Sunday, June 13, 2010

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is an actor, director and screenwriter. Rainer Fassbinder made over 40 films in his short turbulent life. He is among the most important figures in New German Cinema.

Rainer Fassbinder was May 31, 1945 in the small Bavarian town of Bad Wörishofen,Germany three weeks after the Americans entered the town and the unconditional surrender of Germany in World War II.

A part of cultured bourgeois family, he had an unconventional childhood about which he would later talk about in interviews. At three months old, he was left with a paternal uncle and aunt in the country, since his parents feared he would not survive the winter with them. When was a year old he was returned to his parents in Munich.

His father, Helmut Fassbinder, a doctor near Munich’s red light district, saw his career as the means to indulge his passion for writing poetry. He had two sons from a previous marriage, did not take much interest in Rainer, and neither did his mother Liselotte, who was busy helping her husband in his medical practice. His parents divorced in 1951 and at the age of six, he was left to be raised alone with his mother.

To provide for them, she rented out rooms and found employment as a translator, but tuberculosis kept her away for long periods while she recuperated. Rainer was looked after by his mother's tenants and friends, but he became more independent and uncontrollable. He spent time in the streets, sometimes playing with other boys, sometimes just watching the world around him.

He clashed with his mother's younger lover Siggi, who lived with them when Rainer was eight and the later with the much older journalist Wolff Eder, who became his stepfather in 1959. His mother, working as an English- German translator, could not concentrate with her son around her and often gave him money to go to the movies and occupy his time. As an adult, he would claim that he saw a film nearly every day and sometimes as many as three or four. "The cinema was the family life I never had at home."

In compliance with his mother's wishes, he altered the date of his birthday to 1946 in order to enhance his status as a cinematic prodigy. Several years before his death his real age was revealed when getting his passport.

Leaving school before taking his final exams, Fassbinder immersed himself in film as his did when he was younger, but unlike then, this time it was about making them. He made his first short films at age 20, persuading an older lover to finance and act in them.

His career only lasted 15 years, but during that time he did 40 feature length films; two television film series; three short films; four video productions; twenty-four stage plays and four radio plays; and 36 acting roles in his own and others’ films. In addition to directing, he was as an actor, author, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer and theater manager.

In 1967, Fassbinder joined a radical theater troupe in Munich. He directed and acted in productions with Peer Raben, Kurt Raab, Hanna Schygulla and Irm Hermann, who became regulars in Fassbinder productions. The next year, Fassbinder directed “Katzelmacher,” his first play.

His most prolific years as a director, writer and actor in film, theater, television and radio began in 1969. He averaged releasing one film every hundred days.

Underlying his work was a strong provocative current. His pictures demonstrated a deep sensitivity to social outsiders and a hatred of institutionalized violence. He ruthlessly attacked both German bourgeois society and the larger limitations of humanity.

A major theme of his work focuses on the individual’s tragic longing for love. Among his popular films are “Love Is Colder Than Death” (1969), “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1973) and “I Only Want You to Love Me” (1976). Often considered his best work, “Berlin Alexanderplatz” (1980) was a 15-hour television drama.

Several his films deal with homosexuality, a taboo subject for major directors of the time. “Querelle” (1982) and “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1971) focus on gays and lesbians as societal outsiders.

That's not to say that there wasn't controversy about his work and career, and had attacks from all sides from the groups he offended.

His television series Eight Hours Do Not Make a Day was cut from eight to five episodes after pressure from conservatives. He was sued over his adaptation of Franz Xaver Kroetz play Jail Bait, alleging that it was obscene. Lesbians and feminists accused him of misogyny when he presented women as complicit in their own oppression in the film 'Women‘s Picture'.

His movie The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant has been cited by some feminist and gay critics as both homophobic and sexist. And many gays complained of misrepresentation in his movie Fox and his Friends.

Conservatives attacked him for his association with the radical left. Marxists said he had sold out in his depictions of left-intellectual manipulations in Mother Küsters' Trip to Heaven and of a late-blooming terrorist in The Third Generation.

The most heated criticism came for his play Garbage, the City, and Death, whose scheduled performance at the Theater am Turm in Frankfurt was canceled in 1975 amid charges of anti-semitism. The play was not performed until 1985, after Fassbinder's death. In the midst of the controversy over the play, he resigned from his directorship of the theater company, citing that he and the play had been misinterpreted.

While an incredible talent, working with Fassbinder was not easy. Coupled to his phenomenal creative energy was a wild, very self-destructive person that earned him a reputation as "the enfant terrible" of the New German Cinema. He had dysfunctional relationships with his actors and technicians with whom he who formed a surrogate family.

It was not just limited to his creative work. Drug and alcohol addiction, violent relationships with lovers, both male and female frequent public appearances in the New York City leather scene, were fodder for the tabloids and gossip columns.

Fassbinder did little to discourage the personal attacks on himself and his work. He seemed to provoke them by his aggressively non-conformist lifestyle, symbolized in his black leather jacket, battered hat, dark glasses and perennial scowl.

While he was entangled in multiple relationships with women, he more often was with men. He mixed his personal and professional life having family, friends and lovers appear in his films.

Early in his career, he had a lasting, but fractured relationship with Irm Hermann, a former secretary whom he forced to become an actress. Casting her in unglamorous roles most notably as the unfaithful wife in The Merchant of Four Seasons and the silent abused assistant in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. She idolized him, but he tormented and tortured her for over a decade. In 1977, she became involved with another man and became pregnant by him. Fassbinder proposed to her and offered to adopt the child; she turned him down.

His main romantic interest during his early period as a film director was Günther Kaufmann, a black Bavarian who was a married father of two. Kaufmann was not a trained actor when Fassbinder fell madly in love with him in 1970, and put him in his films. Fassbinder tried to buy his love with movie roles and expensive gifts, with Kaufmann destroying four Lamborghinis in a year. Kaufman appeared in fourteen of his films.

Although he claimed to be opposed to matrimony as an institution, the same year he met Kaufman he married Ingrid Caven, a regular actress in his films. Their wedding reception was recycled in the film he was making at that time, The American Soldier. Their two year marriage fell apart but their mutual admiration survived. "Ours was a love story in spite of the marriage," Ingrid explained in an interview, adding about her former husband's sexuality: "Rainer was a homosexual who also needed a woman. It’s that simple and that complex."

The three most important women of Fassbinder’s life, Irm Hermann, Ingrid Caven and Juliane Lorenz, his last partner, had no problems with his homosexuality.

In 1971, Fassbinder fell in love with El Hedi ben Salem, a Berber from Morocco. Their turbulent relationship ended violently in 1974. Salem, hanged himself in jail in 1982. Fassbinder, who barely outlived his former lover, dedicated his last film, Querelle, to Salem.

Armin Meier, a former butcher was Fassbinder's lover from 1974 to 1978. He also appeared in several films. After Fassbinder broke up with him, Meier committed suicide on Fassbinder’s birthday. He was found dead in their apartment only days later. Devastated by Armin’s suicide, Fassbinder made In a Year with Thirteen Moons to exorcise his pain.

In the last four years of his life, Fassbinder's companion was Juliane Lorenz, the editor of many of his films. They were about to marry on several occasions but never legally did. According to Lorenz, he was no longer sleeping with men; and while they were still living together, they were drifting apart the last year before his death.

Fassbinder died, June 10, 1982, from heart failure resulting from an overdose of sleeping pills and cocaine. His death marked the end of New German Cinema.


“I’d like to be for cinema what Shakespeare was for theater, Marx for politics and Freud for psychology: someone after whom nothing is as it used to be.”

21 comments:

Special K said...

Family has all gone home, with luggage! and now it is time to recover. LOL. Thanks for your patience this past last week.

Seaweed said...

Special, it appears to be a quiet weekend in any case now. Just read this weeks Out Spotlight and enjoying a bit of peace and quiet here at home.

I really enjoyed the many faces of Jake and his obvious shining disposition when in Austin's company. Great discoveries of both Austin's and Jake's other activites that don't always get noticed until much later.

Sending warm OMG wishes out to all.

Jersey Tom said...

Quiet Sunday. I agree Seaweed some of those pics show the face of a happy happy man. I love the pic of Jake running out of the furnitue store.

Well at least my struggling Phils got one today. On to play those Damn Yankees.

Cirrus said...

Wow, great Out Spotlight, one of my fave directors ever. Off to read! Glad you had a nice visit with your family Special. :)

destiny said...

I really like Fassbinder. One of my favorites is something he actually had for television, Berlin Alexanderplatz. Also love the Marriage of Maria Braun. Love Hanna Schygulla, who was in both of those works.

Interesting about his needing a woman. Was it sexual and he was bisexual, or was it more the need for a caregiver?

Special K said...

Interesting about his needing a woman. Was it sexual and he was bisexual, or was it more the need for a caregiver?

I'm not sure Destiny. I wonder that as I was writing this up and reading about his childhood. Despite his success on the screen everything else around him was so dysfunctional. I can't imagine what all was going on that had two of the men he was involved with commit suicide. His relationship Irm Hermann unfortunately involved domestic violence as well.

Its seems that the one place that has some sense of peace for him was creating.

Special K said...

Tough about the Phillies Tom. But it wasn't a sweep. Yesterday my nephew called me excited about the tie in the US/England game, he tells me that he thinks Portugal will take the World Cup.

Tonight Celts/Lakers. Game 5. Go Celtics! Beat LA!

OMG said...

It's great when people defy being pigeon-holed tho. Every person is unique.

Great song today too - I loved Bauhaus and Peter Murphy's voice. :)

m said...

Despite being a movie buff, I have never watched a single one of his films. Interesting life.

I am waiting anxiously for True Bloods return tonight. My husband will be watching the basketball game in the other room so I'll keep up to speed with that too, but naked Skarsgaard trumps basketball for me.

destiny said...

It's the Tony's for me. Although I wish they'd stick with more traditional stage actors for presenters, and not so many television/movie people.

Sean Hayes is doing a decent job, not as good as NPH. He did a very funny, long passionate kiss with Kristen Chenowith as a way of making fun of the whole Newsweek mess.

destiny said...

I'll catch True Blood on demand tomorrow night.

Jersey Tom said...

Watching CN tonight I just learned there will be a 2 hr special about two men having a baby together on Thurs. June 24th.

Special K said...

Celtics - One more to go! And two chances in LA to do it.

Beat LA!

ted said...

In exact order.

Dear Ted:
Were Reese and Jake friends before they began dating? I wouldn't think they'd run in the same circles. Also, how long has she known her current boyfriend? Forgive me for being greedy but do you know if Reese and Rob are getting along on the set?
—Kristi

Dear Interrogation:
Yes, they were pals. H'wood is a small town; you'd be surprised who's friends with who. Can't give you an exact time line on Reese and her new beau, but things heated up fairly quickly 'cause he's absolutely perfect for her. And yes, no problems on set. Whew, that was a lot of work.

Dear Ted:
When there are B.V.s from the past (like Robert Downey Jr. or Cameron Diaz), why don't you say who they are, especially if they have changed their ways. Is it legal issues, or just good ol' fun?
—Peach

Dear Blind but Not Forgotten:
Couple of reasons. Legal, of course. Plus, what if they reverted to their old ways and I had to dust off their Vice for an impromptu return? In the meantime, if they've cleaned up their acts, why drudge up the past?

Dear Ted:
With long ongoing Blind Vices like Toothy Tile how do you keep managing to get the story? If it were me you were writing about, I'd find out the source and shut them up fast.
—L

Dear Plug the Leak:
These stars work with so many people, it's nearly impossible to peg exactly who's got loose lips. Plus, Toothy loves the attention—just as long as he can pull back into his closet when he wants.

Dear Ted:
Is Shafterella Shoshstein Demi Lovato?
—A

Dear No, No, No:
Demi is not even close to as evil as Shafty. But maybe she should take some pointers? It definitely helped S.S. become a star.

Bitch Back

lol said...

Poor couch frumps, your oracle Ted has confirmed that J&A's relationship is a farce.

?? said...

What are you talking about?

Stop said...

Please ignore troll named lol. These posters just want a reaction. Stop reacting and you ruin their little game.

lol said...

Who needs a reaction when Ted has confirmed that the reeke showmance meant more to J than his supposed marriage to A, and their spawn of swirling juices.

Bonarooooooooo said...

Ack, speaking of BT, do you think Sophin took the little
one with them to Bonaroo and then promptly left him/her in a trailer somewhere?

Special K said...

Saw mention of Bonaroo, but it was two mention and then a bunch of retweets from OTH fans.

If they were they I'm sure her gossip go-to Jared was emailed the exclusive with pics.

TN said...

Yeah some of my FB friends were there and have pics of them on their pages.