On 11 April the film world suffered a great loss with death of cinematographer Michael Ballhaus at the age of 81. Ballhaus worked with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on a series of 15 films, stretching from WHITY to THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN. Recalling the exhibition “Fassbinder – NOW” in the German weekly “Die Zeit,” Gerhard Midding remarks “what a distinctive, seminal and influential hallmark the 360-degree pan, with which Ballhaus first experimented in MARTHA in 1973, has become. It is a magical moment and one of the most unforgettable encounters in the history of German cinema.”
During and after his work with Fassbinder, Bauhaus emerged as one of the film industry’s leading cinematographers. In Germany he worked with Volker Schlöndorff, Ulrich Schamoni, Margarethe von Trotta and Peter Stein, and later in Hollywood with Mike Nichols, Wolfgang Petersen, Francis Ford Coppola and, of course, Martin Scorsese, with whom he formed an intensive collaborative bond, as he had previously with Fassbinder.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Scorsese remembers his friend and colleague, who never shrank from a challenge: “If we were running out of time and light, he would figure out a way to work faster. And if we were behind schedule and getting into a situation where we had to eliminate set-ups, he would sit down with me calmly and we would work it out together: instead of getting frustrated about what was being taken away, he would always think in terms of what we had.”
It has often been pointed out how down-to-earth Ballhaus remained in spite of his Hollywood fame. RWFF president Juliane Maria Lorenz remembers a very special member of Fassbinder’s circle: “The fact that he was one of the rare gems of German cinema and that the worldwide success of THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN opened the door to Hollywood for him was not so much due to chance or the name Fassbinder but to Michael Ballhaus himself, who always remained inquisitive and placed his talent in the service of his profession.”
Another shadow was cast over the month of April with the death of actress Christine Kaufmann at the age of 72. Her career covered a half a century of cinema history. As a young girl she already appeared alongside Romy Schneider in Géza von Radványi’ s MÄDCHEN IN UNIFORM (Girls in Uniform). Her career later took her to Italy, Hollywood and then back to Germany, where she appeared in Fassbinder films such as LILI MARLEEN and LOLA. She was modest about her eventful career and once said, “I know that I was not always good but I always appeared to be gifted.”
A director with whom Christine Kaufmann worked a number of times was Peter Zadek, and from 5 to 7 May the Filmkollektiv Frankfurt is showing a series of Zadek’s films at the Deutsches Filmmuseum. In the early 1970s, while Zadek was artistic director of the Schauspielhaus in Bochum, Fassbinder was engaged as a director there. The collaboration between the two men was initially anything other than harmonious. For instance, RWF bought a dog he called Zadek and loudly commanded around in the presence of the artistic director. The relationship later improved. Fassbinder dedicated his film THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN to Zadek and in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau in 1979 said that Zadek had become “an important person” for him and someone with whom he could talk. The program of Zadek films being screened is available at: http://www.filmkollektiv-frankfurt.de/veranstaltungen/peter-zadek
Another film season we would like to remind our readers of is the extensive Fassbinder retrospective at the British Film Institute in London. The conspicuously young audience attending these screenings shows that a new generation is now engaging with Fassbinder’s work. A program overview is available at: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=fassbinder&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::context_id= EN
Close to the BFI, the Tate Modern is hosting a large exhibition devoted to Wolfgang Tillmans. At first glance many of Tillmans’ photographs seem like snapshots but a closer look reveals how carefully condensed his images are and how they casually create space for politically commentary and social utopias. Along with friends and acquaintances Tillmans also repeatedly photographs celebrities. Two of these intimate portraits from the year 2000 feature the Fassbinder actress Irm Hermann. The exhibition runs until 11 June and more information can be found at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/wolfgang-tillmans-2017 EN
We would also like to draw readers’ attention to Aureliusz Śmigiel’s production of “In a Year of 13 Moons” at the Residenztheater in Munich. In its review of the premiere the Münchner Merkur writes: “In 75 concentrated minutes the Polish director relates a sad Passion narrative.” Particular praise is reserved for the performance of Thomas Loibl as the transsexual protagonist: “His performance never slips into fatuous travesty and his engagement with his character is always marked by a high degree of respect.” (The complete review can be read at: https://www.merkur.de/kultur/polnische-regisseur-aureliusz-migiel-inszenierte-fuers-muenchner-residenztheater-in-einem-jahr-mit-13-monden-nach-rainer-werner-fassbinder-7706633.html) The next performances are on 28 May and on 14 und 18 June. Tickets are available at: https://www.residenztheater.de/inszenierung/einem-jahr-mit-13-monden DE
Finally a look ahead to the Cannes Film Festival, which runs from 17 to 28 May. Several artists with a connection to Fassbinder are involved. The festival’s jury president, for example, is the Spanish director Pedro Almódovar, whose colorful melodramas can certainly be seen as part of the legacy of the German filmmaker and who once described himself as the new Fassbinder. In addition, the films in competition at Cannes include works by Todd Haynes, who stands in a tradition that began with Douglas Sirk and was continued by Fassbinder, François Ozon, who adapted RWF’s theater play “Water Drops on Burning Rocks” for the screen, and Andrey Zvyagintzev, who in 2003 received the Fassbinder Prize awarded by the RWFF. We can all look forward to what this year’s festival will bring.
Until then we wish all our readers and friends an exciting May and will be back in June with news from the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Photo left: Michael Ballhaus and Rainer Werner Fassbinder on the set of WORLD ON A WIRE © DIF Sammlung Peter Gauhe
Photo right: Christine Kaufmann in LILI MARLEEN © Roxy Film