Important birthdays were recently celebrated by Harry Baer and Irm Hermann, two of Fassbinder’s closest and most enduring collaborators. Harry Baer, who turned 70 on 27 September, worked with Fassbinder from the early antiteater days right through to the director’s last feature film, QUERELLE. Whether appearing like a Bavarian James Dean in leading roles in GODS OF THE PLAGUE and JAIL BAIT or in smaller roles, his performances are marked by a dry charm, a melancholic nonchalance and his very particular way of using language, which makes speaking itself seem like a feat of strength in the face of a hopeless world. In later Fassbinder films Baer also took on other functions, such as assistant director and production manager.
Harry Baer also worked with Hans-Jürgen Syberberg and Werner Schroeter, filmed with Luigi Comencini at Rome’s famous Cinecittà studios, and appeard in Michael Stock’s underground classic PRINCE IN HELL. Asked in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung several years ago whether being constantly asked about Fassbinder annoyed him, Baer replied, “Sometimes it does, because you get the same questions again and again. […] On the other hand, I like talking about him. After all, the 13 years I worked with him were the most important years of my life. (The complete interview is available at: http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/kultur/film/zum-70–geburtstag-des-filmemachers-so-erinnert-sich-harry-baer-an-rainer-werner-fassbinder-995974)
Irm Hermann is another performer from the Fassbinder cosmos whose fascination is founded on a powerful personality. Hermann projects a unique presence, a studied artificiality that is far more apposite and genuine than much of what is presented in cinema as authentic. In Fassbinder’s films she usually presents the epitome of bourgeois beastliness – and yet behind the monstrousness of her characters there is always the sense of a deeply injured soul. Apart from her work with Fassbinder, Hermann is also known for her other film projects and theater work. She revealed a great comedic talent in her work on Loriot’s PAPPA ANTE PORTAS, and she has not shied away from collaborations with a younger generation of exciting directors such as René Pollesch and Christoph Schlingensief. Of late she has been seen above all in stage productions by Christoph Marthaler. For her birthday on 4 October we send out belated best wishes.
Our congratulations also to Wim Wenders on winning this year’s Douglas Sirk Award, which has been presented by the Hamburg Film Festival since 1995 for “services to film culture and the film industry.” Earlier prize winners include Wong Kar-Wai, Isabelle Huppert, François Ozon and Fatih Akin. Wenders dedicated his award to Fassbinder, who he said loved Sirk much more than he did and who could have made many more great films if he had not died so early. Fassbinder was also among the many filmmakers interviewed about the future of cinema by Wenders in 1982 in a Cannes hotel room for his documentary CHAMBRE 666. RWF’s very brief appearance is a plea for film with a strong individual or national signature, films that clearly distance themselves from the type of cinema “that is no longer distinguishable from television.”
Between 26 and 29 October the Film:ReStored festival is taking place in Berlin for the second time, which focuses on the digitization of our film heritage. Along with lectures and workshop reports, the festival also offers a program of screenings that includes restorations of Harun Farocki’s BEFORE YOUR EYES VIETNAM, Peter Fleischmann’s long-lost HAVOC, Helmut Käutner’s
GOODBYE, FRANZISKA and a new 4K scan of RWF’s MARTHA – one of Fassbinder’s best melodramas, which has earned a place in film history for, among other things, the famous 360-degree tracking shot by Michael Ballhaus. The complete program of screenings is available at: https://www.deutsche-kinemathek.de/en/events/2017/film-restored_02).
The restored version of MARTHA will be released on Blu-ray by Studiocanal on 7 December. (More information is available at: http://www.studiocanal.de/dvd/martha-digital_remastered).
On 2 November Nicolaus Wackerbarth’s highly recommended film CASTING is being released in German cinemas. This venomous satire of television features the wonderful Andreas Lust, who, as the “audition reader” for a remake of Fassbinder’s THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, is a witness to the both cruel and funny power games on a film set. In this fragile world, in which the line between fiction and reality constantly shifts, everything repeatedly turns on how people in this environment are constantly evaluated based on economic criteria. Lust plays the role which was originally embodied by Hanna Schygulla and is to be played by a man in the remake. A trailer of the film is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHVh0GV6PEs
The recently released autobiography of Regina Ziegler, Geht nicht gibt’s nicht (If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t exist) sees the successful producer looking back on her life and career. It includes an insight into daily life on the set of KAMIKAZE 1989, which Ziegler’s husband, Wolf Gremm, directed in 1982 with Fassbinder in the leading role. The book can be purchased at: https://www.randomhouse.de/Buch/Geht-nicht-gibts-nicht/Regina-Ziegler/C-Bertelsmann/e510125.rhd
In conclusion, we would like to point to the important article by Antje Vollmer in the Frankfurter Rundschau that calls on the German left to unite (the article is available at: http://www.fr.de/politik/zukunftsperspektive-eine-linke-alternative-a-1372495?GEPC=s5 DE). Vollmer, a politician and author, is also the author, together with Hans-Eckardt Wenzel, of the book Hinter den Bildern die Welt: Die untergegangene Bundesrepublik in den Filmen von Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Ein Briefwechsel (Behind the Images of the World: The Lost West Germany in the Films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder – an exchange of letters. More information: http://www.matrosenblau.de/buecher/buch-hinter-den-bildern-die-welt/)
We wish our friends and readers a golden autumn and will be back in November with more news from the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
More on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
Photo left: Irm Hermann receiving the West German Film Award (now known as the LOLA) 1973 ©Erika Rabau
Photo right: Harry Baer in WILDWECHSEL 1972 ©Peter Gauhe