A movie log 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

Monday, July 16, 2018

The American Soldier (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1970)

Karl Scheydt in The American Soldier
Ricky: Karl Scheydt
Rosa von Praunheim: Elga Sorbas
Jan: Jan George
Doc: Hark Bohm
Cop: Marius Aicher
Chambermaid: Margarethe von Trotta
Gypsy: Ulli Lommel
Magdalena Fuller: Katrin Schaake
Singer: Ingrid Caven
Ricky's Mother: Eva Ingeborg Scholz
Ricky's Brother: Kurt Raab
Prostitute: Irm Hermann
Police Chief: Gustl Datz
Franz Walsch: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Screenplay: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cinematography: Dietrich Lohmann
Film editing: Thea Eymèsz
Music: Peer Raben

Is The American Soldier an hommage to American film noir or is it a satiric glance at the ongoing European fascination with that genre? I like to think that it's the latter, Fassbinder's snarky take on the movies' hard-drinking anti-heroes who, like Alain Delon in Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967) for one example, affect trenchcoats and fedoras as they go about their murderous business. Surely Ricky's sharply angled hat and his omnipresent bottle of Ballantine's are tongue-in-cheek allusions to those cinematic predecessors. The American Soldier isn't up to much else. Fassbinder is playing around with his usual company as well as giving himself another opportunity to play a character named Franz Walsch, which he did in Love Is Colder Than Death (1969) before handing over the role to Harry Baer in Gods of the Plague (1970). The film's real highlight is its loopy, nonsensical ending, in which Ricky's brother wrestles with the dying Ricky as their mother looks on impassively. Otherwise, it's really for Fassbinder completists.

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