May 16 – June 1
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 between 1969 and 1982 (the year he died at age 37) and left behind one of the most cohesive and provocative bodies of work in the history of cinema. In his many melodramas, gangster movies, literary adaptations, and even sci-fi films, he returned obsessively to themes of love, crime, labor, and social and emotional exploitation. He was similarly fixated on his beloved performers, many of whom—Hanna Schygulla, El Hedi ben Salem, Ulli Lommel, and countless others—comprised a repertory company whose fierce, complicated devotion to their visionary leader defies comparison. Our extensive two-part retrospective—the largest in New York City in over a decade—includes all of Fassbinder’s theatrical movies and many of his television films, along with several works connected with his eternally relevant artistry. Mark your calendars for Part 2 in November.
Get Film Comment‘s Fassbinder digital anthology for just 99¢, featuring 35 years of exclusive coverage including a 1975 interview, articles by Manny Farber, Roger Greenspun, and Brooks Riley, profiles of his most frequent collaborators, and more.
An early example of Fassbinder’s pessimistic vision and his fierce, ravishing visual style, The American Soldier is a baroque homage to Hollywood cinema—film noir and gangster movies in particular.
A film’s cast and crew undergo a series of skirmishes, psychosexual charades, and nonplussed power trips in what may or may not be an accurate representation of Fassbinder’s behind-the-scenes methods.
Screening with Cuba Libre (Albert Serra, 18m).
High camp and claustrophobia abound in this chamber psychodrama about the cruel cat-and-mouse games between a fashion designer, her model, and a faithful, longtime love slave.
This dark-as-pitch comedy about a widow who over 15 years killed as many people using butter laced with arsenic is one of Fassbinder’s more ambitious stage-to-television experiments.
This take on Theodor Fontane’s tale of the rise and fall of a cosseted young 19th-century Candide whose “prison” is a manor on the Baltic Sea is among Fassbinder’s most visually ravishing.
Fassbinder’s interest in teasing out the subtexts of American genre films is on display in this stylized noir exercise focused on the not-so-latent homoerotic tensions at the very heart of the gangster movie.
Fassbinder’s second feature depicts the intolerance of a circle of financially and sexually frustrated friends when an immigrant laborer moves to their Munich neighborhood.
For his feature debut, Fassbinder fashioned an acerbic, unorthodox crime drama featuring a love triangle between a Munich pimp, a mysterious crook, and a prostitute.
Screening with The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp (Jean-Marie Straub, 23m).
A beautiful virgin loses her father on a trip to Rome and falls into the arms of an older stranger. His sadism and her masochism set the stage for a claws-out satire of bourgeois marriage.
In one of Fassbinder’s pivotal works and greatest achievements, an ineffectual ex-policeman newly home from the war continues to disappoint his bourgeois family by becoming a lowly fruit peddler.
Due to a problem with the print, all screenings of this film have been canceled. We apologize for the inconvenience.
A shepherd turns to preaching when he is visited by the Mother of God, but while his support increases, he is filled with a dissatisfaction that can be absolved only by embracing his own destruction.
Fassbinder’s idiosyncratic take on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House plays out as a blistering psychodrama visually refracted through latticework, curtains, prismatic glasses, and multi-paneled mirrors.
Conflict arises between a group of soldiers building a bridge in a provincial town whose motto, “Where there is no war, we’ll have to make one,” plays out in ways both trivial and profoundly dangerous.
Never distributed theatrically but long an influential cult classic, Fassbinder’s seventh feature is a hothouse gothic melodrama shot in widescreen on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western sets in Spain.
Added screening on Monday, May 19.
Harrowing and bleakly comic in equal measure, Fassbinder’s story of explosive rage focuses on a man with a perfect middle-class existence… until he beats his family to death with a candlestick.
A film many years ahead of its time, this recently rediscovered labyrinth is a paranoid, boundlessly inventive take on the future with dashes of Stanley Kubrick, Kurt Vonnegut, and Philip K. Dick.
Lommel cast his friend and mentor Fassbinder as a sexually aggressive crook in this psycho-thriller about a government inspector who moonlights as a cannibalistic serial killer.
Ozon’s confident third feature is an acerbic romantic farce, adapted from Fassbinder’s 1966 stage play, about a smug, middle-aged insurance salesman who falls for a beautiful teenage boy.