Kurt Raab would have turned 75 on 20 July this year. Anyone who saw this actor on screen did not quickly forget him. He seemed to have come from another time. His strongly rolled R recalled a bygone era of acting and rather than simply speaking he declaimed. His fevered, exaggerated performances were a rarity in German cinema. Fassbinder met Kurt Raab in the legendary Action-Theater run by Ursula Strätz. Raab was still working as a freelance props master and ran the theater’s ticket office in the evenings. RWF soon began to cast Raab in his plays and early cinematic projects for antiteater-X-Film. The actor gave unforgettable performances, for example, in smaller roles in LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH and FOX AND HIS FRIENDS and leading roles in WHY DOES HERR R. RUN AMOK? and SATAN’S BREW. He also worked with Fassbinder as a set decorator and assistant director and co-authored two scripts with him before their collaboration came to an end with the two-part TV film BOLWIESER. Raab owed RWF a great deal but was also found his dependent relationship on the director difficult. His book about his time with Fassbinder, “Die Sehnsucht des Rainer Werner Fassbinders” (The Yearning of Rainer Werner Fassbinder) is notable for both his spitefulness and astounding openness. No one is spared, least of all the author himself.
Raab was also able to make a name for himself without Fassbinder. He played roles in films by Werner Schroeter, Ulli Lommel, Ulrike Ottinger, Reinhard Hauff and Helmut Dietl, sang with the punk band Die Toten Hosen, and made an exploitation film, DIE INSEL DER BLUTIGEN PLANTAGE (The Island of the Bloody Plantation). He continued to seek the limelight up until his death in 1988. The physical suffering and social ostracism he experienced as a result of contracting AIDS were addressed in both Herbert Achternbusch’s bitter satire WOHIN? and Hans Hirschmüller’s documentary SEHNSUCHT NACH SODOM (Yearning for Sodom).To mark his seventy-fifth birthday, an extended essay by Wolfgang Hammer dedicated to Raab’s life and career is being published in the Historical Yearbook of Raab’s hometown, Straubing. Among other subjects, the essay addresses the actor’s ambivalent relationship to Catholicism.
For those who have come to prefer reading books on their tablet, we would like to recommend a coming release by Rowohlt. On 26 August the publisher is bringing out Michael Töteberg’s monograph on Fassbinder as an e-book. The film scholar has already authored and edited several RWF publications – including the script editions published by Verlag der Autoren. Unfortunately, for legal reasons the digital version of Töteberg’s monograph does not contain any pictures but, as a trade-off, can be purchased on the publisher’s website for only 3.99 euros (http://www.rowohlt.de/taschenbuch/michael-toeteberg-rainer-werner-fassbinder.html), where the paperback edition is also available.
There is no summer break for Fassbinder. From 24 August to 4 September, the Goethe Institute in Mexico is screening a retrospective of the director’s work. Along with a selection of films that have for the most part been recently digitized, the program also includes Volker Schlöndorff’s BAAL – in which RWF plays the main role. The film screenings are being supplemented by two large panel discussions dealing with the subversion of the melodrama and the connection between sex and politics. In addition, the broadcaster Radio Educación is producing new versions of the Fassbinder radio plays “Ganz in Weiß” (All in White), “Keiner ist böse und keiner ist gut – Ein Versuch über Science Fiction” (Nobody Is Bad and Nobody Is Good – a Take on Science Fiction), and “Iphigenie auf Tauris von Johann Wolfgang Goethe” (Iphigenia in Tauris by Johann Wolfgang Goethe) and thereby making them accessible to a Spanish-speaking public for the first time. The retrospective will mark the conclusion of Deutsche Filmwoche Mexiko festival beginning on 11 August, which will include a screening of Annekatrin Hendel’s documentary FASSBINDER. A detailed program of screenings will be available from the beginning of August at: http://www.goethe.de/ins/mx/de/lp/kul/sup/f15.html
From 13 to 18 August, the New York Museum of Modern Art is screening a 35mm copy of the television series BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, which film critic Andrew Sarris one described as “the Mount Everest of modern cinema.” The restoration of the copy being screened was led by cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger in the role of artistic director and Juliane Maria Lorenz as producer. More information on the event is available at: http://press.moma.org/2016/06/moma-presents-berlin-alexanderplatz/
Germany is also offering interesting cinema. On 11 August Elfi Mikesch’s latest film, FEVER, which premiered at the Berlin film Festival two years ago, is being released in German cinemas. The plot revolves around a photographer who embarks on a painful journey into the past. In the process she attempts to understand the suffering of her unpredictable and psychologically troubled father, who was once stationed in the Maghreb as a foreign legionnaire. The lead role is played by no one less than Eva Mattes, who first worked with Fassbinder at the tender age of seventeen. Elfi Mikesch was previously involved as a cinematographer in the making of several documentaries about RWF, including Rosa von Praunheim’s FÜR MICH GAB’S NUR NOCH FASSBINDER (For Me There Was Only Fassbinder). A trailer for FEVER (Fieber) can be viewed at: http://www.eastwest-distribution.com/film/fever/
On 1 August, the Fassbinder Foundation will take a break for the summer holidays. We will be back on 6 September and our next newsletter will present the highlights of the coming theater season, including work by familiar faces such as Patrick Wengenroth, Thomas Ostermeier and Irm Hermann as well as a production by the director and choreographer Michael Laub with the working title “Fassbinder, Faust and the Animist we don’t know much about, in Cambodia project.” Until then we wish our readers and friends a very pleasant summer.
More on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
Photo right: Eva Mattes in “Fever” © Barnsteiner Film