Cast & Crew
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
R. W. Fassbinder on VHS & DVD
The Merchant of Four Seasons, not only kicks-off the Fassbinder Collection, but is the second film to be a Masterworks Edition DVD. Both The Merchant of Four Seasons and Fox And His Friends are currently available for purchase and so are The Marriage of Maria Braun, Katzelmacher, The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, The Niklashausen Journey, The American Soldier, Rio Das Morte, Veronika Voss, Love Is Colder Than Death, Gods of The Plague, Fear of Fear, and Chinese Roulette.
In the groundbreaking film, The Merchant of Four Seasons, hailed "One of the ten best films of the year!" by the Village Voice, Fassbinder presents a moving, yet unsentimental look at a man driven to self-destruction as a result of his environment and those closest to him. Wellspring's Masterworks DVD Edition special features include: a new transfer made from a restored print; 5.1 sound; two bonus documentaries "Life, Love and Celluloid" and "The Many Women of Fassbinder;" commentary track by acclaimed director Wim Wenders; subtitle control; and more. The film has a running time of 88 minutes, is not rated and is German with English subtitles.
Fox and His Friends, hailed "one of Fassbinder's easiest, most naturalistic movies" by The New York Times, is a story about a down-and-out, down-on-his-luck homosexual carnival worker who wins the lottery and along with it, some new friends. Unfortunately, a charming, scheming lover fleeces him of his newfound money. The DVD special features include: a new transfer made from a restored print; 5.1 sound; subtitle control; filmographies; weblinks; and more.
The Marriage of Maria Brau, hailed "a masterpiece" by The Village Voice, is the first in Fassbinder's trilogy of women in post-war Germany. Deemed as his most renowned and acclaimed film, The Marriage of Maria Braun won three German Oscars for Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, in addition to receiving a Golden Globe Nominee for Best Foreign Film and winning the Silver Award at the Berlin Film Festival. The film has a running time of 120 minutes, is rated R and is German with English subtitles.
Katzelmacher, called one of Fassbinder's "four indisputable masterpieces" by The New York Times, follows the lives of an aimless group of friends who spend their days outside their Munich apartment smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and sleeping with each other. The German master presents a biting look at prejudice and xenophobia. The DVD special features include: a new transfer made from restored print; subtitle control; filmographies; weblinks; and more.
The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant won three German film awards in addition to being honored as Official Selection at the New York, Chicago and Berlin film festivals. The film stylishly depicts the shifting of power in relationships. Petra von Kant is a successful fashion designer who treats her slavish assistant Marianne condescendingly. She falls in love with Karin, a 23 year-old aspiring model, but the interest is not reciprocated. The arrogant Petra relapses into a downward spiral of irrational jealousy and hysteria. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant has a running time of 124 minutes and was filmed in German with English subtitles.
Set in the 15th Century, The Niklashausen Journey is the true story of the shepherd Hans Bohm, who claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary. Thousands believed that he was the Messiah, and as a result, he was arrested and burned at the stake by the Church. Fassbinder uses the story to reflect the sexual and political upheaval in Germany during the 15th Century. The film has a running time of 86 minutes and was filmed in German with English subtitles.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul was Fassbinder's international breakthrough. Hailed "a masterpiece" by the Los Angeles Times, the film garnered a Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago Film Festival and the International Critic's Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Based on a story Fassbinder used in his previous film, The American Soldier, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a classic tear jerker fraught with racial prejudice, anguish and true love. The film has a running time of 94 minutes and was filmed in German with English subtitles.
The American Soldier is Fassbinder's tribute to American gangster movies. Three Munich policemen hire Ricky (Karl Scheydt), a professional killer, upon his return to Germany from America. Hailed by The New York Times as "extremely interesting and often bold," Fassbinder takes viewers on an exciting ride following Ricky's assignments. Upon completion of his final assignment, Ricky partakes in a remarkable final shoot-out. Some have deemed this the most startling of Fassbinder's patented offbeat endings. The American Soldier has a running time of 80 minutes and was filmed in German with English subtitles.
Rio Das Mortes is the suspenseful tale of two friends who leave Germany in search of a treasure they believe to be hidden in the Rio das Mortes area of Peru. The fiancee of one in the pair threatens to shoot them if they decide to go through with the risky and childish adventure. This title has a running time of 84 minutes and is also in German with English subtitles.
Hailed as, "A chilly, tough, wicked satire." by The New York Times, Veronika Voss is the final film in Fassbinder's trilogy of women in post-war Germany. A sports reporter becomes fascinated with a beautiful, but mysteriously neurotic former screen star who, he later discovers, is suffering from depression and a compulsive addiction to morphine. Veronika Voss is based on a true story of a World War II UFA star. The first two segments are the highly acclaimed The Marriage of Maria Braun and Lola. It was also the last film that Fassbinder lived to complete.
Hailed as, "a German masterpiece" by The New Yorker, Effi Briest is considered by many to be Fassbinder's most elegant film. Trapped in a passionless marriage to an elderly diplomat, a radiant young woman drifts into a halfhearted affair with a dashing military officer - an indiscretion that eventually brings her ridicule and shame.
Hailed "Revolutionary!" by Time Out Magazine and "Anticipates the masterful combination of simplicity and complexity that would later define Fassbinder's work," from the Chicago Reader, Love is Colder Than Death is Fassbinder's feature-length debut. It stars Fassbinder as Franz, a small town pimp from Berlin who is under the brutal interrogation of The Syndicate. He begins a friendship with Bruno (Ulli Lommel), another criminal recruit. Despite The Syndicate's persuasive methods, Franz refuses to join the organization. Instead, he teams with Bruno on a small wave of shoplifting and murder. Franz's prostitute girlfriend Joanna (Hanna Schygulla) is distrustful of the gangster ¿ and when Bruno begins planning a bank robbery, she makes some arrangements of her own.
Fassbinder's third feature film, Gods of the Plague picks up where Love Is Colder Than Death left off - following the lives of petty criminals on the sinister streets of Munich. After being released from prison, small-time crook Franz Walsch (Harry Baer) returns to the underworld and seeks out old acquaintances. He briefly reunites with his girlfriend Joanna (Hanna Schygulla) and joins up with "Gorilla" (Gunther Kaufmann), the Bavarian hit man who killed his brother. Together they plan a supermarket robbery, but the heist ends up being a trap when they are betrayed by Joanna and Franz's new lover Margarethe. Time Out Magazine called Gods Of The Plague "A witty, stylish meditation on the film noir genre." The film is b&w, has a running time of 88 Minutes, is not rated, and is German with English subtitles.
Margot Staudte (Margit Carstensen) is a middle-class housewife who lives an ideal, comfortable existence with her husband Kurt (Ulrich Faulhaber) and daughter Bibi. Towards the end of her second pregnancy, however, she starts to experience moments of uncontrollable, undirected fear. Her anxiety grows and becomes more frequent. After giving birth to a son, she turns to drugs and alcohol, but nothing seems to alleviate her tempestuous nerves. Fear of Fear has been hailed "Perfectly sculpted...Fassbinder is a major artist." by The New York Times and "Fassbinder's most intense and compelling scrutiny of the human condition" by Richard Roud. The film is in color, has a running time of 88 minutes, is not rated, and is German with English subtitles.
Called "Fascinating...hypnotic. One can't break away from it!" by The New York Times and "Witty and incisive...ensemble playing at its finest." by The Los Angeles Times, Chinese Roulette is considered Fassbinder's most hypnotically stylish film. Convinced that his wife and daughter are elsewhere, the wealthy Gerhard Christ (Alexander Allerson) takes his mistress Irene (Anna Karina) on a weekend excursion to the family chateau. Upon arrival, he discovers that his wife Ariane (Margit Carstensen) is already there with her lover, Gerhard's assistant Kolbe (Ulli Lommel). An uncomfortable situation becomes even worse when their disabled daughter Angela (Andrea Schober) shows up with her mute governess. Intent on continuing their misery, Angela orchestrates a psychologically vicious truth-game that leads to a shocking climax. The film is in color, has a running time of 82 Minutes, is not rated, and is German with English subtitles.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the most prolific directors of German cinema leaving behind 41 feature films and 2 shorts, in addition to 14 plays, 4 radio dramas and numerous essays. His commercial breakthrough was The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971), and his international breakthrough was Ali; Fear Eats the Soul (1974). In 1982, he died of a drug overdose. His death is often considered the end of New German Cinema.
R. W. Fassbinder on VHS & DVD
Fear of Fear
One example is 1975's Fear of Fear (the English title a somewhat pale translation of the original German title Angst vor der Angst). In broad outline, it's not far removed from many Hollywood melodramas and certainly within Fassbinder's world of alienated prey and uncaring predators. The film follows a housewife through increasing depression as she copes with a distant husband and his nagging mother and prying sister. She tries to distract herself with her grade-school daughter, seeks refuge in pills and alcohol, toys with the idea of an affair and generally floats through life.
This is fairly sparse material and in lesser hands could easily have been quite tedious. But Fassbinder was above all a true filmmaker, not just a maker of polemics. Without being blatant or agressively "arty" he deploys a variety of music and ambient sound, smart framing (one memorable shot shows the housewife practically obscured by the furnishings), image distortions, and even iconic devices like the numerous mirrors inspired by Fassbinder's idol Douglas Sirk. This allows him to communicate or at least hint at the housewife's mental state without overusing dialogue or cliched situations. The film is a fairly unsettling portrait, all the more effective for a strain of ambiguity that runs through it.
Fassbinder developed a stock company of actors which certainly helped the speed of his work. The housewife is played by Margit Carstensen, a veteran by this time of nine Fassbinder films (not to mention Ulli Lommel's cult classic Tenderness of the Wolves). Her performance is restrained and subtle, completely appropriate for a film in which she's onscreen almost the entire running time. Much of the other cast had logged time with Fassbinder: Kurt Raab, Brigitte Mira (unforgettable in Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven), Irm Hermann and even Ingrid Caven, at that time Fassbinder's ex-wife.
All told, Fear of Fear is one of Fassbinder's minor films. Despite its virtues, the entire effect is a bit too schematic and narrowly focused. The rushed production is a constant in Fassbinder's films but here it also leaves a few too many rough spots like incompletely sketched motivations and some clumsy camera movements. Still, the DVD by Wellspring Home Video is a clean, sharp presentation and this will definitely interest viewers already familiar with Fassbinder's work.
For more information about Fear of Fear, visit Wellspring Home Video. To order Fear of Fear, go to TCM Shopping.
by Lang Thompson
Fear of Fear
Released in United States 1975
Released in United States 1976
Shown at New York Film Festival September-October 1976.
tvm (West Germany)
Released in United States 1975
Released in United States 1976 (Shown at New York Film Festival September-October 1976.)