My favorite moviemaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder died thirty years ago this Sunday, on June 10th 1982. His second to last film, the sad addiction story Veronika Voss, had just premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival - I wrote up some 30th anniversary thoughts on that movie back in February. His final film, the hallucinogenic homosexual soldier romp Querelle with a never hotter Brad Davis) would be released posthumously that September.
It's fitting there'd be so much product surrounding his death since he was such a prolific film-maker - if he were still alive today and had kept up his frantic pace he'd have made eighty more films than he did. Eighty! Not to mention all the plays and TV shows and performances on top of that. What a loss! (Course it was the drugs that killed him that made his frantic pace possible, so this is a Catch-22.) So in his honor I think we should all watch one of his movies this weekend. There are still a few I still haven't seen, believe it or not; a lot of them are still hard to come by, unfortunately. And I've also taken to doling them out slowly now - there are only so many left, and the day I've watched them all will be a very sad day indeed. Anyway here are 5 recommendations from me to you for what you should watch if you aren't sure. (I could totally list 20 more.)
Ali: Fear East the Soul is my favorite of his films, with a heart-busting performance from his regular Brigitte Mira as an old woman who falls for a much younger much darker man. It's a riff on Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, where the dastardly Jane Wyman hooks up with the younger much gayer Rock Hudson.
Or is The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant my favorite of his films? I suppose it depends on my mood - do I want to watch a movie about a older woman falling for a younger man with disastrous results or do I want to watch a movie about an older woman falling for a younger woman with disastrous results?
Or then there's Fox and His Friends, about a younger man falling for a slightly older man with disastrous results. See, he could mix things up! Fox stars Fassbinder himself in my favorite performance from him, which is reason enough to give it a whirl, but it's also a wonderfully frustrating viewing experience, like watching a slow-motion train-wreck where you're screaming for them to stop, no, don't do that, but they can't hear you, and kabluey.
I could name several of his films as most beautiful but I really adore the way he shot Chinese Roulette, which I posted a whole bunch of screen-caps from way back when. He stuffs a horrible dozen people into one space and then just has them slide and refract off each other like light. It's a glorious thing to become hypnotized by.
And finally, if you want a challenge do like I did and shut yourself up with all fourteen plus hours of his TV maxi-series Berlin Alexanderplatz, which was one of the most exasperatingly awesome experiences of my life. Truly unforgettable.
I'd also recommend Querelle and Veronika Voss and The Marriage of Maria Braun and In a Year of Thirteen Moons (which is quite possibly the most depressing film I have ever seen - a ringing endorsement!) and Martha and World on a Wire and Why Does Herr R Run Amok? and... okay I'll stop. Watch any or all of them! Miss you, Rainer.