Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Rainer's Parade: Many of the Great Films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, One of the Cinema's Foremost Self-Destructive Geniuses, Are Headed to DVD for the First Time. (Video)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Rainer's Parade: Many of the Great Films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, One of the Cinema's Foremost Self-Destructive Geniuses, Are Headed to DVD for the First Time. (Video)

Article excerpt

I would like to build a house with my films," Rainer Werner Fassbinder once remarked. "Some are the cellar, others the walls, still others the windows. But I hope in the end it will be a house." And beginning in June, movie lovers of all stripes have an unprecedented opportunity to explore that house, particularly some of its less-frequented rooms, when a generous sampling of works of the late, great gay German filmmaker make its DVD debut. Wellspring Media's rollout of Fassbinder rifles will start with The Merchant of Four Seasons, the drama of a lumpen-prole loser that first put him on the international filmmaking map, and Fox and His Friends, his excoriating comedy-drama of class relations among seemingly "liberated" gay men.

Between 1969 and his death in 1982, Fassbinder wrote and directed 38 features, the monumental miniseries Berlin Alexanderplatz, and a number of short works, while also acting in his films and those of others. It's a record of achievement awe-inspiring in its breadth and depth, especially as it coexisted with a life equally remarkable for its relentless self-destructiveness. He may have managed to turn his old high school classmate Hanna Schygulla into the greatest star to come out of Germany since Marlene Dietrich and given actresses Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven, Irm Hermann, and Rosel Zech the roles of which acting dreams are made, yet two of his lovers committed suicide, and the question remains open as to whether Fassbinder's own death was deliberate, accidental, or simply the inevitable consequence of a life of both gastronomic and controlled-substance excess.

Yet while Fassbinder remains a signal figure for those who recall his '70s heyday, to a new generation he's something of an obscure shadow from the past. And that's because so little of his work has been in video circulation. While his controversial, wildly antirealist adaptation of Jean Genet's homoerotic sailor story, Querelle, has been available on DVD for some time, and Whity--his ultraobscure Western starring Schygulla and Gunther Kaufman (a lover whose life hasn't ended in suicide) can be found at discriminating DVD dealers--his major works slipped from video view years ago, and his minor ones have never been seen outside festivals and museums. …

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