent pseudonym of none other than Franz Walsch. From the first scene, he establishes the tense visual style (characters trapped by large expanses of blank wall), deliberate pacing, and almost hypnotic performances. These elements work perfectly to express this almost uncanny vision of a world of repressed longing, frustration and, inevitably, violence.

About this picture Fassbinder once said, in a comment which also looks ahead to his later works, "My film isn't supposed to let feelings people already have be neutralized or soaked up; instead, the film should create new feelings.... I'm concerned with having the audience ... examine its own innermost feelings." And he does. For instance, he infuses even simple elements with many thematic and emotional layers, making them complex, even contradictory, yet almost always involving. Take the plot, which I summarized above. On the one hand, it could hardly be more simple. Yet although it is classically constructed (exposition, rising action, climax), it holds many genuine, and purposeful, mysteries of character, not only for the three leads, but minor roles too.

And in terms of cinema history, Fassbinder turns the crime film on its ear. Although he created a visually stunning "traditional" film noir in Gods of the Plague (the sequel to this film), here he eschews all familiar stylistic cues. Instead of ominous shadows, everything is hit with icy-cold light; there is nowhere to hide. Instead of the baroque, sometimes dizzying, design of such 1950s masterpieces as Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly and Welles's Touch of Evil, Fassbinder puts us in a world of intense flatness, with rarely more than two or three planes of action. Ironically, the only places with depth of space are the centers of consumerism - the department store and supermarket - which hilariously provide no impediments to the trio pilfering everything they want.

But most of the film's space is of crushing blankness, from the sequence of Bruno's night drive along Munich's creepy, almost-deserted streets (accompanied only by Peer Raben's haunting score) to, especially, Franz's oppresively bare apartment, where much of the film is set. Fassbinder here brilliantly (and economically, since he had only a US $27,500 budget) uses this visual blankness to convey not only his characters' social status, but their emotional states too. In a strange yet brilliantly insightful way, all of those bare walls - echoing the characters' emptiness and pain - made me care about them even more. I deeply responded to their vulnerability, which was unique for each character yet also a common quality. Though they never talk about their frustrated desires and dreams - and of course that silence adds to the film's power - we see that these are terribly wounded people, with no idea of how to heal themselves. So they act out through robbing and killing - using generic criminal identities provided by Hollywood - even as these victims of society victimize each other, and of course themselves. Fassbinder does not excuse these characters, but he does bring them to life.

I think this film succeeds not only sociologically but artistically, capturing - through narrative, performance, and design - the blank poetry of oppression, and repression. Of course, with his debut Fassbinder also wanted to astonish the world; so he must have been delighted with the near-riot this film caused at the 1969 Berlin Film Festival. Today it still feels fresh, strange, and resonant in its chillingly casual violence and unspoken, sometimes heartbreaking, passion. ... Read more


18. Satan's Brew
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Asin: B00008L3WU
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 27974
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Almost certainly the wildest movie ever made by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Satan's Brew is as unhinged as some of the director's masterpieces are rigorously controlled. A kind of gross-out comedy on art and fame, Satan's Brew takes as its hero a celebrated poet, played by longtime RWF cohort Kurt Raab, whose resemblance to Peter Lorre is uncanny. In the first of the film's many affronts to good taste, the poet kills his wealthy mistress in an S&M game, thus prompting a financial crisis--he may even be forced to start writing again. The movie careens from one jaw-dropping oddity to the next, inspiring the suspicion that Mike Myers may have seen it before inventing his "Dieter" character. This depraved three-ring circus is not the way to be introduced to Fassbinder, but the director's fans will be amused. To quote the movie itself:"An epic from the sordid depths of humanity!" --Robert Horton ... Read more


19. Rio das Mortes
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Asin: B00006LPCZ
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The films of Rainier Werner Fassbinder take a bit of getting used to. At first, Rio Das Mortes will seem wooden and sluggish--but as you grow accustomed to Fassbinder's stylized filmmaking, the movie grows elegant. Hanna (Hanna Schygulla) wants to marry Mike (Michael Konig), but Mike is obsessed about going to Peru with his friend Gunther (Gunther Kaufmann) to engage in a treasure hunt. As the two make clumsy attempts to raise the money for the trip, Hanna at first feels safe (when they try to convince her uncle to invest, their callow ignorance is both comic and painful). But slowly she realizes that Mike's fantasies mean more to him than she does, and her world starts to crumble. Mike and Gunther's flounderings become perversely fascinating as the movie uses them to deftly illustrate the social and economic mechanisms of society; Fassbinder's eye--both harsh and sympathetic--is remarkable. --Bret Fetzer ... Read more


20. Gods of the Plague
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
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Asin: B00008V2UC
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 28414
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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The short-lived skyrocket named Rainer Werner Fassbinder began his prolific directing career with a burst of rule-breaking movies in 1969-70. Gods of the Plague, from that early eruption, is a kind of homage-deconstruction of the American crime movie, in the same vein as RWF's Love Is Colder Than Death and The American Soldier. An ex-con (zonked-out Harry Baer in an ankle-length leather jacket) wanders through grungy Munich, on an eventual collision course with a botched supermarket robbery. The film has virtually no narrative momentum, and carries the cheeky attitude of experimental theater--the movie stops cold as the hero listens to a German nonsense song in its entirety. Yet from the first five minutes you can sense the eye of a great filmmaker behind the exquisitely poised camera (clearly influenced in this one by the anything-goes spirit of early Godard). Fassbinder regulars Hanna Schygulla and Gunther Kaufmann are especially good here. --Robert Horton ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Visually stunning, dramatically understated film noir
Gods of the Plague (released in 1970) is a powerful, visually stunning, yet dramatically understated film noir - and pure Fassbinder; Wellspring's DVD transfer is detailed and crisp. Fassbinder himself ranked this film fifth on the list he made, shortly before he died, of "The Top 10 of My Own Films." Not only does he pay homage to some of the masterpieces of this genre which he loved (from Kubrick's The Killing and Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly to Godard's Breathless and Band of Outsiders), he brings his unique perspective, including his incisive sense of humor. This film is the centerpiece in a loose trilogy - of which each picture has a distinct dramatic and visual style (all shot in black and white by his frequent cinematographer, Dietrich Lohmann) - beginning with his debut feature, Love is Colder Than Death (1969), and concluding with The American Soldier (1970). (In 1970 alone Fassbinder made five feature films and directed three major stage productions!) Characters recur throughout the series; and they often use the same names as the actors playing them. The pivotal role is two-bit Munich hood Franz Walsch, played by Fassbinder himself in the first and third films, but (perhaps confusingly) by Harry Baer here (although Fassbinder, wearing the same black leather jacket from the first film, has a droll cameo as a different character). Baer brings some intriguing new qualities to the role, most notably a sleek, feral, yet passive, sexiness. It is also worth noting that "Franz Walsch" was Fassbinder's frequent pseudonym; he used it in the credits for the many films which he edited.

Fassbinder uses this trilogy - of which I believe Gods of the Plague is the best chapter - to explore many of the hidden aspects of the crime film, including its not infrequent homoerotic subtext, even as he expands its scope both psychologically and visually. This film alone should silence any criticism that Fassbinder is "not a visual director;" he was immensely flexible in creating the style best suited for each picture, ranging from the stark minimalism of Katzelmacher to the baroque extravagance of Chinese Roulette. Even at this early point in his career, he is a master at combining image and drama - carefully balanced between realism and stylization - to create an effect far greater than the sum of its parts. Fully as expressive as the visual design is the enormous depth of his characters. But that is revealed not so much through dialogue as furtive eye movements, the smallest of gestures, and the many riveting silences which punctuate this film. Comparing the menage a trois here (Franz, Margarethe, and "Gorilla," the affable hit man who killed Franz's brother - "It was only business" - but whom Franz loves anyway) with the one in Love is Colder Than Death (not to mention Truffaut's Jules and Jim) is fascinating. I give Gods of the Plague my highest recommendation, but if possible see it in the context of the films which precede and follow it. ... Read more


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