R.W. Fassbinder and Daniel Schmid: Shadow of Angels

In his relatively brief lifetime of 37 years, Rainer Werner Fassbinder turned out 21 feature films, two TV mini-series (Berlin Alexanderplatz, Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day), 11 made-for-TV movies, 1 documentary, several film shorts, and numerous theatrical productions. He also helmed an episode of the quasi-documentary/fiction compilation Germany in Autumn (1978), served as producer on other German films like Tenderness of the Wolves (1973) and appeared as an actor, not only in many of his own films but in those of other contemporaries from the New German cinema like Volker Schlondorff. Fassbinder’s role as the contemptuous anti-social rebel Baal (1970), adapted for television by Schlondorff from Bertolt Brecht’s play, is one of his finest performances (Criterion released a beautifully restored version of it on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2018). Equally impressive but lesser known is Daniel Schmid’s Shadow of Angels (Schatten der Engel, 1976), which is based on Fassbinder’s play The Garbage, the City and Death and features R.W. in a pivotal role.

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Rocket Man

I Aim at the Stars (1960)It would be hard to find a more controversial figure in the history of space exploration than the brilliant rocket scientist Dr. Wernher von Braun, the subject of J. Lee Thompson’s biopic, I Aim at the Stars (1960).  Continue reading

The Phobophobic Housewife

Margit Carstensen tries to relax by listening to music in Fear of Fear (1975) but it doesn't stop her increasing bouts of anxiety and depression.

Margit Carstensen tries to relax by listening to music in Fear of Fear (1975) but it doesn’t stop her increasing bouts of anxiety and depression.

Films about housewives losing their identity in a marriage or slowly going bonkers from the daily rituals of domesticity are plentiful enough to form their own distinctive subgenre. Among the most intriguing of these films, all of which reflect the specific time and cultural moment in which they were made, are Frank Perry’s Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970), John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Chantal Akerman’s landmark 1975 feature, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quia du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Dusan Makavejev’s Montenegro (1981), and the curious Canadian indie Dancing in the Dark (1986), directed by Leon Marr. But the one I’d like to highlight and which I had the pleasure of revisiting recently on DVD is Fear of Fear (German title: Angst vor der Angst, 1975), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Continue reading