A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, August 19, 2016

Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)

Veronika Voss, the last film released before Fassbinder's death, is a somewhat campy melodrama with overtones of Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950). Veronika (Rosel Zech) is a faded star, whose career began during the Third Reich. There are rumors that she was sexually involved with Joseph Goebbels, which is one reason for her career decline in the postwar era -- the film is set in Munich in 1955.  She accidentally meets a sportswriter, Robert Krohn (Hilmar Thate), who has no idea who she is -- a fact that fascinates Veronika, who retains delusions of her celebrity. Krohn in turn is fascinated by Veronika, and sets out to learn more about her, with disastrous consequences for him, his girlfriend Henriette (Cornelia Froboess), and Veronika herself. Veronika is a virtual captive of Dr. Marianne Katz (Annemarie Düringer), a neurologist who keeps her supplied with morphine. Dr. Katz's household is an odd one indeed, consisting of a woman named Josefa (Doris Schade), who is apparently the doctor's assistant and perhaps her lover, and an African American GI (Günther Kaufmann), who seems to be a household factotum and wanders around the clinic/apartment singing snatches of American pop songs of the era. There is a film noir element to the movie, photographed in black and white by Xaver Schwarzenberger, although sometimes it becomes film blanc -- Fassbinder likes to revert to dazzling white sets and starburst filters, especially in scenes where Dr. Katz's villainy is manifest. The result is a film in which style often overwhelms content, but with intriguing results. There is, as I suggested, a prevalent note of camp, especially in scenes involving the doctor and her household and when Veronika sings a torchy, baritonal version of the old Dean Martin hit, "Memories Are Made of This," in the manner of Marlene Dietrich.

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