This past March was sadly overshadowed by the death of Rudolf Waldemar Brem – an actor and a member of Fassbinder’s circle during the early phase of the director’s career – who died March 17 at the age of 67. Brem was only 19 when he met Fassbinder. The powerfully built young man with blonde hair and a sonorous voice subsequently participated in many productions by the Action-Theater and antiteater ensembles and, up until 1974, numerous Fassbinder films, including KATZELMACHER and PIONEERS IN INGOLSTADT.
Often seen in smaller roles, Brem’s striking presence as an actor always left an indelible mark on the projects he worked on. Apart from Fassbinder he also worked with renowned directors such as Jean-Marie Straub, Volker Schlöndorff, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Peter Zadek, Ulli Lommel, Wolfgang Petersen and even Clint Eastwood. Brem remained consistently productive up until his death, giving his last performances in the films TOILET STORIES and TRASH DETECTIVE. In a recent interview with the newspaper “Die Welt” he reflected matter-of-factly on the past. In the interview he describes how many years ago he planted a rowan tree on Fassbinder’s grave. Once the tree began producing berries, he made jam from them every summer, naming each year’s yield after a film by RWF. IN A YEAR OF 13 MOONS was to be his last batch (the interview is available at: http://www.welt.de/kultur/kino/article153723512/Fassbinder-war-ein-ADHS-Kind.html).
Happier news comes with the announcement that the producer Regina Ziegler is to receive two lifetime achievement awards – a Platinum Romy in Vienna on April 16 and an Honorary Lola in Berlin on May 27. Before focusing predominantly on work for television, Ziegler’s firm Regina Ziegler Filmproduktion, which she founded in 1973, offered a platform for many young directors. They included Wolf Gremm, whom she later married and who made two films in which RWF appears in front of the camera, KAMIKAZE 1989 and RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER – LETZTE ARBEITEN (Last Works). The German Film Academy’s rationale for awarding Regina Ziegler this Lola and a more comprehensive account of her career can be found at: http://www.deutsche-filmakademie.de/no_cache/herzlich-willkommen/aktuelles/meldung.html?.
For anyone who missed the Berlin exhibition of works by Rinaldo Hopf titled “Films of My Youth – Fassbinder – Pasolini – Warhol”, the paintings can now be viewed online (https://issuu.com/theballeryberlin/docs/films_of_my_youth_brochure/1). In his images, Hopf revisits formative cinematic experiences from his youth, exaggerating his impressions to create scenes that are in part menacing and in part highly sexually charged. The exhibition features a number of images drawn from moments in Fassbinder’s films – such as a nude of the director from FOX AND HIS FRIENDS, a sex scene between Brad Davis und Günther Kaufmann in bleak brown tones from QUERELLE, and idealized portraits of Irm Hermann, Hanna Schygulla, Peter Chatel, Harry Baer und Rainer Will.
For those who prefer a “non-virtual” experience, artloft.berlin is hosting an exhibition of works by Burkhard Driest and Catherine Lorent from April 28 till May 15 (more information: http://artloft.berlin/burkhard-driest-querelle/). The exhibition comprises 11 large-format acrylic and oil paintings from Driest’s Querelle cycle and 10 drawings, including one of the Surrealist Jean Cocteau dressed as a sailor. Apropos parallels between Fassbinder and pictorial art, we would like to direct our readers to an article written by Georg Seeßlen for the newspaper Freitag. In his portrait of the illustrator and graphic artist Horst Janssen, Seeßlen writes: “In German post-war culture, there is only one person with whom this manic, fatherless, love-starved and malicious, destructive and self-destructive individual, tortured by drugs and insomnia, can be compared: the filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who similarly gathered a circle around himself whose members he manipulated, offended, played off against one another and yet needed.” The complete text can be found at: https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/rainer-werner-janssen.
Fassbinder’s influence on his contemporaries and on subsequent generations of artists can be repeatedly observed. A case in point is the American filmmaker Todd Haynes, who introduced DESPAIR at the Munich Film Festival in 2012 and spoke of his fascination with the German director. On April 22 Haynes’ most recent film, CAROL, is being released on DVD and Blu-ray. With this story of secret love between two women in the 1950s, Haynes, like Fassbinder, draws on the artificiality of classic melodramas while also utilizing the social-critical potential of the genre.
A new opportunity to experience the timelessness of Fassbinder’s melodramas, such as THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, FEAR EATS THE SOUL and FOX AND HIS FRIENDS, is offered by the Blu-ray box set recently released by Arrow Video (available at: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=643). The renowned Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, which selects the best home-cinema releases each year, has included the box set in its short list.
An exciting event is being held on April 30 at 6 p.m. in the Haus der Kunst in Munich, when the author Tobias Pettersson and the filmmaker Alexander Kluge will be discussing the music group Amon Düül II. Along with bands such as Can, Faust, Neu! and Cluster, the group is regarded as a representative of the kind of German experimental rock music commonly referred to as Krautrock. Amon Düül II created the soundtrack for THE NIKLASHAUSER JOURNEY, which Fassbinder developed together with Michael Fengler. Along with the discussion the evening in Haus der Kunst will also include a screening of the new film by Alexander Kluge on improvisation, which, according to the program “was produced especially for this evening and will be screened in its world premiere. It contains reflections on improvisation in film, music and opera.” Tickets are available at: http://www.hausderkunst.de/agenda/detail/the-sound-and-vision-of-amon-dueuel-ii/.
On April 21 Austrian cinematographer and director Xaver Schwarzenberger will celebrate his 70th birthday. After working predominantly for television during the 1970s – including with Axel Corti und Bernhard Wicki – Schwarzenberger began a productive collaboration with Fassbinder, working the director first on BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ and subsequently on LILI MARLEEN, LOLA, VERONIKA VOSS and QUERELLE.
We wish Xaver Schwarzenberger many happy returns.
In conclusion, we would like to inform our readers that the presentation of the book “Das TAT. Das legendäre Frankfurter Theaterlabor” (The TAT. The legendary Frankfurt theater laboratory) already announced in the last newsletter will now take place on the rehearsal stage of the Berliner Ensemble on May 10 at 8 p.m. Along with the publishers Sabine Bayerl, Karlheinz Braun and Ulrike Schiedermair, those present will include the BE’s artistic director Claus Peymann and the theater scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann. The book includes a comprehensive chapter on Fassbinder’s time as artistic director of the Frankfurt theater. Tickets can be booked from 15 April onwards at:http://www.berliner-ensemble.de/kasse).
We wish all our friends and readers a wonderful April and will be back again in May with more news from the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
More on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
Photo left: Rudolf Waldemar Brem and Lilith Ungerer in KATZELMACHER, © Filmverlag der Autoren
Photo right: CAROL, © DCM Film Distribution