Fassbinder Essay

Fassbinder based , which was among the films he saw in the Munich retrospective.

His film is not a remake; he just copied some of the plot points and used it as inspiration.

I've written a lot about Rainer Werner Fassbinder here at The Mumpsimus, and a few years ago created a video essay about his early films when Criterion released five of them as part of their (apparently discontinued) Eclipse series of bare-bones releases. viewers, at least, now have access to a big selection of Fassbinder films via TCM's new streaming site, Filmstruck, which replaced Hulu as the home to Criterion's streaming service.

I'm giving Filmstruck a test ride, and so of course have delved into the Fassbinder titles.

The postwar generation of which Fassbinder was a part started to express themselves in the 1960s, and a group of youngsters started to make films: Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlondorff, and most importantly the trio of Fassbinder, Wenders, and Werner Herzog, who really began to put Germany on the map again as a filmmaking power. The actors in this company became the core of who he used in his feature films.

This core group of collaborators — actors in particular, but also cinematographers, technicians — all knew each other well, and this allowed Fassbinder to work so quickly. He was famous for shooting only one take of each scene.The list is an extraordinary one: Fritz Lang, Friedrich Murnau, Josef von Sternberg, Erich von Stroheim, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, Douglas Sirk...Not only were the riches of German culture discredited, but their artistic “fathers” were in exile.Rainer Werner Fassbinder made over 40 feature films and TV dramas in a 14-year period, from 1969 to his death at age 37 in 1982.Let’s digest that: over 40 films in 14 years — an average of three per year — and he wrote the screenplays to virtually all of them. And he appeared as an actor in 19 of his own films, as well as films by other directors.A lethal dose of alcohol and cocaine killed him one night as he was working on a screenplay that dealt with the story of Rosa Luxemburg, the famous German communist who was executed by a right-wing paramilitary group in 1919. It is very important to understand the context which produced Fassbinder.Born in 1945, he was part of the postwar generation, and postwar Germany was a fascinating period in history.A number of his films used Rock Hudson, a matinee idol of the period, and stars such as Lauren Bacall, Jane Wyman, and Lana Turner.The storytelling was very conventional, but Sirk used the genre to comment on contemporary America and to place social values under the microscope.With luck, the availability of Querelle on Filmstruck signals a possible, eventual full Criterion release, which would be valuable simply for the addition of extra features, something Querelle really would benefit from, not only because it's a tremendously strange, even alienating movie, but because there's a documentary that makes a natural companion to it: Dieter Schidor's The Wizard of Babylon, made during Querelle's filming and including interviews with members of the cast and crew. would also be helpful — I would to see, for instance, Steve Shaviro write a new essay on the film, since his take on it in The Cinematic Body is so great, but he's moved beyond a lot of what he wrote in that book since.) Anyway, it's great to have Querelle available in all its vivid, languorous glory.Much about Fassbinder's work remains remarkable — his extraordinary productivity, the great number of masterpieces, the ingenuity — but what consistently amazes me is the force and immediacy of his best work.


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