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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Fassbinder Retrospective at Aero & Egyptian Theatres in LA

Co-Presented by the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, the American Cinematheque will be screening the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder at the Egyptian and Aero Theaters beginning Thursday, May 31, and continuing through Thursday, June 14.

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Fassbinder’s death, the American Cinematheque has organized a 16-film retrospective of the revered German director’s work. Of the 30 films made during his prolific, although brief career the film society’s selected films include The Marriage of Maria Braun, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Lola, Veronika Voss, Fox and His Friends, The Merchant of Four Seasons, Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven, The American Soldier, Fear of Fear, Satan’s Brew, Chinese Roulette, Effi Briest, Beware of a Holy Whore, Gods of the Plague and Love is Colder Than Death.

These sixteen films and fourteen others constitute the impressive resume of an artist who was just 37 years-old at the time of his premature death in 1982. Considered a brilliant, albeit unconventional and controversial filmmaker whose ideas shocked, embarrassed, and even annoyed audiences of the day (his films came out between 1969 to 82 after all), Fassbinder was also acknowledged as an unmistakable genius. Even though he worked at the break-neck speed of producing two to three films per year, the director maintained a signature style marked by his precise compositions, complicated characters, and distinctive themes centered around the concerns of postwar Germany. All created by a team of artists who worked with the demanding filmmaker time and again, including cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, Dracula, Quiz Show) and actress Hanna Schygulla (The Marriage of Maria Braun, Effi Briest).

I’ll acknowledge that Fassbinder is certainly not for everyone, although he was certainly decades ahead of his time when it comes to scenarios relevant to modern audiences. I remember seeing a one of his films for the first time when I was an undergraduate film student at San Francisco State University. My World Cinema class instructor chose to initiate his young students with The Marriage of Maria Braun (probably Fassbinder’s most accessible film). The themes and situations were a challenge for relatively inexperienced coeds to relate to, but they were real and brutally honest. And that’s probably Fassbinder’s greatest talent - presenting the world as it is in all it’s ugliness. Which can make for some beautiful artistry.

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