To mark the 35th anniversary of the death of the prolific – and brutal – West German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Picturehouse Cinemas presents a selection of six of his most acclaimed films, all screening in new digital restorations at select sites, including Picturehouse at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
The new restorations of Fassbinder’s films have been long absent from British cinemas but, with their edge unblunted by time, they are worth the wait. “Wunderkind provocateur Rainer Werner Fassbinder was undoubtedly one of cinema’s most astonishing and original voices,” says programmer Deborah Allison. “His work had an enormous impact on the emergent New German Cinema and international film culture alike, and, after the breakout success of The Marriage Of Maria Braun (1979), he would become a leading light of the international art-house circuit.”
Focus On Rainer Werner Fassbinder consists of six films from the second phase of the filmmaker’s career, which was heavily influenced by the work of fellow West German director Douglas Sirk:
The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant 
Thu 3 August, 6pm
Successful fashion designer Petra conducts a sadomasochistic relationship with her assistant until an ambitious model upsets the balance of power. Filmed in long, elegant close-shot, confined to a camp, sumptuous apartment dedicated to erotic pleasure, Fassbinder’s first international success provoked accusations of misogyny. Openly bisexual, the director insisted that currents of dominance and submission underpin all relationships, gay or straight.
The Merchant of Four Seasons 
Thu 10 August, 6pm
Fassbinder’s first venture into popular melodrama, this is a compelling study of the humiliating, self-perpetuated downfall of fruit vendor Hans, whose aspirations are undermined by his social circumstances, and whose disintegration is met with indifference by those around him.
Fear Eats the Soul [12A]
Thu 17 August, 6pm
A superb, deceptively simple tale of the doomed love affair between an ageing cleaner and a young Moroccan immigrant, which exposes the racial prejudice and moral hypocrisy at the heart of West German society. Inspired by Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, and drawing on the conventions of 1950s Hollywood melodrama, Fassbinder uses dramatic and visual excess to push everyday events to extremes.
Chinese Roulette 
Thu 24 August, 6pm
A bitter young girl brings her emotionally estranged parents together at their country house for a weekend full of shocking revelations. Artfully shot, with a nosy, circling camera, Chinese Roulette is a vicious indictment of victimhood, martyrdom and the games people will play in order to destroy one other.
Fox and His Friends 
Thu 31 August, 6pm
After winning the lottery, a naive working-class carnival entertainer (Fassbinder in one of his most raw and astonishing performances) embarks on a tragic path as he searches for love and social betterment within an avaricious bourgeois clique of Munich’s gay community. The final scene of this biting social commentary is perhaps the most shocking in all of Fassbinder’s films.
The Marriage of Maria Braun 
Thu 7 Sep, 6pm
In Fassbinder’s most popular international success, Maria, an impoverished young German war widow, takes up with an American soldier, only for her lost husband to unexpectedly return with devastating consequences. Determined to rebuild her life, Maria’s journey to the top is a searing indictment of post-war Germany’s ‘economic miracle’.
Tickets are on sale at picturehouses.com, in person at Box Office and over the phone: 0871 902 5756 (13p per minute plus your telephone company’s access charge).