Newsletter December 2022
Best lists classify and hierarchize; they testify to a passion for cinema and yet should not be taken too seriously. Probably one of the most famous of such lists comes from the English magazine Sight & Sound and is dedicated every ten years to the search for the best films of all time. With over 1600 participants, and thereby twice as many as in 2012, this year the top spot has surprisingly been awarded to Chantal Akerman’s JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 COMMERCE QUAY, 1080 BRUSSELS (1975). In her film, the Belgian director, who died in 2015, immerses her audience for almost four hours in the monotonous everyday life of a widowed mother and occasional prostitute, which ultimately culminates in an act of violence.
When in 2011 the Viennale dedicated a major retrospective to Akerman and gave the director a free hand in her own choice of films, she chose works by F. W. Murnau, Wong Kar-Wai, Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk and Roberto Rossellini as well as ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974), the only Fassbinder film to date to make it onto the Sight & Sound list. The new vote helped shift the film from 93rd to 52nd place. The entire Top 100 can be read here: https://www.bfi.org.uk/sight-and-sound/greatest-films-all-time
Fassbinder und Akerman schätzten beide die Arbeit des Regie-Duos Straub/Huillet. Nachdem Danièle Huillet bereits im Jahr 2006 verstarb, folgte ihr am 20. November dieses Jahres nun ihr langjähriger Partner Jean-Marie Straub. Nach zahlreichen gemeinsamen Arbeiten, die mit ihrer radikal strengen und oft antiillusionistischen Ästhetik nicht selten für Irritationen sorgten, verwirklichte Straub bis zu seinem Tod noch zahlreiche Filme mit Barbara Ulrich.
Fassbinder and Akerman both appreciated the work of the Straub/Huillet directing duo. Danièle Huillet died in 2006, and Jean-Marie Straub, her partner of many years, died on 20 November this year. The duo produced many joint works, which not infrequently caused bemusement and irritation due to their radically strict and often anti-illusionist aesthetics. Straub subsequently realized numerous films with Barbara Ulrich until his death.
In his obituary in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Fritz Göttler describes how Straub/Huillet understood their literary models not as intellectual constructs, but as bodies that they allowed to “sound and breathe”: “They transcribe the passages and chant them with different colors; in these ‘scripts’ the life of the later films is already present. For weeks they work with the actors, mostly amateurs, but even when they have professionals with them, the pleasure taken in the texts is tremendous.” The full article is available here: https://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/jean-marie-straub-nachruf-1.5699575
Fassbinder appeared in Jean-Marie Straub’s early short film DER BRÄUTIGAM, DIE KOMÖDIANTIN UND DER ZUHÄLTER (The Bridegroom, the Comedienne ann the Pimp, 1968) alongside Irm Hermann, Hanna Schygulla and Rudolf Waldemar Brem. His own feature film debut, LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH, (1969) was not only dedicated to Straub, but he also used a tracking shot from Straub’s early short. The director Christian Petzold later said of this scene: “That crazy drive along Landsberger Strasse in Munich at night, past the prostitutes waiting for cars to stop. The camera position elevated, no eye level, no johns on the road, the light grazes the whores and illuminates them for a long moment. That’s cinema.”
It only recently became known that the German actor Rainer Will passed away in the summer. Before later appearing mainly in theater and television productions, he made his debut in Ulli Lommel’s THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES (1973) and SERGEANT RAHN (1974). For Fassbinder, he took on small roles in BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, LILI MARLEEN (both 1980) and LOLA (1981). A short obituary on nachtkritik.de says of the actor: “His view of the stage and behind the scenes testified to humor, to sharp observation, and to a lack of illusion. But it was a loving rather than a cold gaze.” The text is available at: https://nachtkritik.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=21785:der-schauspieler-rainer-will-ist-gestorben&catid=126&Itemid=100890
The 71st Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival came to a close on 27 November. For the third time, the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Award for the best screenplay, endowed with 10,000 euros and sponsored by the RWFF, was presented there. This year, the jury of Christoph Bach, Antoinette Boulat and Mohsen Makhmalbaf honored the crime drama ASHKAL by Tunisian director Youssef Chebbi. An honorable mention was also given to the US independent film THE MAIDEN by Graham Foy. All the festival award winners are listed here: https://www.iffmh.de/news-archiv/preisverleihung-2022/index_ger.html
In November and December, as part of the “Encounter RWF” educational program, Berlin’s Wolf Kino presented the “Political Fassbinder” film series, in which a predominantly younger generation of filmmakers presented RWF’s directorial works in order to view them from today’s perspective. In addition to directors such as Julian Radlmaier, Ted Fendt, Burhan Qurbani and Susanne Heinrich, RWFF President Juliane Maria Lorenz was also among the film patrons. The broadcaster RBB Kultur has recorded a short radio interview with curator Brigitta Wagner: https://www.rbb-online.de/rbbkultur/radio/programm/schema/sendungen/der_tag/archiv/20221105_1000/kultur_aktuell_1010.html
Finally, an event tip: “Hof remains stupid; films won’t help,” Fassbinder is said to have once stated unflatteringly about the festival in the town. Until 6 January an exhibition of photos by Michael Friedel can be viewed in the foyer of the Freiheitshalle in Hof. Entitled “Fassbinder, Schygulla, Ballhaus,” the exhibition features mainly portrait shots, or as the program text says: “Munich, Feldkirchen, Rome – the places are the background. The real content is seen in the faces.” More about the exhibition can be found at: https://www.hof.de/news/freiheitshalle-hof-fassbinder-schygulla-ballhaus-fotos-von-michael-friedel
We wish our readers and friends the best of health, peaceful Christmas holidays and a Happy New Year. We will be back in the coming year with more news from the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
More on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
More on the stage plays of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
Photo left: Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s CLASS RELATIONS (1984) © Edition Filmmuseum
Photo right: Cover of Michael Friedel’s photo book “R.W. Fassbinder Hanna Schygulla” © Leica Galerie Verlag Frankfurt