In November, the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival, now in its 72nd year, once again hosted the presentation of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Award for the best screenplay. The jury, composed of the film directors Goran Stolevski and Denis Dercourt and the actress Elisa Schlott, awarded the prize, endowed with 15,000 euros and sponsored by the Fassbinder Foundation, to the writer Nick Pinkerton. His screenplay for the US satire THE SWEET EAST tells the story of a high school student confronted with the disturbing and divided nature of her homeland during a school trip. Interestingly, Pinkerton, who is primarily known as a film critic and curator, penned a compelling text about Fassbinder several years ago on the occasion of a Fassbinder retrospective. The text is available at: https://t.ly/DUkAn
The actress and singer Cornelia Froboess celebrated her 80th birthday on 28 October. She became famous as an eight-year-old with the popular German hit “Pack die Badehose ein.” As a young woman, she then enjoyed pop star status while working with German-language film and music greats such as Peter Alexander and Peter Kraus. Later, as a member of the ensemble at the Munich Kammerspiele theater, she devoted herself to more classical material and appeared in productions by Dieter Dorn, Thomas Langhoff and August Everding, among others.
In Fassbinder’s VERONIKA VOSS (1982), she played Henriette, the titular heroine’s rival. In an interview from some years ago with the newspaper Die Welt, Froboess hinted that further projects with RWF had been a definite possibility – especially a musical comedy in which the actress would have once again had a singing role. The entire interview from 2010 can be read here: https://t.ly/VyfbY
Eva Mattes also started out as a child star. The daughter of the actress Margit Symo and film composer Willy Mattes, she provided the German dubbing voice of Pippi Longstocking and Timmy from the TV series LASSIE in her early years. She soon stepped onto the stage and in front of the camera, where she has enjoyed an illustrious career. Filmmakers she has worked with include Roland Klick, Helma Sanders-Brahms and Werner Herzog, with whom she shares a daughter. She worked on several films with Fassbinder, for example JAIL BAIT (1972) and IN A YEAR OF 13 MOONS (1978). In Radu Gabrea’s A MAN LIKE E.V.A. (1984), she even transformed herself into RWF with the help of a beard and hat.
As part of the documentary series LEBENSLINIEN (Lifelines), Mattes provides viewers with insights into her private life. Among other things, she talks about dropping out of school early, her inferiority complex and the pressure she faced as a single mother. The episode is available in the online media library of the broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk: https://t.ly/-a0it
The Danish musician and composer Jens Vilhelm Pedersen, better known as Fuzzy, died a year ago on 13 October. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen and György Ligeti, he released several albums of electronic music, folk and jazz. He was also enormously productive as a soundtrack composer. In addition to numerous commissions for Danish productions, he composed the music for Fassbinder’s five-part working-class series EIGHT HOURS ARE NOT A DAY (1972-73) under the pseudonym Jean Gepoint. Several excerpts from Fuzzy’s compositions are available on his Danish-language website: https://www.fuzzy.dk/audiovideo.php
Music from Fassbinder’s oeuvre is also the subject of an hour-long radio feature from the “Kaisers Klänge” series on hr2-kultur. The feature includes songs such as “Young and Joyful Bandit,” sung by Günter Kaufmann in QUERELLE (1982), and “Memories Are Made of This,” performed by Rosel Zech in VERONIKA VOSS, as well as more obscure pieces such as Peer Raben’s music for the radio play “Iphigenie in Tauris.”
The program also shows how Fassbinder’s texts and Raben’s compositions are still leaving their mark on music today. The broadcast includes a cover version of “Freitag im Hotel” (from MOTHER KÜSTERS’ TRIP TO HEAVEN) by chansonnier Tim Fischer, an excerpt from Adriana Hölszky’s opera “Bremen Freedom,” and a song by the band Arbeit, who dedicated an entire album to Fassbinder in 2010. The program is available at: https://t.ly/VMuKo
The timelessness of Fassbinder’s films was demonstrated at the summer film festival in Oradea, Romania. In August, Fassbinder’s melodrama ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974), which tells the story of the fraught and socially ostracized relationship between the widow Emmi and the much younger migrant worker Ali, was shown alongside a selection of more recent films. The fact that it was the only older film in the program made it all the more pleasing to see it win the festival’s Audience Award this year.
In September, a production of Fassbinder’s play “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” directed by Lilja Rupprecht premiered at the Akademietheater in Vienna. Writing for the theater website nachtkritik.de, Andrea Heinz comments that, in addition to its use of video technology and elaborate costumes, the production is also characterized by its “light, sometimes almost humorous approach to the difficult, highly psychological material.” Among other things, this is achieved through the live music, “which underpins the nasty verbal battles between Petra and Karin with sparkling piano sounds.” In the last third of the “captivating and entertaining” performance, Rupprecht even includes two real interviews with Fassbinder. The full review is available at: https://t.ly/4-dWc DE. Tickets for further performances in December and January are available on the Burgtheater website, among other places: https://t1p.de/ijddf
In our last newsletter, we already referred to Ian Penman’s autobiographically tinged publication “Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors,” which emphasizes the ongoing radicalism in RWF’s work. Inspired by the book, cartoonist Nathan Gelgud drew a short comic strip for the New York Times, in which he comes to the comforting conclusion: “Fassbinder’s world is a harsh one, but it’s also a refuge for freaks.” The strip can be viewed at: https://t1p.de/4lute EN [Searching for the article via Google allows you to bypass the paywall]
The New York Times has also provided a number of film tips in the suspenseful genre of “country home movies,” which it summarizes as follows: “Away from prying eyes, characters in these tales tend to revel in their idyllic surroundings as unseen, often sinister, forces work against them, resulting in an unforgettable stay.” Along with Joseph Losey’s THE GO-BETWEEN (1971) and Ingmar Bergman’s CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972), the list also includes Fassbinder’s CHINESE ROULETTE (1976).
In RWF’s film, the weekend that a couple spends with their respective lovers in a country house gradually escalates towards violence due to a diabolical game played by the couple’s daughter. The description of the film particularly emphasizes the camerawork: “Michael Ballhaus’s cinematography constructs a claustrophobic ballet around the house’s mirrored interiors, tightening reflective nooses around each of its deeply guilty guests.” The article is available at: https://t1p.de/qaft7 EN [Google can also be used to bypass the paywall here] CHINESE ROULETTE is available on DVD and as VoD on Amazon Prime and Apple+.
Once again this year, we have had to say farewell to friends. It was particularly painful to say goodbye to the wonderful connoisseur of film and cinematic art educator, Eugène Andréanszky, who died in Paris after a long illness at the age of seventy-one. More than twenty years ago, he was chosen by the then French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, as the founding director of the “Les Enfants du Cinema” (The Children of Cinema) institute and remained its director for more than twenty years until his retirement.
We also mourn the loss of the outstanding film editor Peter Adam, who was revered by many German and international filmmakers. One of the best, most generous and dedicated editors in this country, he passed away on 4 December. Peter was not only a friend but also a former colleague of Juliane Lorenz Wehling, and someone with whom she particularly enjoyed a lively exchange of ideas.
We will now take a break over the winter and wish our readers and friends the best of health, a peaceful Christmas and a happy new year. We will be back in 2024 with more news from the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
More on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
More on the plays Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
Photo left: THE SWEET EAST © Marathon Street
Photo right: Eva Mattes with the director Birgit Eckelt LEBENSLINIEN © BR/Martina Bogdahn