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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:17 pm 

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Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

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The wildly prolific German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder paid homage to his cinematic hero Douglas Sirk with this update of that filmmaker's 1955 All That Heaven Allows. A lonely widow (Brigitte Mira) meets a much younger Arab worker (El Hedi ben Salem) in a bar during a rainstorm. They fall in love, to their own surprise—and to the outright shock of their families, colleagues, and drinking buddies. In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder expertly uses the emotional power of classic Hollywood melodrama to expose the racial tensions underlying contemporary German culture.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Introduction from 2003 by filmmaker Todd Haynes
• Interviews from 2003 with actor Brigitte Mira and editor Thea Eymèsz
• Shahbaz Noshir's 2002 short Angst isst Seele auf, which reunites Mira, Eymèsz, and cinematographer Jürgen Jürges to tell the story, based on real events, of an attack by neo-Nazis on a foreign actor while on his way to a stage performance of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's screenplay
Signs of Vigorous Life: New German Cinema, a 1976 BBC program about the national film movement of which Fassbinder was a part
• Scene from Fassbinder's 1970 film The American Soldier that inspired Ali
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by critic Chris Fujiwara

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Last edited by Martha on Thu Oct 27, 2005 1:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 9:31 pm 
I found the short TV documentary: SIGNS OF VIGOROUS LIFE to be an interesting and informative program. My interest in this topic has been enhanced by a recent bookshop find. I found a copy of the OOP book THE NEW GERMAN CINEMA [John Sandford, Methuen, 1980]. It is an in depth analysis of all the directors mentioned in the Omnibus program. In addition, the book has chapters on Straub and Kluge (whose films are not even available on DVD in Germany - let alone the English-speaking world). The final chapter looks at minor directors/films which also had an impact. Fassbinder gets the strongest treatment due to his high reputation at the time, which persists today.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:15 pm 
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Question, did this ever go to the clear case and new artwork like all the other double-wide case releases? Haven't seen any confirmation on this one.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:17 pm 
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Blu-ray upgrade coming 9/30


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:28 am 
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2014 8:53 pm 

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Interesting to see the lack of comments on this thread. I watched my first few Fassbinder's this past summer (Love is Colder than Death, Katzelmacher, and The American Soldier) and can't say I was particularly a fan of any of them, though I did admire some of the stylistic, "French New Wave"-influenced elements of Love.

Anyhow, this is indisputably the best of the bunch so far, and a very good film overall. Much has already been said about the film's relationship with All That Heaven Allows, and while Ali is certainly influenced by this film, the central difference between the films seem to be that the former focuses on the different social classes the two lead characters belong to, while the latter focuses on their different ethnic backgrounds (age is also a factor in both films). If anything, this presents an interesting comparison between Ali and Katzelmacher, the latter of which focuses entirely on xenophobia and the treatment of Fassbinder's character as a foreigner. (I'm interested to see if the rest of his filmography deals with similar tensions...)

I should also add that the camerawork is rather exquisite. Something very surreal though simultaneously realistic about the combination of both shots framed from a distance and those that track around the characters. And the color palate is fantastic too.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:36 am 
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This is still my favourite Fassbinder film and I'm going to have an All That Heaven Allows/Fear Eats the Soul double feature for friends when the Blu-ray arrives. Fassbinder is by far my favourite director of the New German Cinema, not mired in sentimental platitudes like Wenders (women are mysterious, children are wise) and I've never been a huge fan of Herzog whose films frequently feel exploitative of their subject matter and whose public image as a martyr to his vision used to strike me as ridiculous. Which is not to say that I don't think either director has plenty to recommend and Herzog has certainly mellowed with age. Some of the other famous German directors of that period like Schloendorff and Margarete von Trotta just don't excite me as film-makers.

I can see why Fassbinder's international standing isn't the same as that of Wenders and Herzog. His work travels less well because his concerns are far more pre-occupied with the particulars of German history, politics and society. I'm from Munich where most of his films take place and I've always been struck by how spot on his satire of that particular part of Germany is ( btw, the registry office where the couple get married in the film is the same where my parents got married, which always gives me a thrill.) Fear Eats the Soul is very astute in connecting the then contemporary racism shown to "guest workers" (the foreign workers who helped rebuild Germany after the war) to the still lingering fascism of WWII. The camera work is stunning, the performances are heart breaking. I've heard people call the film a loose remake of the Sirk film, but it's actually surprisingly faithful. Almost every character has an equivalent as does every major plot turn.

My favourite period of Fassbinder is 1972 to 1975, three years when he shot a staggering twelve feature films and TV movies and two TV series (Eight Hours are no Day and World on a Wire). At least half of the films he made in that brief period are masterpieces as are both of the TV series.

The Marriage of Maria Braun was the film which made him internationally famous, but with the exception of Berlin Alexanderplatz and his penultimate film, Veronika Voss, I'm less keen on his work after that. Maria Braun was the film which finally got him taken seriously in Germany. Until then he was more notorious for the chaotic and sometimes violent soap opera of his life, which made more headlines in Germany than his under-appreciated films.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 5:45 am 
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Dr Svet gives this a great review. This is high on my B&N sale list, which BTW... is a month away. \:D/


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 8:06 am 
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crtit10, there's a whole Fassbinder thread which gives good guidance to the rest of his work.
I think Ali is still Fassbinder's best-known film, though that might be changing.
I might be wrong but I think Ali might be one of those films which were discussed on the last iteration of this forum and didn't make it over to here.

I think Veronika Voss is a masterpiece, andwe recently discussed it on the Criterion Film Club. In A Year With 13 Moons is very powerful. Those are my two favorites which I revisit now and then. Fassbinder covered a lot of ground and I find all his films interesting, even those less successful. It's always interesting to see which of his regular actors will show up in which role. Skimming through the Fassbinder thread, it seems Martha and Merchant of 4 Seasons get a good deal of love.

He was quite prolific.
I'm surprised that there are still more Fassbinder's I haven't watched yet.
I like the fact that "Martha" started this thread, etc ...

As for Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, I liked the film but thought it was relatively straightforward and haven't revisited it. I thought it would have had a bigger impact in its day rather than now when multiculturalism has become more or less the norm.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:04 am 
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Lemmy Caution wrote:
As for Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, I liked the film but thought it was relatively straightforward and haven't revisited it. I thought it would have had a bigger impact in its day rather than now when multiculturalism has become more or less the norm.


Multiculturalism is only the norm in some larger cities and even now it is the source of a lot of conflict. I live in London where anti-immigration sentiments are strong and UKIP, an ultra-right wing party who exploits peoples fears about immigrants, has a real chance of getting into parliament now. In Munich, where this film takes place, there still is barely any multiculturalism. The vast majority of people who live there are white Germans and a marriage like this would still raise eyebrows. The film is as relevant now as it was then.

Not that I believe it's just the social and political issues it deals with, which make this a great film. There is so much more to it.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:02 pm 
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wiki wrote:
Germany is home to the third-highest number of international migrants worldwide, around 20% of Germany's population do not hold a German passport or are descendents of immigrants.

There are over 1.5M Turks in Germany.
I think there were 3 or 4 Turks on the German national football team, plus a Pole or two.

Of course, I didn't mean that there weren't racial tensions in Germany and elsewhere today.
Or that there wasn't more to the film.
Just that in 1974 a depiction of inter-racial marriage in Germany would have been more unusual and had more of an impact.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:11 pm 
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Lemmy Caution wrote:
wiki wrote:
Germany is home to the third-highest number of international migrants worldwide, around 20% of Germany's population do not hold a German passport or are descendents of immigrants.

There are over 1.5M Turks in Germany.
I think there were 3 or 4 Turks on the German national football team, plus a Pole or two.

Of course, I didn't mean that there weren't racial tensions in Germany and elsewhere today.
Or that there wasn't more to the film.
Just that in 1974 a depiction of inter-racial marriage in Germany would have been more unusual and had more of an impact.


I was talking about Munich, the city I grew up in and the city where Ali: Fear Eats the Soul takes place, not about Germany in general. There are relatively few migrants in Munich compared to other German cities, because its the most expensive German city to live. Cities like Hamburg or Berlin are a lot more multicultural.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 3:37 pm 
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Retrospectively, having watched again All That Heaven Allows only weeks ago, what I find also interesting in Ali is that the marriage is within a working class (a lower class) whereas Sirk speaks of a marriage within different classes. It's interesting to see that Fassbinder seems to say that scandal is not a high-class rule, but even classes that are normally considered as more prone to solidarity and open-mindness can be very closed if they want to.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 4:42 pm 
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tenia wrote:
Retrospectively, having watched again All That Heaven Allows only weeks ago, what I find also interesting in Ali is that the marriage is within a working class (a lower class) whereas Sirk speaks of a marriage within different classes. It's interesting to see that Fassbinder seems to say that scandal is not a high-class rule, but even classes that are normally considered as more prone to solidarity and open-mindness can be very closed if they want to.

I don't think that's interesting, I would say that's obvious. Every class is prone to bigotry and every class needs someone to look down on, it just expresses itself differently from class to class.

Working class people are more likely to be worried about immigration because they believe immigrants will take jobs and social housing which they think should be theirs. And that fear is what right wing politicians and political parties trade on again and again. Fassbinder like Bunuel doesn't buy into the idea that poverty automatically ennobles people. This is a sentiment you will find in over and over Chaplin's films and that's why Bunuel loathed Chaplin. Poverty only makes people desperate.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 8:12 am 
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I know it can be obvious, but it's a shift I only noticed when re-watching All That Heaven Allows, which is narrated through the prism of high class, whereas Ali is clearly told among small workers, giving a huge different tone to each movie, with Ali having a much more lurid one to me.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 10:05 am 

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But nobody gets the sense from watching either Bunuel or Fassbinder that they hate on the poor and the downtrodden from a standpoint of class-based superiority. They clearly sympathize with the plight of the less fortunate. All great artists do. But perhaps one merely means they don't celebrate the 'supposed intrinsic' virtues of poverty, which I guess I agree with. Naruse is clearly similar in that respect. Are there any other conceivably great filmmakers aside from Chaplin who are *guilty* of celebrating poverty?


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 11:54 am 
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rrenault wrote:
But nobody gets the sense from watching either Bunuel or Fassbinder that they hate on the poor and the downtrodden from a standpoint of class-based superiority. They clearly sympathize with the plight of the less fortunate. All great artists do. But perhaps one merely means they don't celebrate the 'supposed intrinsic' virtues of poverty, which I guess I agree with. Naruse is clearly similar in that respect. Are there any other conceivably great filmmakers aside from Chaplin who are *guilty* of celebrating poverty?


Of course neither Fassbinder nor Bunuel hated the poor. They had strongly socialists leanings, they were on their side. But they didn't buy into the simplistic idea that poverty is automatically ennobling. That's something tenia implies when he/she states that working class people are more likely to be open-minded and more prone to solidarity with other oppressed groups. Not where I live. In the UK many working class people are currently voting for a party which is strongly anti-immigration.

In Fassbinder and Bunuel films any class or group is capable of terrible, selfish acts but in the case of the poor it has to do with the fact that they are being oppressed by a capitalist system which is designed to keep them in their place.

There are quite a few famous filmmakers who I would say sentimentalise (not 'celebrate') poverty: Capra, De Sica, Fellini.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 3:29 pm 

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Speaking of poverty leading to desperation, I find it interesting that in film, gangsters are often portrayed with more moral ambiguity than the bourgeoisie or white collard criminals.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 4:42 pm 
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Lost Highway wrote:
rrenault wrote:
But nobody gets the sense from watching either Bunuel or Fassbinder that they hate on the poor and the downtrodden from a standpoint of class-based superiority. They clearly sympathize with the plight of the less fortunate. All great artists do. But perhaps one merely means they don't celebrate the 'supposed intrinsic' virtues of poverty, which I guess I agree with. Naruse is clearly similar in that respect. Are there any other conceivably great filmmakers aside from Chaplin who are *guilty* of celebrating poverty?


Of course neither Fassbinder nor Bunuel hated the poor. They had strongly socialists leanings, they were on their side. But they didn't buy into the simplistic idea that poverty is automatically ennobling. That's something tenia implies when he/she states that working class people are more likely to be open-minded and more prone to solidarity with other oppressed groups. Not where I live. In the UK many working class people are currently voting for a party which is strongly anti-immigration.

In Fassbinder and Bunuel films any class or group is capable of terrible, selfish acts but in the case of the poor it has to do with the fact that they are being oppressed by a capitalist system which is designed to keep them in their place.

There are quite a few famous filmmakers who I would say sentimentalise (not 'celebrate') poverty: Capra, De Sica, Fellini.


I’m more interested by the shift of class narrator than anything. I didn’t want to state that working class people ARE indeed to be more open minded, but there is what seems to be a genuine softness and care at the very beginning of Ali that seems to come from people of lower class more caring for each other than the higher-class people from Sirk.

However, indeed, Ali says that it’s not so simple at all, and that it’s not a class question but a humane question. And indeed, every class needs people to look down upon. And that’s coming from somebody whose national anthem clearly speaks of ripping the throat from the foreigners taking our “wives and concubines”.

Nevertheless, this is a switch which is logical when looking at the usual characters in the respective movies from Sirk and Fassbinder, but having in this case the same grounds, this class shift looks interesting to me.

I also remember the fate of the TV set : it is Fassbinder who makes his not very wealthy characters destroying the TV set (while it clearly is a material thing quite expensive for its owner).

It really makes me feel as if the 2 movies are not so much as the same things, but really movies mirroring each other, like looking at 2 sides of a same coin.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 5:49 pm 
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Having read over and over Fassbinder's comments on the Sirk film, in his essay "Six Films by Douglas Sirk," I always find them extremely strange.
Quote:
We can understand what Rock sees in her. He is a tree trunk. He is quite right to want to be inside her.
Uh, what?
Quote:
The world around is evil. ... There are no men in the film apart from Rock, in that respect arm chairs and glasses are more important.
The decor is not important at the expense of the characters. There are a variety of different types of men in the story, and the world is not "evil." What about the world of Rock's/Ron's friends, who quickly and naturally accept the potential for Rock and Jane as a couple, as does her doctor/friend, Dan? This is in contrast to Fassbinder's film, in which the worlds of both Ali and Emmi seem pretty "evil," to use his word.
Quote:
Jane tells Rock that she is going to leave him, because of her idiotic children and so on. Rock doesn't protest too much, he still has Nature, after all.
No, that's not why he doesn't fight for her more than he does. He wants her to find the strength to renounce her social circle and come back to him of her own will, not because he "still has Nature," whatever that means.
Quote:
Later on, Jane goes back to Rock because she has headaches, which is what happens to us all if we don't fuck once in a while. But now she's back there's still no happy ending. If anyone has made their love life that complicated for themselves they won't be able to live happily afterwards.
He must have seen a different ending to the film than I did. The part about her feeling driven to go back to him was not just about sex but rather what is right for her to the core of her personhood. That's what earns the ending as something that ought to happen despite the social pressures and "Hollywood ending" conventions.
Quote:
The spectator's intense feeling is not a result of identification, but of montage and music. This is why we come out of these movies [Sirk's] feeling somewhat dissatisfied.
What? Speak for yourself. And this is someone considered to be a Sirk acolyte?
Quote:
She may well be so stereotyped already that in Rock's house she will miss the style of life she is used to and which has become her own. That's why the happy ending is not one. Jane fits into her own home better than she fits into Rock's.
She doesn't fit into "her own home" at all, as it's the empty shell of her past family life—vacant following her husband's death and her children's departure—and she absolutely needs a change at the most basic level of her being. Rock has completely adapted the old mill to make it a place where they could begin a new life together.
I'm not here to attack Fassbinder, but to be frank I believe he completely misunderstood Sirk's film. The above is quite revealing about his world view in which people can't adapt or find happiness together, to the extent that it upends his understanding of someone else's story.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:57 am 

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Lost Highway wrote:
rrenault wrote:
But nobody gets the sense from watching either Bunuel or Fassbinder that they hate on the poor and the downtrodden from a standpoint of class-based superiority. They clearly sympathize with the plight of the less fortunate. All great artists do. But perhaps one merely means they don't celebrate the 'supposed intrinsic' virtues of poverty, which I guess I agree with. Naruse is clearly similar in that respect. Are there any other conceivably great filmmakers aside from Chaplin who are *guilty* of celebrating poverty?


Of course neither Fassbinder nor Bunuel hated the poor. They had strongly socialists leanings, they were on their side. But they didn't buy into the simplistic idea that poverty is automatically ennobling. That's something tenia implies when he/she states that working class people are more likely to be open-minded and more prone to solidarity with other oppressed groups. Not where I live. In the UK many working class people are currently voting for a party which is strongly anti-immigration.

In Fassbinder and Bunuel films any class or group is capable of terrible, selfish acts but in the case of the poor it has to do with the fact that they are being oppressed by a capitalist system which is designed to keep them in their place.

There are quite a few famous filmmakers who I would say sentimentalise (not 'celebrate') poverty: Capra, De Sica, Fellini.


Fellini came from humble origins, much like Truffaut. With a less than fortunate upbringing, certain reactionary sympathies are only to be expected, and they deserve to be cut some slack on that front. Clearly, they'll crave certain bourgeois comforts in their adulthood. It's by no means a coincidence, on the other hand, that the filmmakers with more privileged upbringings like Fassbinder, Bunuel, and Godard are likely to be left of center. There's nothing to aspire to, since they had it all as children. It's easy to have leftist leanings when you've never actually lived the existence of a 'have not'.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:48 am 
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I don't see the theory that certain political views associated with the Left tend to a luxury for those with "nothing to aspire to" being confirmed by world historical events throughout the past century and beyond, as in many places across the globe there have been countless socialist organizations and workers' and peasants' movements consisting of people from the lower echelons in terms of wealth and privilege—with the notable exception of the US, where organized labor and the Left have been weakened to the point of being virtually nonentities since WWII. Artists (including filmmakers) tend to either be left-oriented or liberal, or to generally be apolitical, regardless of their family's class background, with the artists who are socially or culturally conservative or reactionary tending to be a small minority.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 12:51 pm 
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rrenault wrote:
Lost Highway wrote:
rrenault wrote:
But nobody gets the sense from watching either Bunuel or Fassbinder that they hate on the poor and the downtrodden from a standpoint of class-based superiority. They clearly sympathize with the plight of the less fortunate. All great artists do. But perhaps one merely means they don't celebrate the 'supposed intrinsic' virtues of poverty, which I guess I agree with. Naruse is clearly similar in that respect. Are there any other conceivably great filmmakers aside from Chaplin who are *guilty* of celebrating poverty?


Of course neither Fassbinder nor Bunuel hated the poor. They had strongly socialists leanings, they were on their side. But they didn't buy into the simplistic idea that poverty is automatically ennobling. That's something tenia implies when he/she states that working class people are more likely to be open-minded and more prone to solidarity with other oppressed groups. Not where I live. In the UK many working class people are currently voting for a party which is strongly anti-immigration.

In Fassbinder and Bunuel films any class or group is capable of terrible, selfish acts but in the case of the poor it has to do with the fact that they are being oppressed by a capitalist system which is designed to keep them in their place.

There are quite a few famous filmmakers who I would say sentimentalise (not 'celebrate') poverty: Capra, De Sica, Fellini.


Fellini came from humble origins, much like Truffaut. With a less than fortunate upbringing, certain reactionary sympathies are only to be expected, and they deserve to be cut some slack on that front. Clearly, they'll crave certain bourgeois comforts in their adulthood. It's by no means a coincidence, on the other hand, that the filmmakers with more privileged upbringings like Fassbinder, Bunuel, and Godard are likely to be left of center. There's nothing to aspire to, since they had it all as children. It's easy to have leftist leanings when you've never actually lived the existence of a 'have not'.


..and Chaplin came from grinding poverty. Of course I can cut them some slack for making the films they did but I still don't find the idea that the poor are nobler creatures truthful or in any way interesting and I'm not especially drawn to their work.

Not sure where Truffaut comes in as I didn't mention him. I never felt he sentimentalised poverty and he never seemed very interested in dealing with class. And with their extensive body of work, how does the statement make sense that the more privileged directors like Fassbinder, Bunuel and Godard had nothing to aspire to ?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:15 pm 
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Gregory wrote:
I don't see the theory that certain political views associated with the Left tend to a luxury for those with "nothing to aspire to" being confirmed by world historical events throughout the past century and beyond, as in many places across the globe there have been countless socialist organizations and workers' and peasants' movements consisting of people from the lower echelons in terms of wealth and privilege—with the notable exception of the US, where organized labor and the Left have been weakened to the point of being virtually nonentities since WWII. Artists (including filmmakers) tend to either be left-oriented or liberal, or to generally be apolitical, regardless of their family's class background, with the artists who are socially or culturally conservative or reactionary tending to be a small minority.

Agreed, wholeheartedly. All you need to do is look at two very wealthy American families, the Bushs and the Kennedys. One family is very conservative and the other family is as liberal. I think there are so many variables that go into the beginnings of someone's political views. To suggest it's class status, is, imo, the least of which the germ that sprouts those ideas, especially in the States.

Gregory, your post of Fassbinder's quotes on All That Heaven Allows was almost shocking that he would come up with those observations. It did sound like he had a crush on Hudson.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:43 pm 

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But the Kennedys are still capitalists at the end of the day, and they're not exactly undermining US hegemony. It's like saying Jean-Marie Le Pen is conservative while Chirac's a liberal. Please...

As for Truffaut, he certainly explores social class in every single one of his Doinel films. Social mobility is a theme throughout the entire series. What I mean about Godard having nothing to aspire to is that social mobility isn't something that someone born into a wealthy banking family needs to worry about. Having humble origins is a heavy cross to bear in postwar Western society in the wake of the rise of the middle class, especially if you come from a high context culture like France or Italy.


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