German New Wave director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the subject of Oskar Röhler’s film “Enfant Terrible,” is one of the most courageous, talented, and destructive filmmakers who ever lived. Genuine, provocative and openly gay to a degree that was rare in the 1970s, Fassbinder began in underground theater and immediately jumped into film, telling tales of sexual and political adventures from Germany’s past and present. He worked so quickly and intuitively that he released between two and five features a year, plus TV productions, between 1970 and his untimely death in 1981 at the age of 37.
His films are highly sexual, overtly emotional, and psychologically and physically violent, often dealing with authoritarian urges in both private and public life. His formally precise but often expressionist approach influenced many filmmakers, including Paul Verhoeven (“Soldier of Orange” and “Spetters” seem to have very strong Fassbinderian lines), Martin Scorsese (“Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver” in particular; to name a few). at the time, Scorsese hired regular cinematographers Fassbinder, Michael Ballhaus) and Bob Fosse (whose close ties to Federico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick were well-documented, but in retrospect had a lot of Fassbinder in him). Fassbinder is also known for being dictatorial, rude, chaotic, self-dramatic, unreliable, and many other unattractive adjectives: the kind of “tough genius” who looks as though he’s worth the grief during and immediately after production, but who is cruelty. injuring his comrades.
How can one feature-length film capture such a giant personality, with these many contradictions? And most importantly, how it can walk on that knife edge, showing us why people believed in Fassbinder and wanted to give him money, work with him, and sleep with him, even as he smashed and burned his way through the international film scene. , leaving destruction in its path?
“Enfant Terrible” Röhler never tackled that aspect of the Fassbinder, that crucial question. And it’s so important to make “Enfant Terrible” work that this issue—better to go ahead and call it a failure—undoes any magic the film could have done.
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Built around the bulldozer of the main show by Oliver Masucci—who goes on to pompously rudely, portraying Fassbinder as a vicious intruder that gets into people’s heads—the whole story is presented as if it were an early Fassbinder experiment, half-assed of a late 1960s black box scene. theater. In a bar scene, for example, the stools, the bar itself, and important objects are three-dimensional supports, but the liquor and the glasses and mirrors behind the bar are painted. There are no spectators except for the spectators. Characters often storm on and off stage from the wings. Even locations that seem to need a grandiose cinematic treatment (including nightclub exteriors, alleyways, main thoroughfares, and indoor banquet halls; there’s even a rain scene) are presented as stripped-down stage tables,
This is a great arrogance, in keeping with the spirit of the early Fassbinder in some ways. One, Fassbinder’s theater experiences shaped his conception of what “good acting” is, and he took it to the movies (realism didn’t appeal to him; energy and an interested attitude), and he was also a self-driving workaholic under proscenium while he was on film sets. : he wrote 14 plays, adapted six classic plays by other playwrights, and directed or directed 25 more plays by other writers. Second, it’s an act of saving money that’s indistinguishable from a bold style gamble—something Fassbinder did a lot when he was just starting out on film, shooting quickly and cheaply like the French New Wave films he admired, on available locations and “sound stages.” “built together
What’s unfortunate (and a little confusing) is that “Enfant Terrible” ends up being a fairly conventional biography in terms of storytelling. everything but ends up completely covering nothing. From major productions to personal relationships, most of the pieces you’d expect to be at least touched, either in standalone set-pieces (there was a snarky and punk remake of Fassbinder’s press conference after his 1969 film “Love is Colder than Death” was booed at the Film Festival. Cannes; you can watch part of the real thing here); or as, in essence, chapters, in both the novelistic sense of the word and the DVD menu, taking us through the life of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the genius filmmaker and toxic man.
Each of Fassbinder’s relationships with his key collaborators probably deserves his own film, thus revealing his artistic talents and personal demons. But for the most part, the treatment here is rather cursory, defined entirely in terms of how Fassbinder uses people and what his manipulative behavior reveals about his own lack of conscience or impulse control. It’s also very male-centred; Fassbinder’s gift for creating complex, troubled, and dynamic female characters is barely touched, Hanna Schygulla, the director’s most famous female lead; Ursula Strätz, founder of the Munich Action Theatre, where Fassbinder started; and Barbara Valentin and Brigitte Mira, costars of “Fear Eats the Soul,” barely acclaimed. The film is primarily interested in what can be a monumental fassbinder jerk, treating theater companies, film crews, actors, producers, lovers, and family members like obstacles, raw materials, or trash, depending.
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The film’s structure rarely stops for examination, much less self-examination (or for that matter, for checking whether Fassbinder is capable of self-examination, which would be just as interesting; based on what we see here, the answer is a pretty clear “no”). As a result, sometimes the film plays like a Scorsese crime film without narration, ironic spacing, or satirical spirit, instead showing scene after scene of a rogue becoming a rogue, when he doesn’t express his guilt, sorrow, and torment. It comes across as produced because he’s a desperate alcoholic, cokehead, and sex addict who destroys his body as he blasts through the international film scene.