Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Friday, December 15, 2006

Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)

The second, after The Marriage of Maria Braun in the BRD trilogy (but last chronologically, how tricky of Fassbinder!), Veronika Voss is the story of the titular faded actress, a big star during the Third Reich, but since the war, is out of work and a morphine addict. She lives with Dr. Katz, a neurologist who supplies her with morphine and sleeping pills (at a price) and has a history of getting patients hooked on morphine and signing their entire estates over to her. Veronika is no different; Katz is a really creepy character, and insists multiple times to Veronika that they are "best friends," that they'll live together in Veronika's estate. Veronika meets and falls for sports journalist Robert Krohn, who might love her back, in spite of already having a girlfriend, Henrietta. All these people's lives start to orbit around Veronika, just the way Veronika likes it, and there are tragic consequences all around.

Fassbinder based Veronika's life on that of Sybille Schmitz, a real German actress who fell hard after the end of World War II. The directing and cinematography are literally breathtaking, as the first scene on a movie set, with lights twinkling and people hurrying around, made me gasp out of its beauty. The film itself is a sumptuous black and white, and it really does feel like a film about Voss' life, not a film made in the 80s looking back at the late 40s. It is very timely, and is equally in place with Sirk's melodramas (Sirk was a great influence on Fassbinder, and nowhere is it more apparent than here and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) and cultural critiques of post-war Germany. It is authentically German, and authentically about its time, a magnificient feat on Fassbinder's part.

Not only is it almost perfectly directed, the acting and script (although the ending is obvious, it seems more inevitable than hackneyed) are wonderful as well. In 1982, Fassbinder made his final two films, Veronika Voss and Querelle, two films that couldn't be more different. In the Fassbinder biography I'm reading right now (Love is Colder Than Death, a sensationalistic account of Fassbinder's life - needless to say, it's incredibly interesting and I will post on it once I'm done!), Robert Katz describes Fassbinder's desire to do a "hat trick": he won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for Veronika Voss, he thought he could win the Palm d'Or at Cannes for Querelle (which I'm sure he could have if he had had studio backing behind him), and then thought he would win first prize at the Venice Film Festival for a film he hadn't even written or filmed yet, but would that summer to be ready for September. I'm sure he could have done it, and if these 1982 films are any indication, we lost Fassbinder far, far too soon. I would give a lot to see where he would have gone next.


RIYL: BRD Trilogy, Douglas Sirk

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