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 Post subject: 203-206 The BRD Trilogy
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 10:25 pm 

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The BRD Trilogy

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By the age of thirty-four, German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder had directed already twenty-two feature films. In 1978, he embarked upon a project to trace the history of postwar Germany in a series of films told through the eyes of three remarkable women. Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola, and Veronika Voss—the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) Trilogy—would garner him the international acclaim he had always yearned for and place his name foremost in the canon of New German Cinema.

Disc Features

- New high-definition digital transfers of all three films, enhanced for widescreen televisions
- I Don’t Just Want You to Love Me, a feature-length documentary of Fassbinder’s life and career
- Life Stories: A conversation with R.W. Fassbinder, a rare 45-minute interview with the director, made for German television
- Exclusive video interview with Fassbinder cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger
- Exclusive video conversation between Fassbinder scholar Laurence Kardish and editor Juliane Lorenz
- Audio commentary on The Marriage of Maria Braun by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and renowned filmmaker Wim Wenders
- Exclusive video interview with the star of The Marriage of Maria Braun and regular Fassbinder collaborator, Hanna Schygulla
- Video interview with Fassbinder scholar Eric Rentschler on The Marriage of Maria Braun
- Audio commentary on Veronika Voss by Fassbinder scholar Tony Rayns
- New video conversation with Veronika Voss star Rosel Zech and editor Juliane Lorenz
- Dance with Death (Tanz mit dem Tod), a one-hour portrait of UFA Studios star Sybille Schmitz, Fassbinder’s inspiration for the character Veronika Voss
- Audio commentary on Lola by Fassbinder documentarian, biographer, and friend Christian Braad Thomsen
- New video interview with Lola star Barbara Sukowa
- New video interview with Fassbinder co-screenwriter Peter Märthesheimer
- New and improved English subtitle translations for all three films
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer editions

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The Marriage of Maria Braun

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Maria (Hanna Schygulla) marries Hermann Braun in the last days of World War II, only to have him disappear in the war. Alone, Maria uses her beauty and ambition to prosper in Germany’s “economic miracle” of the 1950’s. Fassbinder’s biggest international box-office success and the first part of his “postwar trilogy,” The Marriage of Maria Braun is a heartbreaking study of a woman picking herself up from the ruins of her own life, as well as a pointed metaphorical attack on a society determined to forget its past.

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Veronika Voss

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Once-beloved Third Reich–era starlet Veronika Voss (Rosel Zech) lives in obscurity in postwar Munich. Struggling for survival and haunted by past glories, the forgotten star encounters sportswriter Robert Krohn (Hilmar Thate) in a rain-swept park and intrigues him with her mysterious beauty. As their unlikely relationship develops, Krohn comes to discover the dark secrets behind the faded actresses’ demise. Based on the true story of a World War II UFA star, Veronika Voss is wicked satire disguised as 1950s melodrama.

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Lola

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Germany in the autumn of 1957: Lola, a seductive cabaret singer-prostitute (Barbara Sukowa) exults in her power as a temptress of men, but she wants out—she wants money, property, and love. Pitting a corrupt building contractor (Mario Adorf) against the new straight-arrow building commissioner (Armin Mueller-Stahl), Lola launches an outrageous plan to elevate herself in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale. Shot in childlike candy colors, Fassbinder’s homage to Josef von Sternberg’s classic The Blue Angel stands as a satiric tribute to capitalism.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 8:49 pm 
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In what order should these be watched? The spine # order (and from what I read, the chronological order) does not correspond with the year of release.

Thanks


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:27 pm 
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It really doesn't matter. Each film can stand on its own. My personal preference would be saving the best for last....it's Veronika Voss.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:53 pm 
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Agreed, Veronika Voss is the ideal closer, and Maria Braun should be seen first (for me, it really kicks off the whole final phase of Fassbinder's career), so that should give you the order.

While we're on this topic, I finally got through the last of the supplements recently and currently think this is Criterion's finest box-set to date, even outstripping the Cassavetes. The films are great, of course, and I find the BRD set to be better focussed, with a greater level of relevant, in-depth analysis per film.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2005 6:17 am 
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zedz wrote:
I finally got through the last of the supplements recently and currently think this is Criterion's finest box-set to date, even outstripping the Cassavetes. The films are great, of course, and I find the BRD set to be better focussed, with a greater level of relevant, in-depth analysis per film.


I would agree with you on it being perhaps the best multiple-film Criterion set. Cassavetes, while it turned out to be an excellent set, is a little tarnished by the Carney issue and fight surrounding it, while The Adventures of Antoine Doinel has an extensive collection of extras, but the quality of the films tail off. The BRD Trilogy does not have the same problem with lessening film quality, and the extras are wide-ranging everything from the documentaries to each film having a commentary. Having a lot of different commentators also allows for a wide range of experiences from collaborator to critic to be brought to the films.

EDIT: although I should stress that I'm glad that I can think of a boxset of all Antoine Doinel films, or the entire Orphic Trilogy and the Cassavetes box etc as disappointing, as they are still excellent releases - the BRD Trilogy is just that jump to an even higher tier.


Last edited by colinr0380 on Mon Mar 21, 2005 5:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 2:07 pm 
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from DVDBeaver:

Quote:
What would otherwise be a perfect transfer is marred by overmatting to a 1.75:1 ratio. While most films might not be affected by such cropping, this one suffers noticeably, as Michael Ballhaus's meticulous framing becomes claustrophobically tight, especially where the camera is moving, which is frequent. Note the chopped lettering of the top and bottom lines of the credits in the first screen capture.

The cover states the aspect ratio of the film as 1.66:1, and I'm not sure if I've ever seen it even that wide before. While I didn't have a ruler with me, I would estimate the film has been shown between 1.50-1.60:1 on the numerous occasions that I've seen it. (Of course, those could all be wrong and 1.66:1 could in fact be the proper ratio.) This may seem a petty complaint to some, but throughout the viewing of this DVD I couldn't help but think how wrong every scene looked, how such care could be given to the sharpness, contrast, color of the image, only to have it all undermined by such casual disregard for the framing. Perhaps as a photographer I'm oversensitive to these things, but one needn't have any formal training to realize something's amiss.

Criterion provides such a valuable service to film overs, and we hold them in such high esteem, that I fear we overlook their frequent overmatting of classic films. There's simply no excuse for it and they need to be held to a higher standard.
- Donald Brown


Unfortunately Mulvaney denied that this and Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (there are more, I believe) have been cropped. He claimed my display must not be accurate. Anyway, it's too bad.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 11:43 pm 
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The following is from Julianne Lorenz, in which she confirms the correct aspect ratio for The Marriage of Maria Braun is 1.66:1.

Quote:
"The Marriage of Maria Braun" was actually shot in 1.66:1 The new digital tranfer was made by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation in Munich with Colourgrader Peter Deinas at Scan Werk directly from the original negative, as well as all the other films of the BRD Trilogy and all the other releases at fantomas and Wellspring. You should also know: The Foundation has all the original negatives and knows about the correct ratios, so do the cameramen, some were present at the restorations, or at least had a look at the result. Only the early film's cameraman Dietrich Lohmann, who died a few years ago, could not be present. But the editor of Mr. Fassbinder early films - Thea Eymesz - replaced him and so we were able to have her knowledge as well.

So why did Criterion see fit to overmatte it at 1.75:1? They don't even acknowledge the cropping at all, even though anyone can measure the proportions of the image area.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 9:15 pm 
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Does anybody know whether the 'narrator' on the commentary of Maria Braun is Robb Webb (of Fishing with John notoriety). He sounds so similar that it's really off-putting. I keep expecting the guy to ask for a bite of my sandwich or something.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:14 am 
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I posted this in the Vampyr thread, thought it would be of interest here, too.

Website dedicated to Sybille Schmitz.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:20 pm 

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Donald Brown wrote:
The following is from Julianne Lorenz, in which she confirms the correct aspect ratio for The Marriage of Maria Braun is 1.66:1.

Quote:
"The Marriage of Maria Braun" was actually shot in 1.66:1 The new digital tranfer was made by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation in Munich with Colourgrader Peter Deinas at Scan Werk directly from the original negative, as well as all the other films of the BRD Trilogy and all the other releases at fantomas and Wellspring. You should also know: The Foundation has all the original negatives and knows about the correct ratios, so do the cameramen, some were present at the restorations, or at least had a look at the result. Only the early film's cameraman Dietrich Lohmann, who died a few years ago, could not be present. But the editor of Mr. Fassbinder early films - Thea Eymesz - replaced him and so we were able to have her knowledge as well.

So why did Criterion see fit to overmatte it at 1.75:1? They don't even acknowledge the cropping at all, even though anyone can measure the proportions of the image area.

I wonder if anyone can explain Ms. Lorenz' explanation? I'm probably laboring under a misunderstanding, but I did not think that films are "shot 1.66:1" and that the original negatives could reveal this. I have always thought that 1.66:1 films are shot on 1.33:1 (and generally "protected" for other ratios) and then matted either for the print or even by the projectionist. Is there in fact a method by which films are "shot 1.66:1" right onto the negative?


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:38 pm 
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does anyone know if there was a soundtrack to lola or if any audio files exist of any of the music? I'm dying to have an audio file of that song Lola sings near the beginning and also the song from the opening credits.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:01 pm 
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Rich, she surely meant 1.66:1 is the correct aspect ratio, not that it was actually captured on the negative as such. As you correctly note, the image would be matted from a fully exposed frame.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 12:52 am 
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Not necessarily. If the film in question was shot on Super-16, that camera/shooting method is said to produce a native aspect ratio approximating 1.66. I suppose this means that it is hard-matted in the viewfinder and the camera gate. In the majority of cases, the methodology is to shoot open matte and make allowances in shooting for different soft-mattes to be applied in projection and/or the lab (as you suggested).

It should be noted that I am not sure whether or not these films originated on 16 or 35 (and I don't have the set to check). Fassbinder does seem like someone who would be drawn to the lighter set-up that 16mm would afford...


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:18 am 
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Christian Braad Thomsen's book provides substantial details for all of Fassbinder's productions, including the film stock used; it lists 35mm for all three features in the BRD set. It looks like Fassbinder mostly used 16mm for his TV productions.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:54 pm 
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I just read on Facebook that these films are now OOP. Skeptical (considering the source), I checked Criterion's website, which confirms that this is true. Surely Criterion would have issued a statement if they had they lost the rights; since there were some issues with the original transfer of Maria Braun, perhaps the set is being re-issued on DVD as well as upgraded to blu (as with Solaris and Rules of the Game). I hesitate to call it a "trend," but with this recent practice of re-releasing already "acceptable" editions of films (later spine numbers with seemingly adequate supplements and presentations), along with the announcement of Fanny & Alexander, this does not seem so far-fetched.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:57 pm 
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It probably is just a case of them being upgraded though worse comes to worse the UK DVDs are probably the better option anyway.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:49 pm 
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It seems like we're all familiar with this sad dance by now, where something gets listed as OOP, and we all say "well maybe they're just..." and then it turns out to be actually OOP.

Interestingly, though, Lola is not as of right now listed as OOP on the Criterion site, while the other two titles and the box are. So maybe we'll be seeing that upgraded and the other two go bye-bye, more or less like The Orphic Trilogy.


Last edited by Brian C on Thu Oct 06, 2011 12:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 12:28 am 
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Good catch on Lola, Brian, I hadn't noticed that. It's certainly possible that they've lost the other two films, but it seems weird: Maria Braun and Veronika Voss are both licensed from Fox Lorber/Wellspring (while Lola is from a German distributor), but none of the other Wellspring titles (Yi Yi, the Truffaut and Rohmer boxes) are appearing OOP (indicating that this is not a small-scale Studio Canal scenario). Even if Wellspring did reclaim just these films, why wouldn't they take Fear Eats the Soul as well? It would also be strange for Wellspring to have lost the right to license them (as with Hard Boiled, The Killer, and Ran), as, I believe, all Fassbinder releases are coordinated through the Fassbinder Foundation. Hopefully we'll know soon, but it would be a real shame if these films actually are leaving the collection.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:01 am 
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Wellspring doesn't exist anymore, do they? I thought they died and the rights they held got scattered to the winds. I'm pretty certain they're not credited as licensor on the new Yi Yi Blu-ray.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:05 am 
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You'd be right. My copy doesn't mention Wellspring anywhere.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 2:34 pm 
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Good news! I emailed Criterion and received this reply:

Quote:
Thank you for your email and question.
There will be a new release in the future of Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, but we unsure when it will be available.
Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns, and thank you for supporting Criterion!
Best,
Jon Mulvaney


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 2:39 pm 
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Quote:
There will be a new release in the future of Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, but we unsure when it will be available.
Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns, and thank you for supporting Criterion!
Best,
Jon Mulvaney

Sweet. I'll hold out until then. I never finished watching the whole set before I lost it.


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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2014 4:08 pm 
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DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, JUNE 9th AT 6:30 AM.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

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I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.




***PM me if you have any suggestions for additions or just general concerns and questions.***


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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 12:51 pm 
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Hi, my name is Gregory, and I have a Fassbinder problem. I don't think I've ever said as much on this forum, and I want to stress that I don't think he's a bad filmmaker, nor do I dislike all of his work. I've watched (and in some cases rewatched) many of the Fox Lorbers, one of the Arrow boxes, the BRD Trilogy, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fear Eats the Soul, and In a Year of 13 Moons—hopeful each time—and while there were occasional glimmers of enjoyment and appreciation, what does me in is that he seemed to view the world through a lens of nearly relentless nihilism. I dislike it when reviewers give a film a low rating for being "depressing," and that's not quite the crux of my difficulty with Fassbinder. The films of his I've seen make me wonder if he saw humanity and our culture as mostly just shit and any decent impulse is either futile or doomed to be crushed by human traits that seem to prevent any joy, hope, pleasure, or spontaneity from lasting more than about thirty seconds at a time, or from emerging at all. I believe I understand a thing or two about despair, but his art just doesn't ring true for me and can easily fall into cynicism.

But I guess I shouldn't try to discuss Fassbinder in such general terms, so on to VV. The "doomed diva" trope is a natural fit for his sensibilities in many ways, and the result is a tendency toward fatalism that turns its central character into an object of forces beyond her control, seeming to avoid humanizing her in the process. The documentary on Sybille Schmitz on the DVD presented a more lifelike and engaging picture of a star than VV. I know that the latter isn't a biopic, but the comparison between the two can't really be avoided. Schmitz's downfall wasn't inevitable, and I tend to believe she wasn't brought down by sinister forces who were explicitly out to take away all her wealth and then discuss how to get rid of her when the time came. Schmitz's challenge of getting roles as an aging star seemed like a far more real problem than all of that.

It's just easy to approach a star with a detached narrative of a doomed icon rather than to deal with them as people. Of course most stories of stars who died too young will suggest implicitly or explicitly that they're giving us a look at the real person, and yet most of the interest seems to be in their tragic personal trajectory, their rise and downfall as icons, and the illicit context behind their life and career. It's often quite easy to fit a subject into that mold, but it's too easy to fall into a formulaic approach that misses opportunities to do something else. It's especially possible to go far deeper than that in a fictional narrative like this one.

Yet my criticism is not just about what we don't get but also the voyeuristic pleasure that's generally part of this kind of narrative of doomed icons and faded stars with personal problems. Sunset Boulevard is another unavoidable point of comparison, and it's a film I plan to revisit soon as well, but based on long-ago viewings I question how much empathy and compassion there is for its central character vs. how much of it is a cynical, vicarious look into the private life of an ill woman who just happens to be a failed icon, which seems to place much of the responsibility for her situation on her and her delusions, ego, and character flaws.

VV isn't just voyeuristic ugliness—I don't want to suggest that, and Fassbinder allows Voss to keep much of her dignity by the end, but I question how much of a human character was really there all along. She seems to always be acting, partly I suppose in order to manipulate those around her, but partly also because that's how Fassbinder saw the world in which the wealthy and famous exist—corrupted and artificial, drawing all those into its orbit powerless to influence anything for the better. If so, that assessment may be largely true, but it just seems so exaggerated that I find it difficult to engage with it. The heavy stylization of the cinematography, the wipes, etc. reinforce this quality for me, leaving a bitter combination of artificial surface glamour covering a world of and profound ugliness and despair.


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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 4:31 pm 
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That is a central 'problem' with Fassbinder. He lets no character off the hook and while his primary interest is in how societal constructs (social mores, brutal economics, the rule of law, gender roles) impact negatively on individuals, he is also explicit in showing how people collude with those constructs out of self interest (including the designated 'victims' in his scenarios).

But for me this has never precluded empathy, it's just removed it to a more abstract level. One thing Fassbinder at his best does better than almost any other director is present a lucid picture of the crystalline traps in which his protagonists find themselves, and understanding, for me, eventually sparks empathy. There's no special pleading for Margit Carstensen's Martha, in fact she's shrill and woeful and deliberately offputting, but nevertheless she doesn't deserve to be treated like that, and ultimately I find that kind of ground zero empathy valuable and powerful, and I see it time and time again in Fassbinder's films. I don't feel sorry for his characters because they're such nice, relatable people, but despite the fact that they're not.

Emmi and Ali are as put-upon as any couple in movie history, and we really want their unlikely relationship to work out, but Fassbinder really goes out of his way to slap us in the face with their unlikeable traits. You feel for Emmi? Okay, maybe she's a racist. Do you still feel for her? Okay then, here are some fond Nazi memories she'd like to share with you. Do you still feel for her? Yes? Well how about that.

I personally find that approach really bracing, and end up with a strong emotional attachment to many of his protagonists (though not when he tips over into pure grotesque as in something like Satan's Brew), but it's generally because I'm identifying with them in a much more abstract and removed fashion than is generally the case. We're looking down on them like some benevolent, or malevolent, or icily neutral god, and we're the ones who have to do the intellectual work of bringing empathy to the situation. In a film like Berlin Alexanderplatz, where Fassbinder gives us so much information to work with, the emotional power ultimately becomes explosive, at least in my experience.

I have no idea whether any of that rambling offers any help in approaching Fassbinder. It sounds like you've really been around the block with him and maybe he's just not for you.


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