Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hanna Schygulla, Lilith Ungerer, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Elga Sorbas, Doris Mattes, Irm Hermann, Peter Moland, Hans Hirschm�ller, Harry Baer, Hannes Gromball
Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: German, with English subtitles
Running Time: 88
Date: 10/08/1969

Katzelmacher (1969)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Not for Nothing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's second film rarely moves, but simmers with a kind of rancid, unnamable anger. A group of friends hang out in the street. Some of them have jobs, and some don't. Very often they go drinking. Most of the time they insult one another, or sleep with each other's girlfriends/boyfriends. Everything changes when a Greek immigrant (Fassbinder) arrives, providing a direct outlet -- and a target -- for their fears and troubles. Shot in black-and-white, and in 16mm, the camera mostly stays still, but occasionally cuts to a similar traveling shot of various pairs of characters walking through the same back alley; it's dry, but deliberately stylized. (It feels like it could have been a play.) Sometimes Fassbinder uses silence and space for deadpan jokes, but the levity doesn't last long. It's unpleasant and undeniably powerful, and an amazing achievement for Fassbinder, who must have been 23 or 24 when he shot it. Hanna Schygulla and Irm Hermann are among the familiar faces who would go on to busy careers with the prolific director.

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