In a Year of 13 Moons

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has revealed details for the second half of popular retrospective Fassbinder: Romantic Anarchist (November 7-26), the largest in New York City in over a decade. Part 1 covered 1969-1974 and Part 2 will continue through to the final films he directed before his death in 1982. The ambitious two-part series includes all of his theatrical features and much of his television work, plus films he starred in and others that influenced him in sidebar Fassbinder and His Friends.

One of the most prolific and influential European filmmakers of the second half of the 20th century, Rainer Werner Fassbinder completed nearly 40 feature-length films in just 14 years, leaving behind one of the most cohesive and provocative bodies of work in the history of cinema. Whether he was making melodramas, gangster movies, literary adaptations, or sci-fi films, Fassbinder returned obsessively to themes of love, crime, labor, and social and emotional exploitation. He was similarly devoted to his beloved cast of performers, including Hanna Schygulla, El Hedi ben Salem, Ulli Lommel, and countless others.

Part 2 opens with In a Year of 13 Moons, one of Fassbinder’s most compassionate films, and Fox and His Friends, a great tragedy of modern European cinema. It will close with his final film, Querelle, released after his death. The lineup will also feature his first English-language film, Despair, which marks his first collaboration with a top-billed international star (Dirk Bogarde) and his first big budget. Other favorites include Lola, Fassbinder’s homage to The Blue Angel, and one of his most praised works, The Marriage of Maria Braun.

Fassbinder’s Sirk-inspired work is also on display, like the rarely seen TV productions, I Only Want You to Love Me and Fear of Fear. Other deep cuts include the omnibus film, Germany in Autumn, on which he collaborated with 11 other German New Wave filmmakers, and his first and only documentary, Theater in Trance.

As part of Fassbinder and His Friends, director Wolf Gremm will be in attendance to present two free screenings of Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Last Works, a 60-minute made-for-TV documentary that follows Fassbinder at the end of his career, capturing him both as director, at work on his final film, Querelle, and as actor, in Gremm’s Kamikaze ’89, which will also screen.

Completists may note the omission of Fassbinder's 14-part miniseries made for West German television, Berlin Alexanderplatz, but don't fret! We hope to screen it in the very near future…

Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Tickets, a discount package, and an all-access pass will go on sale Thursday, October 23. Wear your Fassbinder love with our limited-edition Fassbinder tote bags and T-shirts, available at our theaters and our online shop.

Fox and His Friends

Lineup and schedule:

Note: All screenings take place in the Walter Reade Theater except those marked EBM, which will take place in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Chinese Roulette
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany/France, 1976, 35mm, 96m
German with English subtitles

Forever experimenting with form and tone, Fassbinder ventures into Edward-Albee-meets-Gothic-thriller territory with this account of the Christs (Alexander Allerson and Margit Carstensen), an affluent Munich couple whose polio-stricken daughter, Angela (Andrea Schober), brings them together at a country house with their respective lovers. The climactic set piece is the title game, a nasty pretext for forced truth-telling and hateful revelations (Angela suggests her mother would’ve been Commandant at Bergen Belsen), which Fassbinder himself liked to play at parties. Brilliantly shot by Michael Ballhaus with a constantly roving camera, the film keeps shifting the POV to establish the subjectivity of experience. Featuring Anna Karina as Herr Christ’s mistress and Brigitte Mira as the housekeeper.
Saturday, November 8, 2:00pm
Thursday, November 13, 2:30pm

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany/France, 1978, DCP, 119m
A film of many firsts for Fassbinder: his first English-language feature, his first film with a top-billed international star (Dirk Bogarde), his first big budget (costing more than all of his previous movies combined), and his first film in which he had no hand in the screenplay. Fortunately, the words weren’t a problem, as playwright Tom Stoppard adapted the story from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. In a stunning characterization, Bogarde is Hermann, a Russian émigré who manages a German chocolate plant as the Nazis are rising to power. His two problems—a desperate need for money and a loosening grip on reality—lead him to concoct a life-insurance scheme involving a drifter whom he believes is his doppelgänger (though it’s clear to everyone else that he isn’t). Michael Ballhaus’s camera movements are as elaborate and exuberant as Stoppard’s words, making for one of Fassbinder’s most riveting achievements.
Sunday, November 9, 6:00pm
Friday, November 14, 1:30pm

Fear of Fear
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1975, 35mm, 88m
German with English subtitles

Fassbinder revisits Sirkian territory with this melodrama, made for German television, about Margot Staudte (Margit Carstensen), a bourgeois housewife stricken with anxiety after the birth of her second child. Her husband (Ulrich Faulhaber) is too concerned with passing an exam to pay her much mind, and her in-laws (Brigitte Mira and Irm Hermann) offer no compassion at all. Margot takes refuge in the diagnoses of clueless doctors, cognac, Valium, Leonard Cohen, and an affair with a pharmacist. Carstensen is compelling in a role similar to her title character from Martha—a prisoner of suburbia, privately breaking down. Fassbinder borrows Hitchcock’s dolly-zoom from Vertigo to impart a sense of her mental state; “I wanted to take my mind off the fear” is the only explanation offered as to why Frau S. runs amok.
Thursday, November 13, 4:30pm & 9:00pm
Sunday, November 16, 6:00pm

Fox and His Friends
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1974, 35mm, 123m
English, German, and French with English subtitles

Fassbinder stars in this bleak exposé of the socioeconomic and psychic sadomasochism that is, for him, at the core of the human condition. The titular Fox is a déclassé, leather-clad carnival entertainer who becomes a prime target for predatory suitors after he wins the lottery, and his Sade-esque journey from lumpenprole afterthought to exploited and discarded piece of meat ranks among the most affecting examples of Fassbinder’s righteously indignant moralism. One of the great tragedies of the modern European cinema, Fox and His Friends extends Fassbinder’s obsession with confronting the essential maliciousness of love under capitalism and suggests several unsettling resonances with its director’s abbreviated life.
Friday, November 7, 4:00pm & 9:00pm
Sunday, November 9, 3:30pm


Germany in Autumn
Alf Brustellin, Hans Peter Cloos, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Maximiliane Mainka, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Edgar Reitz, Katja Rupé, Volker Schlöndorff, Peter Schubert & Bernhard Sinkel, West Germany, 1978, 35mm, 123m
German with English subtitles

Fassbinder was one of 11 German New Wave filmmakers who contributed to this omnibus essay film, organized by narrator Alexander Kluge (who would expand his segment, “The Patriot,” into a feature). The fiction and nonfiction shorts were made in response to the German Autumn, a series of events in late 1977 including the kidnapping and murder of magnate Hanns Martin Schleyer by the Red Army Faction and the hijacking of a Lufthansa airplane. What the project lacks in perspective (the lag time was minimal) it makes up for in urgency, and while it may not offer cohesion or consistency, it boasts a spectrum of styles, with Fassbinder baring his soul as an enraged man arguing with his disengaged male lover and politically naïve mother about terrorism.
Tuesday, November 25, 8:30pm

I Only Want You to Love Me
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1975, HDCAM, 105m
German with English subtitles

Born during Germany’s economic miracle, awkward Peter (Vitus Zeplichal) seeks his indifferent parents’ affection by building them a house. After its completion fails to engender any warmth, Peter and his wife move to Munich and are promptly sucked into an endless cycle of purchases on credit and overtime. A rarely seen TV production, Fassbinder’s Sirk-inspired indictment of capitalism is a clear follow-up to The Merchant of Four Seasons and was based on an actual case study.
Monday, November 10, 4:15pm & 8:30pm (EBM)

In a Year of 13 Moons
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1978, 35mm, 124m
German with English subtitles

Volker Spengler, a Fassbinder mainstay, gives the performance of a lifetime as Elvira, née Erwin, a transsexual searching for love in Frankfurt and finding only rejection. Conceived in secret and abandoned by his mother, Erwin grew up in a Catholic orphanage and fathered a child while still a teenager. Working in a slaughterhouse, he fell in love with Anton (Gottfried John), a ruthless concentration camp survivor, whose offhand remark “too bad you aren’t a girl” sends him to Casablanca for an operation. Upon returning he finds that Anton does not reciprocate his feelings. Made in response to the suicide of Fassbinder’s own lover, actor Armin Meier, the film is arguably Fassbinder’s most compassionate, a heartrending portrait of isolation and splintered identity.
Friday, November 7, 6:30pm
Friday, November 14, 9:00pm

Lili Marleen
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1981, 35mm, 120m
German with English subtitles

Another large-budget production (after Despair), Lili Marleen is the melodramatic chronicle of the star-crossed love affair between German cabaret singer Willie (Hanna Schygulla) and Swiss-Jewish songwriter Robert Mendelssohn (Lina Wertmüller stalwart Giancarlo Giannini), who furtively lends his support to a group of German Jews. Based on singer Lale Andersen’s autobiographical novel The Heavens Have Many Colors, the title comes from a song written by Robert that becomes a hit in Nazi Germany after Willie records it. An unabashed tearjerker in the Hollywood vein, this international co-production features American leading man Mel Ferrer as Robert’s formidable father.
Saturday, November 15, 4:20pm
Tuesday, November 18, 8:30pm

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1981, 35mm, 113m
German and English with English subtitles

The second installment of Fassbinder’s BDR trilogy draws generously from Josef von Sternberg’s classic of corruption, The Blue Angel. Sharing a name with Marlene Dietrich’s calculating chanteuse, Lola (dynamic Barbara Sukowa) is a singer at a Bavarian bordello and the mistress to Schukert (Mario Adorf), a shady developer. But to newly arrived building commissioner Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl, his usual pillar of rectitude), Lola is a poor single mother and an upright citizen. He falls in love with her, oblivious to her true nature and involvement with Schukert, his municipal adversary. Fassbinder uses candy colors and baroque lighting to embroider a world of profligacy, attributing the “Economic Miracle” of Germany’s renaissance in the 1950s to venality and vice.
Friday, November 14, 6:30pm
Monday, November 17, 9:00pm

The Marriage of Maria Braun

The Marriage of Maria Braun
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1979, 35mm, 120m
German with English subtitles and English

One of Fassbinder’s most praised films, “an original work of epic and poetic qualities” that “broke [him] out of the ivory tower of the cinephiles” (Truffaut), The Marriage of Maria Braun earned him the acclaim he always sought, expanding his following at home and abroad. Centering on resilient women in postwar Germany, their self-reinventions mirroring the nation’s comeback (and its cost), the first entry in his BRD trilogy relates the saga of a poor soldier’s wife (Hanna Schygulla) who uses her wiles and savvy to rise as a businesswoman. Working with the director for the first time since their discord on Effi Briest, Schygulla fuses elements of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce and Lana Turner in Imitation of Life with her own hypnotic impassivity to create one of Fassbinder’s most memorable heroines, winning the Silver Bear at Berlin for her efforts.
Saturday, November 8, 8:50pm
Thursday, November 13, 6:30pm

Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1975, 35mm, 113m
German with English subtitles

Brigitte Mira, unforgettable as the widow embarking on forbidden love in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, returns as Emma Küsters, the wife of a factory worker who inexplicably went mad and killed his boss’s son and himself. Unable to fathom her husband’s deeds, Frau Küsters finds herself at the center of a firestorm, exploited by journalists grasping for a story, her daughter (Ingrid Caven), who hopes the publicity will launch her singing career, and a seemingly benevolent couple (Fassbinder regulars Margit Carstensen and Karlheinz Böhm), who hope to recruit her into the Communist Party. Vincent Canby called this jet-black satire “a witty, spare, beautifully performed political comedy,” and Fassbinder’s despairing view of humanity is given voice by the disheartened Mother Küsters: “Everybody is out for something. Once you realize that, everything is much simpler.”
Saturday, November 8, 4:00pm
Friday, November 14, 4:00pm

The Niklashausen Journey
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1970, 35mm, 90m
German with English subtitles

On Laetare Sunday, March 24, 1476—the day winter is driven out and summer invited in—Hans Böhm (Michael König), a shepherd known for his musical performances, burns his drum in front of the assembled peasants and speaks to them of his revelation: the Mother of God has appeared and instructed him to preach to the people. Soon his preaching moves from the religious to the political, and thousands of peasants from Bavaria, Swabia, Hesse, Thuringia, and Saxony journey to see him. But while his support increases, Böhm is filled with an inarticulate dissatisfaction that can be absolved only by embracing his own self-destruction. Fassbinder links revolutionary tumult with performance art experiments and the simple grace of sheepherding in a film set on the trash-strewn streets and junkyards of Berlin in 1970. In a gesture of rebelliousness and oddball conflation of modern decadence (and youth culture) with medieval religious art, Fassbinder himself plays a character called the Black Monk, dressed in dark sunglasses and a slick black leather jacket.
Monday, November 24, 4:30pm
Tuesday, November 25, 6:30pm

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany/France, 1982, 35mm, 108m
The director’s swan song, taken from Jean Genet’s novel Querelle de Brest and released after his death, follows the titular Belgian sailor and hustler (Midnight Express’s Brad Davis) as he frequents a brothel in Brest run by Lysiane (legendary Jeanne Moreau), and works through a complex relationship with his brother. Fassbinder’s expressionistic use of garish lighting lends an air of surrealism to the sensational goings-on. Nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice, Jury President Marcel Carné (director of Children of Paradise) withdrew after failing to convince his fellow jurors to bestow the award, stating “…although controversial, R.W. Fassbinder’s final movie, want it or not, love it or hate it, will someday find its place in the history of cinema.”
Sunday, November 23, 1:00pm (EBM)
Wednesday, November 26, 8:30pm

Rio das Mortes
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1971, 16mm, 84m
German with English subtitles

In this early film made for television, Fassbinder presents the follies of Mike (Michael König) and Günther (Günther Kaufmann), a pair of Munich-dwelling deadbeats who improbably gain possession of a treasure map of the Rio das Mortes area in Peru (though it’s actually in Brazil). Mike and Günther set about trying, mostly in vain, to raise money for their trip to Peru, leading them to sell Mike’s car, much to the dismay of Mike’s girlfriend, Hanna (Hanna Schygulla). An unforeseen twist of fate will make their quest for treasure a reality, but can they overcome their own shortcomings and break free from the constricting boredom of their day-to-day lives?
Monday, November 10, 2:15pm & 6:30pm (EBM)


Satan’s Brew
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1976, 35mm, 112m
German with English subtitles

Bookended by quotes from Theater of Cruelty architect Antonin Artaud, Satan’s Brew reflects the influence of that assaultive model on Fassbinder’s mid-career work. Kurt Raab (best known to Fassbinder fans as Herr R.) plays Walter Kranz, an avant-garde poet afflicted with writer’s block and a nagging wife (Helen Vita), and badly strapped for cash. When his editor refuses him any further advances, he’s forced to borrow from his mistress (who begs him to shoot her) and pretend to be the late poet Stefan George. Featuring broad physical comedy and a searing attack on the 1970s German art scene, Satan’s Brew co-stars Volker Spengler (In a Year of 13 Moons) as Raab’s mentally handicapped brother with peculiar ideas about flies.
Friday, November 7, 1:30pm
Saturday, November 8, 6:30pm

The Stationmaster’s Wife
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1977, 35mm, 112m
German with English subtitles

Produced in two parts for German television and released theatrically with 90 minutes shorn, Fassbinder’s account of a Bavarian railway stationmaster (Kurt Raab) and his unfaithful, manipulative wife, Hanni (Elisabeth Trissenaar), was adapted from Oskar Maria Graf’s 1931 novel Bolwieser: The Novel of a Husband. With echoes of Madame Bovary, the story follows Hanni’s affairs and ruination of her husband’s life as a reaction to provincial emptiness; the gullibility and fecklessness of civil servant played by Raab also emblematizes the breakdown of order that ushered in the Third Reich. Featuring Udo Kier as a hairdresser who dallies with Hanni. Longtime Fassbinder collaborator Raab, who also contributed to the set design, had a falling out with the director during production and the two never worked together again.
Saturday, November 15, 6:50pm
Sunday, November 16, 3:30pm
Wednesday, November 19, 3:30pm

Theater in Trance
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1981, digital projection, 91m
German with English subtitles

Fassbinder’s first and only documentary was shot at Cologne’s “Theatres of the World” festival in June 1981. He logs the appearances of such groups as Hungary’s experimental Squat Theatre company and the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch (whose founder became the subject of the eponymous documentary shot by Fassbinder’s German New Wave cohort Wim Wenders). Over these images, Fassbinder himself recites passages by Antonin Artaud (founder of the Theatre of Cruelty, quoted earlier in Satan’s Brew) and inserts his own distinctive observations.
Monday, November 24, 6:30pm

The Third Generation
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1979, 35mm, 110m
German, French, and English with English subtitles

Along with Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven, perhaps the Fassbinder film most concerned with contemporary West German issues. A razor-sharp and politically astute take on terrorism as bourgeois diversion, and on how the Third Generation of radicals (following the idealists of ’68 and the Baader-Meinhof Group) has no particular ideology, making them easy prey for exploitation by the state. Eddie Constantine (who played himself in Beware of a Holy Whore) stars as an industrialist kidnapped by the Schopenhauer-spouting upper-middle-class terrorist cell, whose members don’t realize they are being set up by the authorities. Fassbinder may have been outlining the thesis of this film when he stated: “In the last analysis, terrorism is an idea generated by capitalism to justify better defense measures to safeguard capitalism.”
Monday, November 24, 8:30pm
Tuesday, November 25, 4:15pm

Veronika Voss
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1982, 35mm, 104m
German and English with English subtitles

Sunset Boulevard, Fassbinder style. Veronika (Rosel Zech, both chilling and alluring) was a major film star during Hitler’s reign—her friends were said to include Joseph Goebbels—but a decade after the war she finds herself hard up for work and addicted to morphine. She starts an affair with a sportswriter (Hilmar Thate), but her need for drugs keeps her in thrall to a malicious physician (Annemarie Düringer). Shot in evocative black and white by Xaver Schwarzenberger, Fassbinder’s penultimate film (the culmination of his BRD trilogy) won him the coveted Golden Bear at Berlin—his first, accepting the prize barely three months before his death. Look for Armin Mueller-Stahl (Lola) as Veronika’s ex-husband and Lilo Pempeit—Fassbinder’s mother—as a jeweler.
Saturday, November 15, 9:15pm
Tuesday, November 18, 6:15pm

Kamikaze ’89

Fassbinder and His Friends:

Volker Schlöndorff, West Germany, 1970, DCP, 85m
German with English subtitles

The dream team of the New German Cinema: Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) directs Fassbinder and Margarethe von Trotta (five years before her directorial debut, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum) in a film adaptation of the first full-length play by Bertolt Brecht, a clear influence on Fassbinder at this stage of his career. Charting the debauchery of the title character, a dropout who defiles and accosts those who cross his path, Baal is a portrait of the type of recalcitrant antihero that so often appeared in Fassbinder’s work. Suppressed for years by Brecht’s widow, who was displeased with the outcome, Baal</em> showcases three of the era’s most provocative talents working in tandem.
New York Premiere
Sunday, November 9, 1:30pm & 8:30pm

The Damned
Luchino Visconti, Italy/West Germany, 1969, DCP, 156m
A year before his death, Fassbinder named Luchino Visconti’s symphony of decadence The Damned as one of his 10 favorite films. Chronicling the downfall of a wealthy German family, the Essenbecks, whose business dealings with the Nazis can’t keep them from unraveling, The Damned is perhaps best remembered for Helmut Berger’s indelible turn as depraved son Martin, vamping in drag as Dietrich in The Blue Angel. Kinky and perverse (the film was rated X upon first release), Visconti’s epic features a score by Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) and a stylistic opulence that presages Fassbinder’s later work.
Saturday, November 15, 1:15pm
Thursday, November 20, 3:00pm

Kamikaze ’89
Wolf Gremm, West Germany, 1982, 35mm, 102m
German with English subtitles

Fassbinder’s final acting role casts him as an alcoholic police lieutenant (garbed in a leopard-skin suit) tasked with foiling a bomb threat in West Germany’s near future. Adapted by Gremm and Robert Katz (The Cassandra Crossing) from Per Wahlöö’s dystopian novel Murder on the 31st Floor, Kamikaze ’89 imagines a totalitarian society ruled by a corporation (“The Combine”) that controls the media and suppresses all murmurs of dissent or unhappiness. Featuring Franco Nero as a journalist and Brigitte Mira (in her last collaboration with Fassbinder) as a director of personnel, Kamikaze ’89 filters dystopian parables like the concurrent Blade Runner through the West Berlin punk scene, resulting in a uniquely chilling prophecy.
Sunday, November 16, 1:00pm (Introduction by Wolf Gremm)
Monday, November 17, 6:15pm (Q&A with Wolf Gremm)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Last Works (Free and open to the public!)
Wolf Gremm, West Germany, 1982, digital projection, 60m
German with English subtitles

This short made-for-TV documentary follows Fassbinder at the end of his career, capturing him both as director (at work on his final film, Querelle) and as actor (in Gremm’s Kamikaze ’89, also screening in our retrospective). Gremm’s exceedingly rare portrait of his peer and collaborator is an invaluable document of Fassbinder’s versatility as a film artist, particularly his ability to simultaneously incarnate the lead role in Kamikaze ’89 and to helm his audacious, career-capping adaptation of Jean Genet.
Sunday, November 16, 3:15pm (EBM, Q&A with Wolf Gremm)
Sunday, November 23, 3:15pm (EBM)

Shadow of Angels
Daniel Schmid, Switzerland/West Germany, 1976, 35mm, 105m
German with English subtitles

Swiss director Daniel Schmid adapts Fassbinder’s play about Lily (Ingrid Caven, Fassbinder’s former wife), a downtrodden streetwalker in love with her lazy, abusive pimp (Fassbinder). She meets a prosperous real estate broker (Klaus Löwitsch) who wants to marry her, but happiness in Fassbinder is short-lived. Comprised of epigrams reflective of the writer’s worldview (“When you have money, madness is not far behind”) and equating life with sorrow—evidenced by Lily’s mercy killing of her cat—Shadow of Angels is bleak but undeniably haunting. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1976, losing to another grim portrait of humanity, Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
Sunday, November 16, 8:00pm
Tuesday, November 18, 4:00pm

The Wizard of Babylon
Dieter Schidor, West Germany, 1982, digital projection, 83m
German and English with English subtitles

Fassbinder’s death at 37 was a blow but not a shock, given his untenable pace and lifestyle. (A policeman present at his death scene remarked, “Even Fassbinder’s just a man.”) However, it capped a run of inspiration the likes of which may never be repeated. For some it marked the end of the German New Wave, a sad affirmation that even creativity can’t trump mortality. His epitaph is this documentary, which wrapped the day he died. Featuring commentary by Brad Davis, Jeanne Moreau, and Franco Nero—the stars of his final film, Querelle—The Wizard of Babylon proffers a glimpse into the visionary vortex that was Rainer Werner Fassbinder, with interview footage shot just 10 hours before his passing.
Friday, November 21, 3:30pm (EBM)
Wednesday, November 26, 6:30pm