Newsletter October 2022
François Ozon’s new film PETER VON KANT has been showing in German, Austrian and Swiss cinemas since the end of September. The loose adaptation of Fassbinder’s 1972 play “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,” which RWF also filmed himself, opened this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. In Ozon’s version, the fashion designer in Fassbinder’s script is replaced by the filmmaker Peter, embodied by Denis Ménochet, whose strong resemblance to Fassbinder is not only external. Ozon stages the story about an obsessive director who wants to possess rather than love the young actor Amir (Khalil Gharbia) with lovingly detailed vintage decor and ambiguous references.
In her festival review for the radio broadcaster RBB Kultur, Anke Sterneborg describes the film as a “multi-layered and artful way of playing with film history.” Ozon approaches the material “in a manner that is at once very playful and sophisticated” and lends it “contemporary accents.” In contrast to Fassbinder’s emphatically artificial film, PETER VON KANT is “played in a more natural and immediate way.” The complete text is available at: https://www.rbb-online.de/rbbkultur/themen/film/rezensionen/2022/02/peter-von-kant.html
François Ozon himself strikes a modest tone in an interview with the newspaper Berliner Zeitung. When asked about the reason for the remake, he replies, “I don’t think I made a remake. The original is a masterpiece and stands on its own. […] What interested me was the idea of offering a different vision of this story.” Ozon sees a parallel between his approach and that of a “theater director who takes on a classic” in order to find a fresh way of looking at it. The entire interview is available at: https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/kultur-vergnuegen/kino-streaming/fassbinder-hat-die-heuchelei-der-deutschen-gehasst-francois-ozon-im-interview-ueber-seinen-neuen-film-peter-von-kant-li.268913
Hanna Schygulla, who once played Petra’s young lover Karin and appears in PETER VON KANT as the protagonist’s mother, spoke with the Austrian magazine Profil about shooting the original film with RWF over a period of only two weeks: “It was the fastest shoot I ever experienced with Fassbinder. […] Other New German Cinema filmmakers could hardly believe how quickly he would present his next project. In that respect, he was a kind of pacemaker for the movement.”
According to Schygulla, it was important for Fassbinder to also work with actors with little or no experience: “He didn’t try at all to get us to do standard acting. He appreciated the flavor that the somewhat amateurish performances brought to the work […].” The actress sees Ozon’s adaptation as having “lost artificiality and gained clarity” compared to Fassbinder’s film, and she characterizes PETER VON KANT as “much lighter fare.” The entire interview can be found at: https://www.profil.at/kultur/hanna-schygulla-das-war-auch-eine-form-der-besessenheit/402156753
On 4 October, the actor Günter Lamprecht passed away at the age of 92. In the course of his long life, he took on more than 150 film and television roles. He appeared in Wolfgang Petersen’s DAS BOOT (1981) and during the 1990s played the police inspector Frank Markowitz in the long-running German crime series TATORT. He played several smaller roles for Fassbinder before being cast by RWF in probably his most famous role: Franz Biberkopf in BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ (1980).
In his obituary published by NDR, Oliver Kranz describes Lamprecht as a “roughneck with a tender soul” whose acting was “direct, straightforward and powerful.” According to the actor himself, the secret to the authenticity he brought to his portrayals lay in the wealth of his own experience: “That experience is stored up and it’s great to have it there to call on.” The entire article is available at: https://www.ndr.de/kultur/film/Guenter-Lamprecht-ist-tot-Ein-hoellisch-ehrlicher-Schauspieler,guenterlamprecht104.html
Jean-Luc Godard, film critic for the magazine Cahiers du cinéma, central protagonist of the French New Wave and political activist, died on 13 September. He was regarded by many as a revolutionary innovator of modern cinema, and his admirers included Fassbinder, who watched Godard’s VIVRE SA VIE (MY LIFE TO LIVE, 1962) twenty-seven times and described it as a film from which he had drawn “a great deal of strength.” The film also left its mark on RWF’s own work. He prefaced his melodrama ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974) with a quote from VIVRE SA VIE: “Happiness is not always funny.”
On 5 September Werner Herzog, who remains as prolific as ever, celebrated his 80th birthday. On the website critic.de Robert Wagner describes Herzog’s films as “a memorial and a hymn to being an individual thrown into a strange, strange world.” In both documentaries and feature films, writes Wagner, Herzog, an “adventurer beneath whose surface something seethes,” often tells “of forays into unknown regions.” (The entire text is available at: https://www.critic.de/special/die-aeonen-zwischen-uns-werner-herzog-zum-80-4565/)
According to Herzog, he and Fassbinder liked each other “in a very cautious way.” When Herzog had already set up his own film production company, RWF visited him to show him his first short films. Later, Herzog once told him, “It’s good that you rage like a wild boar. We need that.” More of the director’s reminiscences can be found in the journal Merkur: https://www.merkur.de/politik/rainer-dampfmaschine-291486.html
The Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin is showing a large Herzog exhibition until 27 March next year (more information at: https://www.deutsche-kinemathek.de/en/visit/exhibitions/werner-herzog). On 19 and 20 October, the director is also appearing at Berlin’s Arsenal cinema (more information at: https://www.arsenal-berlin.de/en/cinema/film-series/werner-herzog-zu-gast/). And Werner Herzog’s latest film, THE FIRE WITHIN, about the French volcanologist couple Katia and Maurice Krafft can currently be streamed in the Arte online media archive:https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/092967-000-A/au-coeur-des-volcans/
To conclude, here is a tip for an event: On 17 and 18 November the cellar theater at the Droste-Hülshoff-Gymnasium in the Berlin district of Zehlendorf will present a stage adaptation of Fassbinder’s CHINESE ROULETTE (1976). The performance has been developed with pupils within the framework of the film education project “Encounter RWF,” to which the Fassbinder Foundation has contributed funding. Tickets for only 2 euros can be reserved until 10 November at: email@example.com
We wish our readers and friends a “golden autumn” and will return soon 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: Barbara Sukowa and Günter Lamprecht in BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ © Bavaria Media / Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
Photo right: Denis Ménochet and Khalil Gharbia in PETER VON KANT © Diaphana Distribution