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A lethal dose of alcohol and cocaine killed him one night as he was working on a screenplay that dealt with the story of Rosa Luxemburg, the famous German communist who was executed by a right-wing paramilitary group in 1919. It is very important to understand the context which produced Fassbinder.
Things changed at the end of 1970 when he saw six films by Douglas Sirk at the Filmmuseum in Munich.
Sirk’s greatest films were made in the ’50s, and he was a master of melodrama, which in his day essentially meant weepies intended for female audiences.
The list is an extraordinary one: Fritz Lang, Friedrich Murnau, Josef von Sternberg, Erich von Stroheim, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, Douglas Sirk...
Not only were the riches of German culture discredited, but their artistic “fathers” were in exile.
I've written a lot about Rainer Werner Fassbinder here at The Mumpsimus, and a few years ago created a video essay about his early films when Criterion released five of them as part of their (apparently discontinued) Eclipse series of bare-bones releases. viewers, at least, now have access to a big selection of Fassbinder films via TCM's new streaming site, Filmstruck, which replaced Hulu as the home to Criterion's streaming service.
Science Terminology Glossary - Fassbinder Essay
I'm giving Filmstruck a test ride, and so of course have delved into the Fassbinder titles.
Young Germans of the postwar generation had to deal with a blank map when it came to their own cultural referents.
This was particularly true when it came to the cinema, as so many giants of German cinema had left Germany for Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s because of Hitler.
He moved from one to another, never tapping the same source more than once in the same year.
The films definitely have a “TV look,” as you will see, but they are highly sophisticated cinematically.