fassbinder.jpg A Cinema of Vicious Circles by Thomas Elsaesser  

{Jyo : I, as an amateur viewer of critically acclaimed movies & a recent entrant to this intellectual forum ,have certainly something to feel excited about….{link:discovering FASSBINDER on my own and following his work like a passion driven child with a sense of wonderment}. This “Fassbinder girl” (as my colleagues call me, as the shop boy recognises me), for a change, did surprise Alok, Barb, Rajiv & others…Reproduced over here is an excerpt done on this legendary director, which I found on the jacket cover of katzelmacher.jpg}

“What I would like is to make Hollywood movies, that is, movies as wonderful and universal, but at the same time not as hypocritical, as Hollywood..”

Since his death in 1982, Fassbinder’s stature as an international auteur has steadily grown, not least because of an increasing appreciation of his later films. Especially, his so-called “BRD trilogy” (The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola, Veronika Voss), Berlin Alexanderplatz, and his engagement with the legacy of Nazism have been reappraised, and the sexual politics of films like “Fox and his friends”,”In a year of 13 moons” and    “Querelle” are still controversial. Not every director of the New German Cinema saw as clearly as Fassbinder the irony of being a “kept filmmaker- kept in order to be critical”. When Fassbinder was asked to account for his success, at the time when “Why does Herr R.Run Amok?” was released, he replied :’The established culture business needs outsiders like me”. His “Cinema of Vicious circles” depict the dynamics of power and complicity, of impossible choices,of honest bad faith and unenviable alternatives play across the social field, from film-making to love-making,from deals with international producers to deal with Munich drug pushers. He seems to have been energised by these vicious circles,since he relished and cultivated them throughout his career. If in the early films they underpin his plots without necessarily becoming the explicit theme, the later films make them their outer, political horizon until, in “The Third Generation”, collusion between authority and rebellion furnishes the film’s very subject matter, as terrorists are paid by the state in order to justify its law-and-order policies. His films all have at their center the hard core of a contradiction, an unsentimental, detachedly lucid point where the plot lines cross to motivate a moral or emotional impasse, sensed by the characters  and recognised by the viewer.

“The American method of making (films) left the audience with emotions and nothing else”, he explained. “I want to give the spectator the emotions along with the possibility of reflecting on and analyzing what he is feeling”.

In the early films, “reflecting on” the feelings of the characters often took the form of avoiding even the suspicion of emotion.  “Love is colder than death”, displays such emotional detachment and understatement that a contemporary reviewer complained, “the film comes out of an almost unimaginable fear that an emotion might occur which the director would not wish to answer for“. The desires binding people to each other in these films are those common to popular culture : love and money. But these twin strands of action and feeling are braided together and twisted into a shape that makes their inextricability axiomatic, and therefore not so much a moral stance as a formal  structure.

If we look at the plots of Fassbinder’s first 5 films, it becomes apparent that they describe a similar configuration, which could be schematized as : A wants X, but needs B to get it. B wants y, which can only be had with the help of A. The structure could be one of perfect symmetry or even exchange. B gives x to A who makes sure B gets y. But the situation is complicated by two factors : firstly, there is usually also C and D, whose function is to block access to x or y or both: but even where there is neither C nor D to impede the exchange, x and y are incommensurate, not of the same order of being, in precisely the way that love and money are incommensurate. To put it differently: both A and B undervalue the other wants and overvalue what they want from other. 

Much of the feel and impact of Fassbinder’s early films – an insistently self-lacerating pessimism shot through with moments of ecstatic (and in the event gratuitous) optimism, as during the first meeting between “the Gorilla” and Franz in “Gods of the Plague” — seems to come from the need to discover a liberating dialectic inside a situation emotionally experienced as inescapable closed self-representation.

{The Part II to be continued in a separate post} 

Sunday movie – in the corner : “Vodka Lemon” by Hiner Saleem– Winner Best film Venice Film festival, San Marco prize. Official selection at “Seattle film festival”, “Palm Springs film fest”, “New directors/new films”, “Toronto film fest”.

But I am still under the depressing influence of “In a year with 13 Moons” by Fassbinder. It is painfully sad. How effortlessly one’s pain, suffering and loneliness crawl onto others and makes them whimper and cry which stiffens their faces with an increased tension ……