WORLD ON A WIRE (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973)

Made for West German television, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 3½-hour Welt am Draht is based on American novelist Daniel F. Galouye’s 1964 Simulacron-3. Resembling Edward Albee’s astounding play Tiny Alice, which was first produced the same year as Galouye’s novel was published, Fassbinder’s legendary science-fiction masterpiece revolves around Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch, convincing and compelling), technical […]

THE STATIONMASTER’S WIFE (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977)

In Bavaria in the late 1920s, Xaver Ferdinand Maria Bolwieser (Kurt Raab, pitch-perfect), railroad stationmaster and Nazi Party member, finds himself miserably married to Hanni once he learns of her (it turns out, serial) adultery. Tried and sentenced for perjury he had committed for Hanni’s benefit at her trial for adultery with the local butcher, […]

THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)

Perhaps it is the confinement to a single room and adjacent spaces in one two-floor apartment that accounts for writer-director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s achievement of such creative, captivating mise-en-scène in Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant, based on his play. The claustrophobia of the set—fashion designer Petra von Kant’s apartment, although richly dressed, is […]

THE AMERICAN SOLDIER (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1970)

Concluding writer-director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s early gangster trilogy, Der amerikanische Soldat is a near-masterpiece whose continual reference point is Jean-Luc Godard’s five years-earlier Alphaville. Also in gorgeous black-and-white, Fassbinder’s film creates a noirish landscape; although its Munich necessarily fails to be as romantic as otherworldly Alphaville, a futuristic Paris-and-beyond, it, too, is a place of […]

THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1971)

Händler der vier Jahreszeiten filters most everything through economic arrangements. One might assume that something suiting this description would be dry, offputting, schematic; yet writer-director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film is humane, moving, rich. It ends with a veiled suicide, a night’s drinking by a man whose recent heart attack requires him to refrain from alcohol; […]