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  Enfant Terrible Angry Auteur
Year: 2020
Director: Oskar Roehler
Stars: Oliver Masucci, Harry Prinz, Katja Reimann, Felix Hellman, Anton Rattinger, Erdal Yildiz, Markus Hering, Michael Klammer, Frida-Loisa Hamann, Jochen Schropp, Lucas Gregorowicz, Simon Boer, Antoine Monot Jr, Desiree Nick, Michael Ostrowski, Eva Mattes
Genre: BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Oliver Masucci) began his short but controversial career with the theatre, writing deliberately provocative plays designed to get a strong reaction from the audience, and if that reaction was a negative, hostile one, he was happy to see that as much as the welcoming variety, maybe more so. Soon the stage was not enough for him, and the cinema beckoned as he wished to emulate his celluloid heroes like Douglas Sirk or Jean-Luc Godard, so scraping together a tiny budget he commenced a cycle of writing quickly, filming even quicker to make a name for himself with a canon of work, and screwing up his colleagues and throwing them away...

Though many of them kept returning, suggesting there was a motive for their loyalty that writer and director Oskar Roehler did not quite get to the heart of in this late arriving biopic, made decades after Fassbinder's death from a drugs overdose. The question you would be asking throughout would probably be whether he really deserved a biopic this far after the fact, as it was fair to say that unlike his contemporaries in the German New Wave of the nineteen-seventies, in particular Werner Herzog who he would have been eaten up with jealousy to see his latter-day celebrity, it was difficult to judge if Fassbinder had seen his reputation sustained since his untimely demise.

Does anybody watch his movies now for pleasure, or any reason outside the historical interest? It's hard to envisage someone enjoying a Fassbinder marathon of an evening when other filmmakers, even from his era, were far easier to get along with, and the man's irascible nature and general willingness to ill-treat anyone around him for the sake of his own vision would render him deeply unfashionable in an era where film sets were being scrutinised for the merest hint of bad behaviour, and any transgressors were routinely hauled over the coals of public opinion. It's safe to say that had he lived, he may have found himself unemployable well before the point when calling to account was big news.

On the other hand, the more uncompromising talents do attract a certain fascination, not hero worship by any means, but an interest in their misdemeanours that leave gossipy anecdotes in their wake to delightedly horrify the listener. If you pointed out Fassbinder drove at least two of his boyfriends to suicide then you can see why a movie would be an intriguing project to produce, and it is true his thorough unpleasantness was an attraction for biographers, offering Roehler lot of material to highlight and pick over. He chose to present this as if it was a play, placed on a large stage of arbitrarily designed sets that served to exacerbate the artificiality of the film, so there was presumably no worry about historical accuracy in the finer details, as long as he had the plot points in the director's life correct.

One thing you may quibble with was the age of most of the actors, as many were clearly too old for their roles, including Masucci who undeniably resembled the man he was essaying, but looked like him had he lived to his forties. Again, the artificiality. The merry-go-round of people who entered and left Fassbinder's sphere of influence was many and varied, and you did not quite get a sense of the sheer numbers of folks he pissed off as the cast here were constrained both by budget and the amount of characters the audience would be able to keep track of. A feeling for the era was largely relegated to Rainer watching news reports on television, mostly terrorist related, though his fashion sense was replicated with some glee (that's when he was fully clothed). The impression that lingered was of a nasty little man with a maniacal work ethic, fuelled by an enormous ego and somehow engendering a need to please him from those around, maybe because he got things done and was useful. Is that accurate? Only those who knew him would know for sure, but this was a reminder, at some length, of his place in German movies. Music by Martin Todsharow.

Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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