From the very beginning of his incandescent career, the New German Cinema enfant terrible Rainer Werner Fassbinder (World on a Wire, Berlin Alexanderplatz) refused to play by the rules. His politically charged, experimental first films, made at an astonishingly rapid rate between 1969 and 1971, were influenced by the work of the antiteater, an avant-garde stage troupe that he had helped found in Munich. Collected here are five of those fascinating and confrontational works; whether a self-conscious meditation on American crime movies, a scathing indictment of xenophobia in contemporary Germany, or an off-the-wall look at the dysfunctional relationships on film sets, each is a startling glimpse into the mind of a twentysomething man who would become one of cinema’s most madly prolific artists.
. FIVE-DVD BOX SET INCLUDES:
LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH (1969 88 minutes Black & White Monaural In German with English subtitles 1.77:1 aspect ratio) For his debut, Fassbinder fashioned an acerbic, unorthodox crime drama about a love triangle involving the small-time pimp Franz (Fassbinder), his gangster friend Bruno (Ulli Lommel), and Franz’s prostitute girlfriend, Joanna (future Fassbinder mainstay Hanna Schygulla). With its minimalist tableaux and catalog of New Wave and Hollywood references, this is a stylishly nihilistic cinematic statement of intent.
KATZELMACHER (1969 89 minutes Black & White Monaural In German with English subtitles 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Fassbinder’s second film dramatizes the intolerance of a circle of financially and sexually frustrated friends when an immigrant laborer (Fassbinder) moves to their Munich neighborhood. This scalpel-sharp, theatrical experiment (based on one of the director’s successful early stage plays) is both a personal expression of alienation on the part of the filmmaker and a comment on the persistence of xenophobic scapegoating in German society.
GODS OF THE PLAGUE (1969 92 minutes Black & White Monaural In German with English subtitles 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Harry Baer, a Fassbinder discovery, plays a newly released ex-convict who slowly but surely makes his way back into the Munich criminal underworld. Meanwhile, his attentions are torn between two women (Hanna Schygulla and Margarethe von Trotta) and the beloved friend (Günther Kaufmann) who shot his brother. This is a sensual, artfully composed study of romantic and professional futility.
THE AMERICAN SOLDIER (1970 80 minutes Black & White Monaural In German with English subtitles 1.33:1 aspect ratio) The German-born Ricky (Karl Scheydt) returns to Munich from Vietnam and is promptly hired as a contract killer. Fassbinder’s experimental noir is a subversive, self-reflexive gangster movie full of unexpected asides and stylistic flourishes, and featuring an audaciously bonkers final shot and memorable turns from many of the director’s rotating gallery of players.
BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE (1971 104 minutes Color Monaural In German with English subtitles 1.33:1 aspect ratio) In Fassbinder’s brazen depiction of the alternating currents of lethargy and mayhem inherent in moviemaking, a film crew—played by, and not so loosely based on, his own frequent collaborators—deals with an aloof star (Eddie Constantine), an abusive director (Lou Castel), and a financially troubled production. Inspired by the hellish process of making the 1971 Whity, this is a vicious look at behind-the-scenes dysfunction.