Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…
ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974) and CHINESE ROULETTE (1976)
This was a particularly difficult cheat sheet to do. Not because there weren’t enough options, but because there were too many. There are so many combinations of great Fassbinder films that would be equally valid, but we’re pretty happy programming this particular pairing. We kick your evening off with Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. For a director with a reputation as an edgy provocateur, it’s something of a surprise to see a film as gentle and beautiful as Ali. It follows the unlikely relationship that forms between a 60-year-old widowed cleaning woman, and a younger Moroccan immigrant. Fassbinder’s love of Douglas Sirk films are apparent, and Ali is often hailed as his masterpiece. Follow that up with Chinese Roulette, a tremendously-engaging psychological thriller about a married man and woman who simultaneously discover they are cheating on one another. They decide to try to be civil and spend the weekend together as a foursome, but things are complicated when their young daughter and her governess unexpectedly appear. It’s dramatic, thrilling and a must-watch.
Substitutions: Can’t get or have already seen Ali: Fear Eats the Soul? Then seek out 1975’s Fox and his Friends, a superb drama starring Fassbinder as a decidedly unsophisticated circus performer who wins the lottery and falls in love with the son of an industrialist. If you can’t get or have already seen Chinese Roulette, check out 1972’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. The film takes place within the bedroom of the titular Petra, a fashion designer who falls obsessively in love with a cunning, working-class young woman seeking a career in modeling. It’s a twisty psychological drama ever bit as compelling as Chinese Roulette.
The Hidden Gem: Want to see something from off the beaten path? Check out 1973’s World on a Wire. This was Fassbinder’s only science fiction film, adapted from Daniel F Galouye’s Simulacron-3 and made as a two-part TV series. You’ll be amazed at how many modern science fiction classics were so obviously inspired by this fantastic work.
The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Rebecca Harkins-Cross talking Rainer Werner Fassbinder, will be released on the morning of July 31 (AEST).