For his feature debut, Rainer Werner Fassbinder fashioned an acerbic, unorthodox love-triangle crime drama. Munich pimp Franz Walsch (played by Fassbinder) relishes his entrepreneurial independence and refuses to join the local mob, despite its allure of greater cash flow and stability. When Franz befriends the mysterious crook Bruno (Ulli Lommel), the two go on a small but frenzied crime spree of theft and murder, along with Franz’s prostitute girlfriend Joanna (Hanna Schygulla). But as Franz plans a more elaborate heist, the allegiances among the trio begin to break down. Dedicated to Chabrol, Rohmer, and Straub (as well as the two main characters from the Zapata Western A Bullet for the General), this stylishly nihilistic cinematic statement of intent has a sardonic exuberance that beautifully complements Fassbinder’s seriousness of purpose, already fully present right out of the gate. “What is important to me,” Fassbinder himself said, “is that those who see this film call into question their most deeply felt private feelings.”

Screening with:

The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp
Jean-Marie Straub | West Germany | 1968 | 35mm | 23m

German with English subtitles
Structurally simple yet exceptionally complex in its political resonance, this Straub-Huillet short includes one of Fassbinder’s first onscreen roles as both the titular pimp and a character in the play-within-the-film (Ferdinand Bruckner’s Sickness of Youth). The use of documentary footage, the interracial romance, and the Brechtian performances would all prove decisive influences on Fassbinder’s own work.