R.W. FassbinderThe greatest filmmaker of the New German Cinema, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was born May 31, 1945, only weeks after the Fatherland had surrendered to Allied Forces closing the European theater of WWII. Fearing for the infant’s well-being, his parents sent Rainer to live with an aunt outside of Munich. He wouldn’t reunite with his mother Lisolette (Eder) until he was nearly one. His parents divorced when he was five and Fassbinder spent a troubled youth in and out of boarding schools, suffering from a sense of abandonment.

He found comfort in the darkness of movie theaters where he spent much of his free time. American noirs and melodramas were among Rainer’s favorite films, especially the gritty genre films churned out by Warner Brothers and the stylish soap operas directed by the Danish expatriate Douglas Sirk. Largely self-taught, Fassbinder also developed a taste for such disparate authors as Berthold Brecht and Alfred Doblin whose leftist ideologies had fallen out of favor with the post-war German government.

Coming out of the closet at fifteen Fassbinder began to cruise gay bars and get his sentimental education in a rough and tumble manner. He would claim to be bi-sexual, choosing to live with women (and going so far to marry actress Ingrid Caven) while preferring to sleep with men. His taste in lovers and protagonists veered to the underdog shunned by the upper and middle classes. These uncompromising choices made for a messy personal life but helped contribute to one of the most uniquely personal bodies of work in the cinema.

Fassbinder’s coming of age in the mid-1960s coincided with the emergence of the French New Wave cinema and his generation’s embracing of the avant-garde in the arts. Still, Rainer’s raw talent and enthusiasm did little to impress the faculty at the prestigious Berlin Film School which turned down his bids to enroll twice.

While drifting through menial jobs Fassbinder found a home of sorts when he joined Munich’s Action-Theater in 1967. The unusual young man’s spellbinding personality, amazing energy and apparent genius were all factors in his becoming the group’s spiritual and artistic leader. Over the next two years Fassbinder wrote fourteen original plays and staged modern takes on old warhorses like The Beggar’s Opera and Goethe’s Iphigenia in Taurus.

Fassbinder was also beginning to make films and these early efforts, Der Stadtstreicher and Das kleine Chaos, were equally influenced by the off-the-cuff shooting styles of the New Wave directors and the American gangster film.

These promising shorts led to an extremely impressive feature debut Love Is Colder Than Death, a modern mob story in which Fassbinder plays Franz Walsch, a gangster-pimp on the run from the syndicate. Franz shacks up with the beautiful prostitute Johanna (Hanna Schygulla) who turns tricks out of their dreary flat. He is soon befriended by Bruno (Ulli Lommel), who unbeknownst to Walsch is a hit man assigned to rub the renegade out. The two men share Johanna’s bed as they make plans for an ill-fated bank caper. Although the storyline was conventional, this was a new kind of cinema.

Borrowing from the avant-garde theatre, Fassbinder’s mise-en-scene may seem stilted but behind the static camera-work, flat line readings and poker faces was an already mature artist who sympathized with the miscreants up on the screen. Bruno is shown to be a cold-blooded killer but he finds solid ground with free and easy Johanna and his curious soul mate Franz. But, the hired gun is slowly squeezed out of the love triangle then conveniently killed-off in the bank heist. A cold fate, indeed.

Breathless Meets the WB.

Continuing on in this crime wave vein Gods of the Plague and The American Soldier complete an underworld trilogy featuring the exploits of Franz Walsch (an amalgamation of Fassbinder’s favorite literary hero Franz Biberkopf and the Warner Brothers director Raoul Walsh). Nearly all of Fassbinder’s films through 1972 would exclusively feature members of his Munich acting troupe, now known as the anti-teater group.

In Gods handsome Harry Baer stars as a mysterious sullen ex-con who after being released from a Munich prison hits the road in an effort to track down his old friends and professional acquaintances. His good looks and melancholic temperament fascinate a circle of women including girlfriend Johanna (Hanna Schygulla) and the sophisticated Margarethe (Margarethe von Trotta) who joins him on his cross country quest. When Harry’s brother is murdered Johanna tips off a cop to her former lover’s whereabouts leading to a bloody shootout in a supermarket.

At face value this noir story owes much to the claustrophobic, urban worlds of Aldrich and Preminger, but digging deeper we find Gods of the Plague to be a curious take on feminine desire with the passive Baer playing the object of desire.

  Life is very precious… even right now.

A film more akin to traditional noir, The American Soldier follows the bumpy trail of hit man Ricky Murphy AKA Von Rezzori (Karl Scheydt), a German-American veteran of the Vietnam War, who returns to Munich to kill three lowlifes in a pact with a clan of crooked cops. After learning one of his victims was a girlfriend of one of the cops, Ricky remains in Munich where he hooks up with his old underworld friend Franz Walsch (Fassbinder).

He also pays an awkward visit to his chilly mother (Eva Ingeborg Scholz) and a brother (Kurt Raab) whose latent homosexual desires for Ricky play out in a dance of death. Fassbinder’s most hardboiled film comes to its operatic conclusion when the policemen, fearing reprisals from their police chief and the public, mow down Ricky and Walsch in a gangland-style execution.

    Doblin meets Raoul Walsh. 

Although Fassbinder owed much of his early cinematic style to the French New Wave and avant-garde German theatre his clear artistic influence would always be Sirk, the great Dane who directed a series of lavish tearjerkers for Universal Studios in Hollywood before retiring in 1959. While Sirk’s straight-forward take on his melodramatic material was clearly meant to be ironic, Fassbinder appreciated the care he took in presenting sympathetic, off-beat characters looking for love in conservative America.

Fassbinder incorporated these Sirkian values into Katzelmacher, a film based on an original play about a Greek laborer who moves into a Munich apartment project occupied by a group of narrow-minded workers and slackers. Fassbinder plays the relatively minor role of Jorgos the Greek who has left his hometown of Piraeus in search of work to support his wife and two children. Jorgos’ arrival at the complex is accompanied by untrue rumors of his slovenliness, bad hygiene and sexual prowess.

He is given the cold shoulder by the locals except for Marie (Hanna Schygulla) who risks her status in the community by dropping her boyfriend to enter into an affair with Jorgos. Rather than turn the sexy Schygulla as the second coming of prim Jane Wyman, Fassbinder wisely chose to go the satirical route in showing the building’s social group to be a collective of lost souls numbed by comfortable mediocrity.

   Rumor and resentment.

Continuing on this theme of quiet suffocation, Fassbinder teamed with longtime collaborator Michael Fengler to write and direct Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, a neo-realist take on a white collar worker succumbing to pressures at home and work. As Herr K. Kurt Raab is alternately sad and chilling as a mediocre architect who lives beyond his means to keep his pretty wife (Lilith Ungerer) content just as his blueprints for an important project come under the scrutiny of a demanding boss.

Perhaps owing to the influence of Fengler, Herr K. features a large dose of Rohmer-esque chattiness painting a false picture of middle-class conformity. The self-loathing architect confronts his own shyness, lack of social graces, and hulking physicality before committing a personal holocaust.

   I don’t believe melodramatic feelings are laughable.

Although it seems to have more in common with the genre cinema of Gods of the Plague and The American Soldier, Fassbinder’s one attempt at a western Whity is two-parts Sirk and equal parts Leone, Blaxplotation and Destry Rides Again. Set in the American southwest a decade after the Civil War, Whity (Gunther Kaufmann) seems nothing more than a Tom-mish house servant to the Nicholson clan. But the ailing cattle baron Benjamin Nicholson (Ron Randell) is blind to the fact his loyal employee is cleverly manipulating his pathetic sons.

Meanwhile, Whity is carrying on an affair with a local saloon chanteuse Hanna (Schygulla) who wants to shuck it all and move to Chicago with her black lover. But, hoping he’ll be accepted by the weird Nicholson clan, Whity makes the fateful decision to stay on and do the family’s dirty business. Shot on an old school western set in spectacular widescreen color by Michael Balhaus, Whity is one of the most adventurous Fassbinder films.

Those unfamiliar with the director’s tastes and his compassion for outcasts might label Whity as pure camp, but this audacious take on both homosexuality and ebony-ivory pairings is a precursor to the mature masterpieces, Ali: Fears Eats the Soul and In a Year of Thirteen Moons. Made just two years after Leone’s tribute to the old west Once Upon a Time in the West, Fassbinder’s affectionate spin on the genre remains crazy after all these years.


A large portion of the Fassbinder canon was made for German TV and while it could be argued, with the exception of Berlin Alexanderplatz, these are mostly minor films it would be remiss to not give them their due as they feature some of Fassbinder’s most radical ideas. Indeed, Das Kaffeehaus and Die Niklashauser Fart are the most extreme Fassbinder films in terms of structure and content.

Based on a play by the 18th century Venetian playwright Carlo Goldini, Das Kafeehaus is a stripped down, formalist comedy of the working classes. Shot on a whitewashed set with spare usage of set pieces, this experimental film is at the very least a valuable chronicle of an anti-teater production.

One of the few worthy films influenced by Godard’s Dziga Vertov consortium, Die Niklashauser Fart (The Niklashausen Journey) is a philosophical jambalaya about the life of Hans Boehm (Michael Konig), a 15th century shepherd whose visions of the Virgin Mary and subsequent popularity among the God-fearing public led to his martyrdom at the hands of the clergy. The blend of revolutionary and reactionary ideas, modern and period dress, and stylistic insouciance is reminiscent of such infamous Godard fare as Sympathy for the Devil and Le vent d’est. Fortunately, Fassbinder soon moved on from these free-flowing intellectual exercises.

   Didactic segue.

Rio das Mortes found Fassbinder taking a brief hiatus from genre cinema to craft a wry comedy set amongst the German working class. Weary of their drab, dead-end jobs Michel (Michael Konig) and Gunther (Gunther Kaufmann) devise a far-fetched scheme to move to Peru and search for lost treasure. Even though she’s a free spirit herself, Michel’s fiancee Hanna (Hanna Schygulla) thinks their plan is absurd. Her attempts to stop the men are foiled when a wealthy widow relative agrees to sponsor their quixotic folly. Having become as bourgeois as her annoying mother, Hanna tries to put an end to Michel’s dream with a bullet but good fortune smiles on the men who escape to pursue riches in the New World.

   Fool’s gold.

Based on a play by Marieluise Fleisser Pioneers in Ingolstadt follows the plight of three young women who hope the arrival of a battalion of young soldiers in their small Bavarian town will lead to sexual awakening and, perhaps, love.

Under the command of a bullying Sergeant (Klaus Lowitsch) the soldiers are in town to build a bridge but they are quickly distracted by the local women, especially the underage Frieda (Carla Egerer), the pretty maid Bertra (Schygulla), and the easy lay Alma (Irm Hermann). Alma betrays the trust of Frieda when she sleeps with the Sergeant. Berta won’t give up her cherry as easily to soldier Karl (Harry Baer) even though she has fallen helplessly in love with him.

Berta is having a falling out with her employer (Walter Sedlmayr) whose timid son Fabian (Rudolf Waldemar Brem) wants to seduce her. Fabian’s heavy-handed attempts to win Berta over only alienate her but she is also frustrated by Karl’s cool attitude. She learns from his friend and fellow soldier Max (Gunther Kaufmann) that Karl is already engaged to be married and has fathered a slew of children across the region. Alma compromises herself by becoming Fabian’s girlfriend and Berta has sex with Karl but the aftermath proves devastating to the impressionable young woman.

This overlooked early film finds Fassbinder in transition. Clearly owing to American coming-of-age melodramas like Splendor in the Grass, Fassbinder’s young couples consummate their passions with quickies on park benches. There would be no wistful poetry or lingering romantic memories to comfort his female protagonists who confuse sex with love.

Tomorrow we’re strangers.

A wise and witty film about filmmaking, Beware of Holy Whore is the polished product of a young genius coming into his own. Indeed, the tightly-wound Fassbinder seemed to feed off the sunny climes of a relaxed Mediterranean locale in turning out this brilliant, comedic ensemble piece. The sketchy plot revolves around the plight of an eclectic German film crew languishing at a seaside resort while waiting for financing to arrive to finish their movie. Boredom leads to inevitable flirtations, rejections and hook-ups, leading to the arrival of the egomaniacal director Jeff (Lou Castel), who turns their worlds upside down.

Taking a cue from Fassbinder’s infamous set antics, Jeff seems to take pleasure in terrorizing and deeply wounding his cast, crew and former lovers. Not unlike like the coterie of craftsmen and artists who couldn’t bring themselves to leave RWF’s dysfunctional posse, the crew becomes willing victims of the creative process.

   It’s a film about brutality.

Set in Munich during the late 1950s, The Merchant of Four Seasons is a heartbreaking tale about fruit peddler Hans Epp (Hans Hirschmueller), the black sheep of a chilly, bourgeois family. Having been turned down by the love of his life (Ingrid Caven), Hans is stuck in a loveless marriage with Irmgard (Irm Hermann) who helps him lug a heavy barrow through the back alleys of the city selling pears and plums to local housewives.

Hans’ frustration manifests itself in drink and after a night out with the boys he viciously beats Irm in a brutal scene witnessed by their young daughter. Irm returns to Hans after he suffers a heart attack. Their prospects begin to look up once he hires her former lover Anzell (Karl Scheydt) to help hawk their fruit. Anzell enters into a pact with Irm but when he’s caught skimming off the top she lets him get fired rather than admit her guilt.

Hans’ business success pleases his family but his sympathetic sister (Hanna Schygulla) creates an awkward situation when she confronts her mother and brother with their hypocrisy and wants to them to admit they never have loved the ne’er do well merchant. Hans stews in depression until he runs into an old army chum Harry (Klaus Lowitsch) and offers him Anzell’s old job. Harry proves to be a trustworthy worker and Hans lets him move in to his apartment, presumably to take his place as husband to Irm and father to his young daughter just before he drinks himself to death.

Fassbinder’s most Sirkian film to date The Merchant of Four Seasons capped off this raw but exciting period of creativity. In a nod to his mentor, Fassbinder’s theatrical films were beginning to look glossier—a stylistic artifice which went far to suffocate and compartmentalize romantics like Ron Kirby in All That Heaven Allows, Marylee Hadley in Written on the Wind, and even poor Hans Epp.

  Suffering can be beautiful.

For the next several years Fassbinder almost exclusively cast women as his main protagonists. Having been brought up by a doting mother up in a fatherless home this shift was probably inevitable and since the most interesting players in the Action and Antiteatrer were striking females it made good sense, as well. Fassbinder’s next film would be a chamber work featuring a brittle but fragile piece of human porcelain as its centerpiece.

Filmed in five acts The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is a highly stylized, theatrical work. In an All About Eve-like scenario, a self-absorbed fashion designer (Marit Carstensen) falls in love with Karin (Hanna Schygulla), an aspiring young model. Blinded by this newfound passion, Petra allows herself to be manipulated by the beautiful woman in exchange for empty vows of commitment. Karin grows tired of her mentor’s clutching, fanatical love and takes a male lover much to the horror of Petra who has sworn off the foul, smelly brutes.

Once she gets what she came for Karin returns to her husband, leaving Petra devastated and lashing out at her teenage daughter (Eva Mattes), bewildered mother (Gisela Fackeldey) and her best friend (Katrin Schaake). Humbled by her failures in love, Petra makes an overture to her long-suffering assistant Marlene (Irm Hermann). Humiliated by this unlikely turn in their relationship Marlene moves out leaving the designer alone with her booze-addled memories.

With the action entirely taking place in Petra’s gaudy, claustrophobic bedroom Petra’s extended breakdown takes on an intense immediacy but her disconnect with her family, friends and, especially, Karin only feeds her romantic delusions. Petra, like Fassbinder, seems to have loved intensely but not wisely and inviting the luscious but common model into her bed only causes more heartbreak.

Petra’s partner in misery, Marlene, is continually framed by Bauhaus like a deer in the headlights awaiting her mistress’ latest insult or command. A willing accomplice and punching bag for Petra, Marlene is unwilling to cross the line and participate in the messiness of life. Still, the surprising, unresolved finale could well be a cleansing act for both Marlene and Petra.

   Pity what you can’t understand.

In Bremer Freheit Margit Carstensen plays another complex woman frustrated by mediocre suitors and a crippling, small-town mentality. Based on an original play about Geshe Gottfried, a Bremen-based 19th century serial killer, Fassbinder’s TV production was shot as a theatrical play with rear projection images of an unsettled seaside.

Though historical spin tends to label Geshe as a dowdy angel of mercy Fassbinder envisioned her as a deluded romantic trapped in paralyzing marriages. Geshe’s two husbands are polar opposites but both are controlling, narrow-minded sorts who will never be worthy of their wife’s smoldering love thus rendering their deaths necessary and inevitable. As Fassbinder’s mad muse of this period, Carstensen is brilliant in several tightly-wound performances patterned after the soaper-noirs of Joan Crawford, an actress the director much admired.

Wildwechsel (aka Jailbait) owes some of its inspiration to the 1950s subgenre, “Teensploitation”, the inexpensive and highly profitable specialty of low-budget studios like American International Pictures. The bastard children of Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle these were typically lurid, violent and trashy B-pictures about juvenile delinquents at odds with their parents and the law.

Clearly Fassbinder’s take on the teen passion is more sensitively handled but the plot stays loyal to its pungent American predecessors and the curious combination of the young couple’s l’amour fou with the compassion shown for the uncomprehending parents helps give his small film much raw power.

A dead-end Bavaria town provides the setting for the Romeo and Juliet story of Hanni Schneider (Eva Mattes), a ripening fourteen year old girl who falls for the charms of handsome Franz Bermeier, a factory worker five years her senior. When news of Hanni’s affair reach her parents, father Erwin (Jorg von Liebenfels) succeeds in having the young man who defiled his little girl prosecuted and sentenced to a prison term.

Hanni continues to pursue Franz and they resume their affair after once he gets out of jail. She convinces Franz the only way they can be free and happy together will be when Erwin is out of the way, so they call out her father to a secluded place in the nearby woods where the smitten young man shoots him down in cold blood. Franz is arrested condemned for the crime but the childish Hanni remains curiously unaffected by the tragedy and ensuing separation from her lover.

Continuing in this working-class vein Acht Stundeb sind kein Tag (Eight Hours Are Not a Day), a nearly eight hour mini-series made for German television features most of the players from Fassbinder’s troupe as well as a few new-old faces to help give the series a distinct neo-realist flavor.

Shot in five different segments the series essentially follows the plight of Jochen (Gottfried John), a toolmaker who toils in a factory. While working on an important project Jochen discovers a time-saving solution which unfortunately leads to tension between management and his co-workers. He has struck up a romance with Marion (Hanna Schygulla), a young woman of a slightly better background whose mother disapproves of the relationship. Neatly woven into this main thread are slice of life stories featuring Jochen’s fellow workers, relatives and friends, all of whom live from paycheck to paycheck.

Perhaps Fassbinder’s most accessible work, Acht Stundeb sind kein Tag nonetheless caught flack from German critics and audiences for painting such drab portraits of the middle-classes.

Owing to his love of all things cinema, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Fassbinder took the plunge into science-fiction with a Godardian relish in a two-part futuristic odyssey made for German television, Welt am Draht (aka World on a Wire).

After the death of his project leader Vollmer, Fred Stiller (Klaus Lowitsch) is assigned to take over his mentor’s operation which involves running Simulacron, a computer capable of generating a form of virtual reality. Several inexplicable incidents cause Stiller to question his sanity and he learns certain employees in the corporation are trying to implicate him in the murder of Vollmer. But his ensuing investigation leads Stiller to learn an awful truth about the intentions of the project and his own mortality.

Owing much to Simulacron-3 novelist Daniel F. Galouye’s far-sighted take on cyber technology Welt am Draht is the few science-fiction films which dates well. Yet, it’s hard not to also attribute the film’s continuing freshness to Fassbinder’s keen knowledge of genre movies. As usual, the camera placement is spot on and Fassbinder gets the most out of actors who seem out of their element, like Lowitsch and the striking femme fatales Barbara Valentin and Mascha Rabben.

  Nobody can prove his existence, can he?

The film giddily lifts atmospheric innuendo and narrative threads from such hallmarks of speculative adventure as Alphaville, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Lang’s Dr. Mabuse trilogy, and even the jaded adventures of James Bond. Welt am Draht probably should be relegated to the realm of second-rate Fassbinder but, as we found in Whity the extent of his filmmaking chops were proving to be very real.

   Hal meets Fassbinder.

Fassbinder’s cinema of the lonely hearts reaches an early pinnacle with Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, the unlikely love story between Emmi (Brigette Mira), a middle-aged Munich cleaning lady and Ali (El Hedi ben Salem), a young Berber mechanic from Morocco. Having been widowed at an early age and largely ignored by her adult children, Emmi lives alone in a drab flat.

To avoid the rain one evening she ducks into a bar where the clientele is largely Arabic. Victims of the racial fallout after the terrorist attacks at the 1972 Olympic Games, Ali and his fellow immigrants suffer in silence, preferring the company of each other to the locals. Taking pity on the elderly cleaning lady he offers Emmi a dance and conversation. Emmi invites Ali back to her apartment where she insists he spend the night and after a heart to heart talk they make love.

When neighbors discover Emmi is harboring a black tenant they sic the landlord on her but he is unable to turn out the couple once he learns they are engaged. Looking to head-off the local gossipmongers, Emmi introduces Ali to her children but they are unable to accept the dark-skinned laborer as their new step-father and break ties with their mother. In time Emmi’s children and neighbors come to accept her relationship with Ali, especially when she offers to baby sit the grandchildren and offer her husband’s services as a hired hand.

Tired of being paraded around as an object Ali enters into an affair with an owner of a local bar (Barbara Valentin) then comes down with a vicious stomach ulcer. The story ends on a hopeful note, with contrite Emmi returning to her bedridden husband.

Loosely based on Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, Fassbinder’s film is a caustic, but compassionate, social commentary on a Germany slow to discard deep-rooted prejudice. Trying to find their own little piece of paradise, Emmi and Ali can’t escape the prying eyes and slanderous talk of both the locales and the women who also share the handsome mechanic’s bed.

Nearly forty years on the love match between Emmi and Ali may still seem outrageous to those unfamiliar with Fassbinder, but Ali: Fear Eats the Soul turns out to be one of the director’s most gentle and tender works giving wings to the hope love will win out over “common decency”.

We’ll buy ourselves a little piece of heaven.

Based on a story by the American master of noir Cornell Woolrich Martha is yet another intense story of an uptight bourgeois family wreaking havoc on a guileless innocent. After her father dies of a heart attack on the Spanish Steps in Rome, the 30something Martha Heyer (Margit Carstensen) feels freed to pursue her own romantic ambitions. Her confidence is shattered by a crass mother (Gisela Fackeldey) who has pegged Martha for an old maid. It is little surprise when Martha does decide to marry she picks a control freak who makes her life a living hell.

After building Martha’s self-esteem and getting her annoying mother out of the picture, Helmut Salomon (Karlheinz Bohm) emotionally and sexually terrorizes his new wife who has no experience with men or the cruel world. It takes the intervention of an old friend to help free Martha before it is too late. At this point in her collaboration with Fassbinder Carstensen’s performances walk a fine line between the fantastic and the genuinely strange.

In the outlandish Martha the masks worn by the often steely and manipulative Petra von Kant have been dropped to present an utterly fragile woman living in terror of those who hold the purse strings. Martha’s garish make-up, gaudy outfits and halting deliveries, again, calls to mind Joan Crawford but it’s hard to imagine the iron goddess of Hollywood having her will bent by the likes of a chilly sexual cipher like Helmut.

Your husband is a sadist.

By 1974 it was clear Fassbinder had chosen a more conventional approach in filmmaking as best means of getting his message of social acceptance over to an increasingly conservative West German audience. After years of pushing the envelope, as well as the buttons of uncomprehending critics, Fassbinder took a look back to film Effi Briest, Theodor Fontane’s tragic 19th century novel of romantic ideas and bourgeois ethos.

Clash of culture.

Although Baron Geert von Instetten (Wolfgang Schenck) seems a socially desirable match for the beautiful Effi (Hanna Schygulla), her father thinks the union could well end in failure as his free-spirited daughter may prove too elusive for the upright nobleman. Initially, Effi proves to be a hit among the Baron’s friends and family and her youthful eccentricities enchant her husband all the more. The inevitable clash of temperaments is triggered off by the arrival of the Baron’s old military pal Major Crampas (Ulli Lommel), a handsome ladies’ man who sets to planting revolutionary notions of romance in Effi’s idealist head.

Their seaside dalliance seems platonic but when the Baron uncovers several heated letters penned by Crampas to his wife several years later he challenges Crampas to a duel in which he eliminates the rival to Effi’s affections. Rather than excuse this ancient indiscretion the Baron banishes Effi from his home and relations with their daughter. Cut-off from the warmth of her friends and family, the blonde earth child wilts like flower devoid of sunlight.

Shot in soft-focus black and white (by Jurgen Jurges and Dietrich Lohmann) and using the repeating theme of Saint-Saen’s lilting violin showpiece Havanaise, Effi Briest takes on a dreamy, Ophulsian quality as its naive heroine suffers the cruel consequences of her youth.

Cruel intentions.

Fox and His Friends brought Sirk’s cinema of the social outcast deep into the gay subculture of Munich where Fassbinder takes the homosexual elite to task. When Franz “Fox” Biberkopf (Fassbinder) loses his carny job then his lover Klaus (Karl Scheydt) to the law he spends his waking hours scheming to win the lottery rather than finding work. After hustling a florist out of ten marks, he convinces a new trick, Max (Karl-Heinz Bohn), to drive him to a pharmacy where he buys the lucky lottery ticket.

We next see Fox two weeks later in Max’s posh apartment where the nouveau riche commoner picks up Eugen (Peter Chatel), an upper class dilettante, takes him to bed. Initially, the sexually experienced Fox has the upper hand in the relationship but their status quickly changes once Eugen brings him into his circle of snobbish friends. Eugen pumps Fox for money to buy a luxury apartment then arranges for the stooge to bail out his father’s struggling business with a large loan.

As the bloom of love fades, Fox grows increasingly unhappy with his second hand status at home and work. When Fox makes a huge mistake at the factory and costs the business 150,000 marks Eugen sees the gaffe as opening to end the relationship and screws his lover out of the rest of his lottery winnings. Miserable and alone, Fox overdoses in a train station where a pair of children rifle through his pockets to pick him clean once and for all.

Gullible and good-natured, Fox is initially tolerated by the friends and family of both Max and Eugen with the hope he will drift out of their lives once the thrill is gone. Like the Moroccan Ali, Fox is treated like a circus freak, but unlike the class-conscious crowds they run in the two men seem comfortable in their skin. But repeated beatings to their psyches do irreparable damage and, finally, both Ali and Fox succumb to prejudice and intolerance.

No compassion.

A full-frontal attack on reactionary tabloid media and trendy left-wing politics, Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven follows the plight of Emma Kusters (Brigitte Mira), a middle-aged Frankfurt woman who tries to clear the name of her husband who committed a murder-suicide at his factory job. Burdened by spineless, opportunistic children, Emma bears the brunt of public scrutiny after the inexplicable meltdown of Herr Kusters brings shame upon the family.

The unexpected treachery of the reporter Niemeyer (Gottfried John) forces Emma to turn to the Thalmanns (Karl-Heinz Bohm and Margit Carstensen), a sympathetic bourgeois couple who are movers and shakers in the local Communist party. The Thalmanns prop Emma up as a victim to their followers but she soon finds they have little intention in helping clear her husband’s name. Emma turns to the anarchist Knab (Mattias Fuchs) whose dubious tactics leave the confused widow bearing the brunt of more humiliation in the film’s bizarre duel endings.

A pawn in their game.

Fear of Fear returned Fassbinder to the neurotic-drama of Joan Crawford, but the filmmaker’s take on his heroine encroaching insanity is pulled off with a subtlety rare in 1950s American cinema. Margot (Margit Carstensen) is the attractive, high-strung wife of mathematician Kurt (Ulricj Faulhaber) and stay at home mother of two young children. In the late stages of her second pregnancy Margot becomes increasingly aware she is going mad but she is unable to convince either Kurt or her practitioner that all is not right in her head.

Margot’s in-laws think she is being dramatic and offer little sympathy, especially when they learn she is drinking heavily and taking prescription drugs to quell her demons. Kurt wants to help his troubled wife but upcoming examinations prove a distraction, so in desperate need of Valium she offers herself to local pharmacist Merck (Adrian Hoven) who takes advantage of the needy woman. Awash in a sea of booze and anti-depressants, Margot is left to dance to melancholic Leonard Cohen music and drift away from her loved ones.

Alcohol is what I need.

I Only Want You to Love Me is another story about a vulnerable loner cast out by his friends and family. Earnest, hard-working construction worker Peter (Vitus Zeplichal) tries hard to win the approval of his aloof, disapproving parents. His Herculean efforts in building them a new home go unappreciated, so he tries to find a degree of normalcy in marrying Erika (Elke Aberle).

His attempts to please the unassuming young woman drive him into debt and temporary madness resulting in mayhem and murder. In prison, Peter finds relief in unloading his guilt to a sympathetic therapist who helps him come to the conclusion he’s not entirely to blame for his family’s emotional dysfunction.

A masterwork of middle-class angst I Only Want You to Love Me put a cap on Fassbinder’s humanist period, an extraordinary creative peak for a filmmaker whose heart resided with the underdog.

Never good enough.

Taking a break from Sirkian melodrama Fassbinder’s next films Chinese Roulette and Satan’s Brew would be perverse exercises in abnormal psychology and sadomasochistic sexuality. Although she would go on to appear in several more of Fassbinder films, these would also be the last two major starring vehicles for Margit Carstensen, the director’s long-suffering heroine.

A sophisticated tale of deceit and skewered relationships, Chinese Roulette opens with married couple Gerhard (Alexander Allerson) and Ariane Christ (Margit Carstensen) arriving at their country villa at the same time, but with different lovers (Anna Karina and Ulli Lommel) in tow. It turns out their handicapped and very embittered twelve year old daughter Angela (Andrea Schober) has arranged the tryst, leading to games of chance and culminating in a deadly finale.

After the couples get over the initial embarrassment of being caught cheating, they settle in for the weekend made all the more uncomfortable by the presence of Angela and the family’s mute housekeeper Traunitz (Macha Meril). Aiming to turn up the heat on the adults Angela suggests they play a parlor game to corner and condemn the villain of the tawdry menage-a-quatre.

Wicked games.

A wicked black comedy with autobiographical overtones, Satan’s Brew follows the pathetically funny plight of Walter Kranz (Kurt Raab), a blocked poet with delusions of grandeur. Unable to coerce his publisher into giving him an advance Walter goes on a psychotic binge that ends with him shooting his S&M partner for cash. At home, Walter is tormented by his shrill and dowdy wife Luise (Helen Vita) and idiot brother Ernst (Volker Spengler).

He finds comfort in recent arrival of Andree (Carstensen) a homely, adoring fan who has the misfortune of being turned into a convenient punching bag. Under investigation for the murder of his lover Walter begins to take on the persona of Stefan George, a closeted poet whose lyrical work found favor with tastemakers in the Nazi party.

A farcical romp, this portrait of the artist as a narcissist could be seen as an instance where the wonder boy of New German cinema is poking fun at himself. Satan’s Brew is a rough ride but it’s also a beguiling transitional work for a filmmaker anxious to interest international producers and the new opportunities their money provided.

Yesterday, depression. Today, a stroke of genius.

Set in a Bavarian village around the time of Hitler’s rise to power Bolweiser (The Stationmaster’s Wife) kicks off a historical series of films and introduces a different sort of actress in the lead role. As the insatiable Hanni Bolweiser, smoldering Elisabeth Trissenaar seems more than a match for her nebbish-y husband Xaverl (Kurt Raab) and news of her extramarital affairs are spread like wildfire by the town’s mean-spirited gossipmongers.

Their situation is made worse by Xaverl’s possessiveness and jealousy which drives her into the arms of the local butcher beginning a seemingly endless series of infidelities and the Stationmaster’s descent into a personal hell. As Hanni’s stable of lovers grows Xaverl is mocked and humiliated by the same uncaring mob that helped get a reactionary Fuhrer elected into the highest office in the land.

As the stationmaster’s wife, Trissenaar is earthy but complex. Driven by greed and coarse sensuality Hanni embodies the anger of a people still reeling from the repercussions handed down by the victors of the First World War.


Fassbinder next two historical films weren’t particularly inspired or memorable but they helped prove the enfant terrible of the German New Wave could make movies for a wide array of audiences. Based on the smart and sassy Claire Booth Luce Broadway hit The Women, Frauen in New York was a heavily-stylized yet faithful adaptation of the groundbreaking play.

Filmed for German television on a spare but exquisitely designed set, Carstensen, Eva Mattes, Angel Schmid, Christa Berndl and newcomer Barbara Sukowa equip themselves well as part of New York’s backstabbing smart set. Fassbinder lacked the wit and screwball touch of George Cukor, but his take on the material has a surprising amount of snap and, arguably, more emotional wallop than the 1938 Hollywood classic starring Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer.

Despite being only second-rate Fassbinder, Despair remains the best film based on Vladimir Nabokov’s works. Set near the end of the Weimar Republic, a businessman Hermann Hermann (Dirk Bogarde) takes desperate measures to escape his idiotic, philandering wife Lydia (Andrea Ferreol) and the imminent failure of his chocolate factory.

And what is death, if not a face at peace.

The deluded Russian emigre recruits carnival worker Felix Weber (Klaus Lowitsch) to impersonate him then devises a hopelessly mad plan to outwit the doppelganger, his wife and the police. Adapted for the screen by playwright Tom Stoppard, Fassbinder’s first English language film is helped immeasurably by Bogarde’s performance as a fetishistic dandy who lives in a kaleidoscopic flat with his chubby, doll-like wife and accommodating servants.

Lydia is happy to share Hermann’s bed but the common woman shares none of his refined tastes. Doubt begins to creep into Hermann’s mind when the chocolate at his factory begins to go bad and Lydia starts fooling around with her ridiculous artist cousin (Volker Spengler).

Hermann becomes obsessed with a recent optical trick he observed at the cinema which duplicates the leading actor on the screen. Inspired by cheap this illusion he takes to the backstreets where he finds Felix, a man who doesn’t remotely resemble him, and makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Hermann kills the man and assumes his identity but his plan doesn’t fool anyone and he ends up being a pathetic fugitive from justice.

The flawlessly pure image of my corpse.

The suicide of Fassbinder’s lover and partner Armin Meier in 1978 drove him into a deep despair from which one of his most personal films, In a Year With 13 Moons, took seed. With Michael Balhaus unable to commit to the project Fassbinder made the fortuitous decision of becoming his own cinematographer. The floating, detached visual style he utilized in Moons and the upcoming The Third Generation was miles away from the traditional shooting methods of his Sirk period (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fox and His Friends, etc.).

In a Year With Thirteen Moons is the pathetic story of Elvira Weishaupt, a transsexual who makes the tragic error of submitting to the gender-altering operation for to win the favor of an industrialist who doesn’t love her. In her previous life Elvira had been Erwin, a factory hand in a Frankfurt slaughterhouse, married to Irene (Elisabeth Trissenaur) with whom he had daughter Marie-Ann (Eva Mattes).

After falling under the spell of Frankfurt businessman Anton Saitz (Gottfried John) Erwin makes the fateful decision to travel to Casablanca to become a woman but when “Elvira” finally confronts Saitz the businessman doesn’t even recognize her. Elvira turns to Irene with the bizarre hope of resuming their marriage. Elvira makes a late and desperate house call to her psycho-analyst who is too tired to console her. She returns to her flat only to find Saitz sleeping with the prostitute Zora (Ingrid Caven). Despairing of ever finding happiness, Elvira commits suicide.

The bizarre downward spiral of Erwin/Elvira is presented in a dreamy, almost emotionless narrative flow. This seamless style cushions the gruesome scenes in the slaughterhouse and makes Elvira’s clandestine meetings with hookers, bodybuilders, nuns, dying men and voyeurs all the more palatable. In the end Irene, Marie-Ann, the therapist, and Elvira’s sidekick Zora are deeply affected by her death. Unlike many of Fassbinder’s early protagonists Elvira was loved, after all.

My subject is the exploitability of feelings.

The Third Generation reunites many of the early Fassbinder group players with art film veterans such as Bulle Ogier in a political film about a band of German terrorists who wreak havoc with authority figures while negotiating with a shady business mogul (Eddie Constantine) who, unbeknownst to them, is orchestrating the whole mad scheme.

Fassbinder’s most political film was based on the adventures of the Red Army Faction, an urban guerrilla group responsible for dozens of bombings and kidnappings in West Germany from 1968-77. Though his sympathies were liberal, Fassbinder was wary of extremism and spoke out against terrorism frequently, much to the displeasure of left-leaning film critics and children of the counterculture.

As a result of this philosophical fence-sitting, The Third Generation turns out to be something of a mess—albeit a dazzling one. The claustrophobic mise-en-scene and decor most closely resembles the chilly world of Fassbinder’s futuristic thriller Welt am Draht (World on a Wire) but without the earlier film’s Langian determinism. The storytelling threads run wild, leaving the foreign actors (Ogier and Constantine) looking bewildered while Fassbinder veterans (Gunther Kaufmann and Hanna Schygulla) seem like they’re acting in different movies.

Although it is almost impossible to draw many significant moral conclusions from The Third Generation, it remains an intriguing work for its frenetic pace and Fassbinder’s kinetic cinematography.

Which end is up?

Having been brought into the world just weeks after the Nazis capitulated in WWII, Fassbinder shared much of the guilt of his generation of Germans who compartmentalized the past while basking in the promise of West Germany’s recent economic and cultural prosperity. Fassbinder felt German filmmakers had misrepresented the country during the late 1940s and the 1950s, prompting him to embark on a quartet of grand, glossy masterworks about strong women struggling to survive in the post-war years.

The Marriage of Maria Braun reunited Fassbinder with his favorite muse Hannah Schygulla in their most memorable collaboration patterned—surprise, surprise—after his beloved Joan Crawford working-woman films.

The action opens with the heroine (Schygulla) marrying soldier Hermann Braun (Klaus Lowitsch) in the waning days of WWII. After just one night of wedded bliss, Hermann is sent to the Russian front. Months then years pass and when Hermann does not return and he is presumed dead. Trying to get on with her life Maria finds work in a dance hall and takes up with Bill (George Byrd), a lonely African-American soldier. Bill gets Maria pregnant but the bold war widow announces she has no plans to marry the American.

One day while Maria is cavorting in bed with Bill she is shocked to find Hermann standing in the doorway, back from the dead. In the ensuing scuffle Maria clubs Bill to death with a bottle but Hermann ends up taking the blame for the killing and goes to prison. Buoyed by the return of her beloved Hermann and hoping to create a nice home for him when he is released from jail, Maria uses her beauty and guile to become a successful businesswoman.

To get her new life jump-started, Maria strikes up a flirtation with textile tycoon Karl Oswald (Ivan Desny) and soon their relationship develops into a full-blown affair. Maria’s scorched-earth methods to get ahead turn out to be successful, but she soon finds herself alienated from friends and her past.

Oswald dies and Maria inherits his fortune but it doesn’t bring happiness, especially when she finds Hermann has been released from prison and plans to move to Canada to begin anew. When Hermann finally does return to the beautiful home Maria has prepared for them, she decides to keep him there for good by committing murder-suicide.

After Germany’s humiliating defeat in WWII, doors opened for white collar opportunists (Oswald) and those responsible for keeping a semblance of sanity during the fall of The Reich; the women. Yet, even as Maria plots and manipulates her way up the corporate ladder she continues to stand by her man and yearn for Hermann’s approval—hardly traits we’d expect from a truly liberated woman.

I prefer making miracles than waiting for them.

Schygulla’s next Fassbinder heroine would be even more bound to her man in Lili Marleen, an International production about a popular chanteuse who becomes a German folk hero before running afoul of the Nazis.

While living abroad in Switzerland the lovely, but common, Willie (Schygulla) falls in love with the dashing and sophisticated Robert (Giancarlo Giannini), a classical music conductor who happens to be Jewish. When the war breaks out Robert joins the local Resistance helping smuggle fellow Jews and other refugees over the border to freedom. Willie’s secret compliance in Robert’s work means she has to return to Germany where she gets work as a second-rate cabaret singer.

The vivacious woman strikes up a friendship with a mover and shaker in the Reich and thanks to his influence Willie gets a chance to cut a record, the sentimental ballad Lili Marleen. The song immediately becomes a big hit with lonely soldiers at the faraway African front, who long for their girls back home before taking bullets for their Fuehrer. Although Willie is suspected of being a double agent by the Nazis she escapes punishment due to the popularity of her hit song—a futile rallying cry in the dying days of Hitler’s regime.

Years later, Willie returns to Switzerland and visits a concert hall where Robert is conducting a symphony orchestra. Although old feelings die hard, they both realize Robert has too much at stake to risk a career by running off with such a notorious messenger of Nazi propaganda.

It’s finished, that Germany, forever.

Inspired by The Damned, Visconti’s perverse epic of Nazi decadence, and the escapist fare churned out by the Axis and Allied powers during WWII, Fassbinder chose a glitzy approach in making his film set during the war. Where The Marriage of Maria Braun harkened the end of neo-realist Fassbinder Lili, powered by the dazzling Schygulla, is full-blown Romanticism.

After making a splash as Franz Bieberkopf’s angelically sweet but simple-minded girlfriend Mieze in Berlin Alexanderplatz, talented siren Barbara Sukowa seemed destined to take the torch from Hanna Schygulla and become Fassbinder’s next leading female muse. In Lola she gives a bravura performance as a mild-mannered single mom Marie-Louise, AKA Lola, a sexy chanteuse who taunts and torments a bevy of local male admirers in a local house of ill-repute.

Demure Marie-Louise finds a fervent admirer is Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a no-nonsense building commissioner who moves into her mother’s flat unaware of the pretty blonde’s double life. Marie-Louise’s boyfriend, the corrupt builder Schuckert (Mario Adorf), aims to take advantage of the delicate situation but only ends up locking horns with the earnest commissioner whose reputation could be sullied if his involvement with the notorious Lola came to light.

Bolstered by the presence of the charismatic East German expatriate Mueller-Stahl and glossy production values this fanciful spin on The Blue Angel is a colorful romp through a transitional era of modern German history.

I didn’t feel love. It was like the memory of love.

Fassbinder’s glimpse into the rotten underbelly of the film industry, Veronika Voss, would be a wholly different kettle of fish. Set in 1955 and shot in pristine black and white, the film follows the pathetic plight of Fraulein Voss, a former UFA star and intimate confidante of Goebbels who tries to re-boot her acting career until a devious personal physician re-triggers her morphine addiction and vanquishes dreams of a comeback into a drug-induced abyss.

Munich sportswriter Robert Krohn (Hilmar Thate) accepts an unusual assignment to write about former silver screen siren Veronika Voss (Rosel Zech) who is attempting to make a comeback into movies. Krohn falls for the still-glamorous Veronika but his investigations reveal the vulnerable woman to be at the mercy of Marianne Katz (Annemarie Duringer), a shrewd and controlling doctor who has created a cottage industry in shaking down old film stars.

Taking a page from the sad sagas of Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, Veronika has difficulties on the film set remembering lines and her mental breakdowns prompt the concerned Krohn to confront Dr. Katz once and for all.

Chilling and compassionate, Veronika Voss is Fassbinder’s Valentine to the  Hollywood noir-melodramas of his youth. But unlike the stay at home moms, trophy wives, and repressed professional women in those American films, Fassbinder’s women do what’s necessary to grab their piece of the pie. An opportunistic product of the new German prosperity, Marianne Katz is ruthless in her grasp for riches and power in the post-war patriarchy. Unlike the conscience-stricken Maria Braun, she will live to pay the consequences for her greed.

Closing the book.

Berlin Alexanderplatz, the fifteen and 1/2 hour, made for TV adaptation of Alfred Doblin’s landmark novel, is Fassbinder’s masterpiece and may well be the most artistically ambitious film made in the last forty years. If this meticulous and painstaking interpretation of Doblin’s song of the streets hadn’t already been enough for audiences it is worth noting Fassbinder had also originally intended to also shoot a separate feature production of the novel starring a slew of International stars.

   The Fassbinder road map.

This audacious plan sunk under the weight of Fassbinder’s busy schedule and the simple fact he was very unlikely to improve upon the high standard of results he was getting from his television production. Fassbinder had already transplanted the moniker and soul of Doblin’s everyman, the amiable-brute Franz Biberkoft into several of his early genre pictures, but here was finally a chance to do justice to the book which had transformed his life as an adolescent.

The action opens in 1928 with Biberkopf (Gunter Lamprecht) being released from prison after serving four years for committing the manslaughter of his girlfriend Ida (Barbara Valentin). Franz’ sympathetic landlady Frau Bast (Brigitte Mira) and his old friend the courtesan Eva (Hanna Schygulla) help him resettle into his old flat but finding work proves difficult for the ex-con who ends up pushing propaganda for the fledgling Nazi party. Franz strikes up a romance with Lina (Elisabeth Trissenaar), a Polish refugee who makes too many demands on her unstable boyfriend prompting him to flee in a self-destructive bender.

During this time Franz has made friends with his own doppelganger, the treacherous gangster Reinhold (Gottfried John) who finds in Franz a comfortable dumping ground for old girlfriends. Reinhold brings Franz into his gang but on the night of a big heist he inexplicably pushes his good-natured friend out of a truck in the way of an oncoming car. Franz’ arm is mangled then amputated as a result of the accident but Eva comes to the rescue by introducing him to Mieze (Barbara Sukowa), an innocent country girl left to fend for herself in the big city.

Franz and Mieze enter into a fateful romance where the cripple finds himself forced to pimp the willing girl out to rich businessmen. With plenty of time on his hands, Franz seeks out Reinhold to let the gangster know he holds no grudges and is willing to let bygones be bygones. Franz’ generosity triggers Reinhold’s innate perversity and the gangster invites the impressionable Mieze to a meeting in the Bavarian forest where an attempted seduction leads to Wagnerian murder. Fassbinder’s controversial epilogue takes us into the wounded psyche of Biberkopf who struggles to absorb the senselessness of Mieze’s death in an asylum.

Given the time and budget to bring his dream to fruition, Fassbinder creates a sprawling, vivid canvas, filled with out of work war veterans and hardscrabble lowlifes who inhabited Berlin’s dirty boulevards in the 1920s. The film’s grandiosity, and much of the sweep we find in the director’s later work, owes much to the cinematography of Xaver Schwarzenberger, the richly-nuanced scores of longtime collaborator Peer Raben and the incisive editing of Juliane Lorenz, without whom it is difficult to imagine this mesmerizing vision could have come to fruition.

Franz and Reinhold are the most interesting and complex male leads in Fassbinder; no surprise given the director’s fascination with the implied homosexual bond between the men he gleaned from Doblin’s text. Here, it is a purely masochistic relationship with Franz playing the open and giving partner and Reinhold as the deliberately cruel enigma who can’t bear to be intimate with anyone. Taking inspiration from brave Romantics like Sirk, Fassbinder felt empathy for Reinhold’s self-loathing and destructive tendencies, but it is simple and gullible Franz who turns out to be the stronger and better man.


Fassbinder’s breakneck work pace, his fluctuating weight and prodigious use of drugs began to take its toll when it came time to film Querelle, a quasi-operatic adaptation of Jean Genet’s seedy vagabond novel.

..The solitude of the artist can acknowledge no authority.

Set in the seaport town of Brest and shot on a soundstage owing to Vincente Minnelli’s Expressionistic musicals, the action centers around a local bordello where the sailor Querelle (Brad Davis) finds his sleazy brother Robert (Hanno Poschl) to be the boy toy of the owner of the establishment, the world-weary Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau). She is married to the randy barkeeper Nono (Gunther Kaufmann) who bullies his clientele and sodomizes unlucky gamblers.

The narrative ultimately drifts into Genet’s familiar netherworld of sweaty, back alley quickies and curiously intimate stabbings. The lush visuals and some zombie-like performances from Fassbinder’s International cast tend to sabotage what might have been the most provocative take on the author’s uncompromising vision. Unfortunately, Querelle closer resembles the flamboyant milieu of Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman than Fassbinder’s much better film about gay lifestyles and subculture, Fox and His Friends.

Each man kills the thing he loves!

At the time of his death many of Fassbinder’s sympathetic critics felt he may have burned himself out. But, if the glories of the postwar quartet can be held as a barometer where the still-young Fassbinder might have gone then his early passing has to be considered a major catastrophe.


Books on Fassbinder:

Fassbinder: The Life And Work Of A Provocative Genius – Christian Braad Thomsen ****1/2 This brilliant analytical biography, written by a close friend and fellow filmmaker, is the go-to book on Fassbinder. Compassionate and endlessly insightful, it’s hard to imagine it will ever be topped.

The Anarchy of the Imagination – Rainer Werner Fassbinder (ed. Michael Toteberg & Leo A. Lensing) **** This fascinating mish-mash of interviews, film reviews and creative essays finds the filmmaker in a reflective mood as he fields questions about his sexual orientation, politics, prejudices and artistic influences. Fassbinder’s capsule reviews of Douglas Sirk’s sublime melodramas are naked glimpses into the soul of an artist.

Chaos as Usual: Conversations About Rainer Werner Fassbinder – (ed. Juliane Lorenz) **** This collection of interviews compiled by Fassbinder’s editor, assistant and lover is a nice compliment to Anarchy of the Imagination helping give us a fuller picture of the man. At turns affectionate and bitter, the members of Fassbinder’s group, family and production team ruminate over the difficulties in dealing with Rainer, discuss his professional and sexual ethics and take task with allegations of misogyny and anti-Semitism.

Fassbinder – (ed. Tony Rayns) ***1/2 Solid collection of essays covering everything from sexual politics to the esthetics of the director’s films on television. An interview by Christian Braad Thomsen is a nice cherry on the top. Out of print.

Fassbinder Film Maker – Ronald Hayman ***1/2 An informed, unpretentious, albeit rather slight recap of the director’s career written shortly after Fassbinder’s death. The excellent selection of photos are nice a bonus. Out of print.

Love Is Colder Than Death – Robert Katz *** Katz’s lurid bio uncovers the seamy side of Fassbinder’s life…if you really want to go there. Out of print.


Films by Fassbinder:

1966  City Tramp *** (short)
1967  Little Chaos *** (short)
1969  Love Is Colder Than Death ***1/2
1969  Katzelmacher ****
1969  Gods of the Plague ****
1970  Das Kaffeehaus ***1/2
1970  Why Does Herr K. Run Amok? ****
1970  The American Soldier ****
1970  The Niklashausen Journey ***1/2
1971  Rio Des Mortes ***1/2
1971  Pioneers in Ingolstadt ****
1971  Whity ****
1971  Beware of a Holy Whore ****
1971  The Merchant of Four Seasons ****
1972  The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant ****1/2
1972  Bremer Freiheit ****
1972  Wildwechsel (Jail Bait) ****
1973  Acht Stundeb sind kein Tag (Eight Hours Are Not a Day) ****
1973  Nora Helmer ****
1973  Martha ****
1974  Ali: Fear Eats the Soul *****
1974  Effi Briest ****1/2
1974  World on a Wire ****
1975  Fox and His Friends ****1/2
1975  Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven ****
1975  Fear of Fear ****
1976  I Only Want You to Love Me ****
1976  Chinese Roulette ****1/2
1976  Satan’s Brew ****
1977  Bolweiser (The Stationmaster’s Wife) ****
1977  Frauen in New York ***1/2
1978  Germany in Autumn ***1/2 (segment)
1978  Despair ****
1978  In a Year With 13 Moons ****1/2
1979  The Marriage of Maria Braun ****1/2
1979  The Third Generation ***1/2
1980  Berlin Alexanderplatz *****
1981  Lili Marleen ****
1981  Lola ****
1982  Veronika Voss ****
1982  Querelle ***1/2

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