February is Berlinale month! Germany’s biggest film festival is being held again February 11-21. For us, this is a particularly interesting year because the festival program includes an homage to Michael Ballhaus, the renowned cinematographer and long-standing friend of the Fassbinder Foundation. As part of this celebration of his career, Ballhaus, who worked on 15 of RWF’s films, will be speaking with the well-known German portrait photographer Jim Rakete on February 17 at 5 p.m. at the HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU1) theater. Tickets for the event are available at: http://www.berlinale.de/en/programm/berlinale_programm/datenblatt.php?film_id=201603794#tab=filmStills.
The festival is also dedicating a brief retrospective to Ballhaus. Along with films by Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols and Francis Ford Coppola, it includes two of his most well-known collaborations with Fassbinder: THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN (Tickets: http://www.berlinale.de/en/programm/berlinale_programm/datenblatt.php?film_id=201603863#tab=filmStills) and MARTHA (Tickets: http://www.berlinale.de/en/programm/berlinale_programm/datenblatt.php?film_id=201603209#tab=filmStills), which Ballhaus once referred to as his favorite RWF film.
The Berlinale Retrospective section is also offering a rare opportunity to see a film from Fassbinder’s early work on the big screen. This year the Retrospective is dedicated to the year 1966 and the spirit of change marking that year in East and West German cinema. A program of short films that brings together early cinematic efforts by influential directors such as Harun Farocki, Werner Herzog and Ula Stöckl will also include Fassbinder’s earliest preserved film, THE CITY TRAMP (tickets: http://www.berlinale.de/en/programm/berlinale_programm/datenblatt.php?film_id=201602816#tab=filmStills). The film features early performances by actors such as Michael Fengler and Irm Hermann, who would go on to work extensively with the director.
For all those who do not manage to attend the Berlinale, on Saturday, February 13, at 8:15 p.m. the TV broadcaster 3sat is also showing THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN (repeat on Sunday, February 14 at 1:35 a.m.) In this first part of RWF’s BRD trilogy Hanna Schygulla plays one of her most well-known roles. As the eponymous heroine she is confronted with West Germany’s empty promises of happiness in the post-war period. A theater adaptation of the film can be seen February 18-20 in Berlin’s Schaubuhne theater. Originally conceived for the Munich Kammerspiele theater, the production by Thomas Ostermeier was invited to the 2008 Berlin Theater Festival (tickets: https://www.schaubuehne.de/en/productions/the-marriage-of-maria-braun.html/ID_Vorstellung=1628).
The Schaubühne was also where Falk Richter worked for several years as a dramatist and resident director. Richter, who in the meantime has also worked extensively in the French-speaking theater world, has produced a body of work that repeatedly overlaps with that of Fassbinder – for example in his project “Small Town Boy,” which includes interviews with RWF, and his controversial production “Fear,” which explores the covert racism of the German petty bourgeoisie in a similarly radical way to KATZELMACHER. Between the 4th and the 19th of March, Richter’s play “Je suis Fassbinder,” which he directed in collaboration with Stanislas Nordey, will be part of the performance schedule at the Théâtre National de Strasbourg (tickets: http://www.tns.fr/je-suis-fassbinder). The production deals with Fassbinder, his work and his role as a crosser of borders. It features, among others, the popular French actress Emmanuelle Béart.
Another promising theater event is a free adaptation of VERONIKA VOSS, devised for the stage of Federico Bellini and Antonio Latella. The production, titled “I Will Give You My Death as a Present, Veronika” is being performed at the Teatro Argentina in Rome until February 14 (http://www.teatrodiroma.net/doc/3610/ti-regalo-la-mia-morte-veronika).
However, it is not only on stage that Fassbinder’s continuing influence is evident. In Munich a school has even been named after the director. The City College for Social Studies (Städtische Fachoberschule für Sozialwesen) has now borne RWF’s name for ten years, and to mark this anniversary a private party is being held on February 16. Guests will include Juliane Maria Lorenz, Rudolf Waldemar Brem and Günter Lamprecht.
In conclusion we would like to point out the release of a new Blu-ray box set by the British label Arrow Video. It includes not only ten brand-new 4K restorations of Fassbinder films but also audio commentaries, interviews, documentation and a comprehensive booklet with texts by Tony Rayns, Gertrud Koch, Ashley Clark and many others. Only 1000 copies of the box set are being released and it can be ordered now at: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=643.
We wish our readers an exciting February!
More information on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder can be found at:
Photo left: Michael Ballhaus, © Ralph Mecke
Photo right: THE CITY TRAMP, © RWFF