June 02, 2005

Fassbinder would have been 60. While some consider it work unwatchable, others are utterly devoted to his work. The details of his life are possibly more famous than his films.

For those who like a quick overview without clicking too many links, look here.

  • damn typos... all those previews for naught! pluck "work" from the second sentence.
  • No offense, but I find this an odd framing of the post, unless you're one of those who (for reasons probably having to do with filmic illiteracy) find his work "unwatchable." Fassbinder is the great German director of the second half of the 20th century; I've watched virtually everything he made, and while there are some I wouldn't be likely to watch again (like every great artist, he experimented, and experiments don't always work), I find his work uniquely honest, emotionally direct, gorgeous, unpredictable, and funny as hell (except when it breaks your heart). I'd recommend starting with either Merchant of Four Seasons (very Fassbinderesque but welcoming) or Effi Briest (very classical and approachable but for that very reason rather un-Fassbinder), and if you get the chance, the magnificent 15-1/2 hour Berlin Alexanderplatz (based on Alfred Döblin's novel, which I also recommend). Holy crap, your "look here" link informs me that Criterion is going to release Berlin Alexanderplatz! I can't afford to buy movies any more, but I may have to shake the piggy bank for this one. Alas, I also learn from the same link that Brigitte Mira died March 8 at the age of 94. Because Fassbinder used the same people over and over, you come to think of them almost as friends, and Brigitte Mira was unforgettable in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (though Angst essen Seele auf would be better translated "Fear Eat Up Soul"). Bye, Brigitte!
  • ah, just not my day I guess. My intent was more to spread the word and start conversation on his films. I'd hoped to link to an article that talked about how people left some of his early screenings in droves but couldn't find anything that was actually negative (hence "unwatchable" being left without a link). I'd wanted to leave room for people who simply didn't like his stuff, and I guess that all I left. I personally find his work fascinating and understand his importance in the medium. I'd originally studied him in the context of Wenders and Schloendorff. I was also quite stunned to see that Berlin Alexanderplatz would be released in a Criterion edition (and my heart stops to consider what the price of it could be). I haven't gotten a chance to see it before.
  • Great series, Berlin Alexanderplatz. Maybe consider reading Döblin's book while you're there. Fassbinder made a lot of dross in my opinion, (he worked at incredible speed), but his good stuff is pretty much as good as anything else.
  • I probably love Fassbinder and his films more than life itself (at least at times). I can't understand why, so long after he's gone, he's still relatively unknown to so many, and I'm especially surprised that he's not better known to many gay folks, despite his often dark and somewhat bitter take on gay life and love in general. His stable of actors were a remarkable crew, and watching them grow their capabilities along with him over a period of years together is a wonderful thing made all the more wonderful in retrospect and from a distance. To follow Hanna Schygulla from the early work, say, Beware of a Holy Whore or the very, very creepy Whity to The Marriage of Maria Braun is, to me, even more interesting than seeing Dietrich develop under von Sternberg. How superstardom eluded Schygulla under Fassbinder's tutelage is still beyond me. Same for Barbara Sukowa in Lola, though she never had quite the degree of exposure in starring roles that Schygulla had. Fassbinder was able to take ordinary actors -- Margit Carstensen, Gottfried John, Ulli Lommel, or his own mother, -- and mold them to his vision, however idiosyncratic that vision might be at any given moment, to come up with an ensemble that meets the requirements of each film. Given the mood swings from film to film (and at times concurrent production of more than one film), and Fassbinder's reputation for being a maniac, it's something like a miracle that they all pulled it off. Also worth mentioning are the contributions of cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, and especially the music of Peer Raben in film scores so dense with innovation that I often listen to these films while at the computer, just to appreciate the soundtrack. It's a shame that his career was so short, but a treasure that we have roughly forty films by Fassbinder to remember him by. Thanks, patita, for posting this!
  • I am embarrassed to admit that I have made it through 39 years of life without having seen a single one of his movies. I will remedy this.
  • Well said, Little Durian. And no problem, patita -- sorry I sounded so grumpy -- I just get sick of people snarking about some of my favorite directors, like F., Godard, and Brakhage, picking on the fact that their movies don't wrap warm arms around you like the Oscar winners everybody loves. I shouldn't have taken it out on you.
  • I appreciate the apology, languagehat. I'd gotten too deep into finding links to write a proper post--most of my Fassbinder references are printed materials. I'm glad that it's piqued Darshon's interest, though!