Totally, Tenderly, Tragically: Fassbinder (Week 3)

21 Jun

In a Year of 13 Moons

Sadly, just as Fassbinder ended too early, as does cinematheque’s retrospect of him. To send us out we have The Third Generation (1979) and In A Year of 13 Moons (1978); quite the stark contrast to each other.

Coming off the success of The Marriage of Maria Braun, Fassbinder’s The Third Generation continued to cause both commercial success and controversy. Featuring a cast of Fassbinder regulars and some of Europe’s most well-known screen icons at the time (Hanna Shygulla, Bulle Ogier, Eddie Constantine…) Fassbinder wrote, directed and shot the film himself.

Here, Fassbinder departs from his WWII films, instead focusing on the current political, social and economic conditions of Germany in the late 1970s. It is carnival season and we follow a group of bourgeois intellectual terrorists who have kidnapped an industrialist and plan on spreading revolution, seemingly to drawing on the teachings from German philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer. But not all is as it seems, as mistaken identities, double-crossings, capitalist tendencies, and second-thoughts abound – it is only a matter of time before it all starts to unravel.

The Third Generation

Within Germany The Third Generation caused great unease among cinema goers and disdain from critics, all of whom felt unease with Fassbinder making a farce of the post-war succeeding generations. At the Cannes festival that year it was upheld for its accomplishments, and is now viewed as one of Fassbinder’s best films.

To finish: In A Year of 13 Moons, a film as personal as ever. It follows Erwin Weishaupt who had undergone a sex change in the hope of winning the heart of his heterosexual business partner, Anton after he once remarked, “too bad you aren’t a woman”. Now known as Elvira, the film follows her final days as she seems to drift through life trying to find the happiness she was sure would follow her transition. A mix of tainted memories and joyous flashbacks – along with a slaughter-house scene that leaves nothing to the imagination – Fassbinder was able to find a way of beautifully paying respect to his recently deceased lover, the actor Armin Meier.

Melbourne Cinematheque plays every Wednesday at the Australian Cinematheque. Read Last weeks Fassbinder, and all Eleanor’s other Cteq posts here.


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