Fassbinder at his very best! A wonderful, poignant and moving "Christology" of the proletariat, this is not only superior melodrama, but, as Fassbinder intended, it stirs the viewer mentally with how every shot is being constructed. The color photography is sublime, the theological references replete and the sexual passion, superbly encoded in the Foreign Legion climax. The usual ensemble is impeccable. Pure cinema!
The accessible melodramatic style belies the sophistication with which Fassbinder questions the classism and power dynamics underpinning the German condition. There's a refreshing, even daring, simplicity to his approach and, in the character of Hans, a fascinating portrait of the outsider feeling forced into a position of passive self-destruction.
The elements of Hollywood melodrama are stripped bare to expose the cruelty and complexity of life. The sparseness of the environments is offset by the explosive performances, and they work together uncover the heart of tormented humanity. Most interesting is how every character, when they converge, seems to be a stand-in for Fassbinder himself, laying bare the contradictory and volatile nature of the artist.
So this is Fassbinder? People wonder how he made so many films, well if he makes them as roughly as this I can see how and it is so good to see someone getting to the heart of it without getting hung up on production values, just going straight for the jugular. This is how I like things made. It's a punk film! Irm Herrman has a face like a doll it's great.
Five star after viewing, four star in retrospect and after having seen the sublime BToPVK (also up this week). The acting is horribly theatrical, though the message and writing are top notch - you'll feel disgusted, pity, optimistic and then stressed by the end of this tragic Munchen fable.
Perhaps it is all just a cynical examination of the human condition which aspires to higher summits but finds itself just on the cusp of a lowly hill flattened by a pedestrian narrative and arguably a less than original concept that we humans are anything but a conflicting and contradictory species. It seriously tries to be profound, revelatory, controversial, but the concept did not translate into a credible plot.
Fassbinder managed this sweet spot... enough cynicism to clearly see humanity in all its ugly weakness and toxic hypocrisy, but enough empathy to find it all hilarious, even beautiful - to sort of meet it where it's at... Darkly funny and trenchant satire, but social satire, never personal; at the personal level, everyone's equally flawed and searching. "We're all pigs." Best "fuck you" ending after Stroszek. 4.5
I’m finding every Fassbinder I watch is stuck underneath the shadow of the colossally good The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Every one of them seems to be lacking just by comparison, which isn't fair on the movies, and is a habit I'll have to try and actively avoid in the future.
re-watch. I can't help but think of his films as, of course not only a portrait of a nation, but self-portrait, especially here. Irm Hermann is a tour de force, perhaps her strongest, or, as strong as RWF allows her to be. I mean come on, his two wives playing wife/ lover of a flailing, failing man knowingly driving himself to extermination via excess and extremity? Crucial Fassbinder. Herr R. as fruit.