Sunday, May 18, 2014
An early example of Fassbinder’s pessimistic vision and his fierce, ravishing visual style, this film is a baroque homage to Hollywood cinema—film noir and gangster movies in particular. German actor Karl Scheydt plays a small-time Yankee hood (clad in white suit and fedora) who returns to Munich and quickly finds himself embroiled in some very deep trouble. Fassbinder infuses the film with a mannerism that both reflects and critiques the American movies that inspired it: characters strike poses with portraits of Hollywood actors in the background, talk as though quoting dialogue, and die spectacularly exaggerated deaths. Although typically bleak, The American Soldier nevertheless finds Fassbinder struggling to locate some kind of redemption in the tension between vivid illusion and numb reality.