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Fassbinder’s Favorites

November 1, 2013 - December 14, 2013


Rainer Werner Fassbinder approached film viewing the same way he approached filmmaking, and indeed life itself: with passion. A committed cineaste in a time before DVDs, Internet streaming, or even the easy availability of videotape, Fassbinder was attracted to both excess and naïveté, artifice and heartfelt emotion, and to whatever could capture the beauty and madness of life itself. “Sirk has said that film is blood, tears, violence, hate, death, and love,” wrote Fassbinder of one of his most adored directors, Douglas Sirk. “Sirk has said you can’t make films about things, you can only make films with things, with people, with light, with flowers, with mirrors, with blood, in fact with all the fantastic things that make life worth living.”

This sidebar to our Fassbinder retrospective is merely a taste of the director’s favorites, crammed full of all the fantastic things that make life worth living, ranging from the Hollywood melodramas and genre films that he adored to French masterpieces from Jean-Luc Godard and Robert Bresson. Another of Fassbinder’s top films of all time, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, screens in our Pasolini series on October 31.

Jason Sanders, Film Notes Writer

Friday, November 1, 2013
8:50 p.m. Written on the Wind
Douglas Sirk (U.S., 1956). Robert Stack, Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, and Dorothy Malone star in Sirk’s fever-dream of a melodrama about the emotional wreckage of an oil-rich family. “In Written on the Wind the good, the ‘normal,’ the ‘beautiful’ are always utterly revolting; the evil, the weak, the dissolute arouse one’s compassion,” observed Fassbinder. (99 mins)

Friday, November 15, 2013
7:00 p.m. Pickpocket
Robert Bresson (France, 1959). A Parisian thief's anguish and redemption are played out in Bresson’s austere yet compassionate reworking of Crime and Punishment. “It is one of those consummate works of art which in one flash pales everything you have ever seen . . . an unmitigated masterpiece” (Paul Schrader). (75 mins)

Friday, November 22, 2013
7:00 p.m. Vivre sa vie
Jean-Luc Godard (France, 1962). Godard’s fragmentary portrait of a prostitute makes Anna Karina an object of endless visual fascination, and inspired Fassbinder to cast Karina in Chinese Roulette. “A film of extraordinary purity. ” (Manny Farber). (85 mins)

Saturday, December 14, 2013
6:30 p.m. Johnny Guitar
Nicholas Ray (U.S., 1954). Saloonkeeper Joan Crawford faces Mercedes McCambridge and her vengeful mob in Ray’s baroque, gender-bending Western passion play. Fassbinder named it one of his top ten favorite films. (110 mins)