Friday, October 18, 2013

The American Soldier (1970)

WHO: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

WHAT: Fassbinder is famed for being prolific- by most counts he made 44 films (including made-for-television works) in his short lifespan. But his most prolific period of all were the first few years of his feature filmmaking outgrowth of his involvement in the Antiteater collective, before he began making films under the influence of German-American melodramatist Douglas Sirk. Of the films made beginning with 1969's Love Is Colder Than Death and before his Sirkian Merchant of Four Seasons in 1971, five of them have been recently re-released on Region 1 DVD by Criterion's Eclipse sublabel, including The American Soldier, which happens to be my own favorite of his work from this period I've seen thus far.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley at 7:00.

WHY: Seeing Fassbinder films in isolation is great, but seeing them in dialogue with each other as part of a retrospective is even better, as I notice ways in which they speak to each other across years of the filmmaker's career. If I hadn't seen Love Is Colder Than Death and Fear Of Fear in short succession would I have noticed that opera music coming from Ulrich Faulhaber's television in a key scene from the latter is the very same duet from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier that composer Peer Raben augmented with electronic sounds for the memorable supermarket scene of the former? And if I hadn't seen Ali: Fear Eats the Soul at the PFA just a couple days before seeing The American Soldier at the Roxie, would the scene (depicted in the screen capture above) in which a character recounts the plot of Ali, four years before it was filmed, have hit so hard?  If you attended Ali: Fear Eats the Soul at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts last night you have an extra incentive to make it to The American Soldier tonight. 

But with the BART Union forced to strike by management of the transit system, you may have to pick your film options this weekend based on where you live and can most easily travel to and from. If you're in Berkeley, you're in great shape to see Fassbinder tonight (Beware of a Holy Whore screens as well as The American Soldier), Pasolini tomorrow and/or Moroccan filmmaker Moumen Smihi (in person) on Sunday. If you're in San Francisco, you'll have to wait until Sunday for your Fassbinder fix, as YBCA screens The Merchant of Four Seasons. Tonight you might want to see a rare 35mm print of a film by another German-language filmmaker working in the 1970s, as postwar Swiss master Kurt Früh's final film Der Fall opens the Zurich/SF weekend festival at New People Cinema.

HOW: 35mm print.

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