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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • German PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interviews with Ballhaus and actors Margit Carstensen, Eva Mattes, Katrin Schaake, and Hanna Schygulla
  • New interview with film scholar Jane Shattuc
  • Role Play: Women on Fassbinder, a 1992 German television documentary by Thomas Honickel featuring interviews with Carstensen, Schygulla, and actors Irm Hermann and Rosel Zech

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla, Katrin Schaake, Eva Mattes, Gisela Fackeldey, Irm Hermann
1972 | 124 Minutes | Licensor: Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #740
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 13, 2015
Review Date: February 24, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

In the early 1970s, Rainer Werner Fassbinder discovered the American melodramas of Douglas Sirk and was inspired by them to begin working in a new, more intensely emotional register. One of the first and best-loved films of this period in his career is The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which balances a realistic depiction of tormented romance with staging that remains true to the director's roots in experimental theater. This unforgettable, unforgiving dissection of the imbalanced relationship between a haughty fashion designer (Margit Carstensen) and a beautiful but icy ingenue (Hanna Schygulla)-based, in a sly gender reversal, on the writer-director's own desperate obsession with a young actor-is a true Fassbinder affair, featuring exquisitely claustrophobic cinematography by Michael Ballhaus and full-throttle performances by an all-female cast.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Rainer Werner Fassbinderís The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant comes to Blu-ray through The Criterion Collection, who presents the film with a new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation on a dual-layer disc. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Filmed in one location with a limited colour palette the film doesnít seem like the type that would truly impress on the format, but that isnít the case at all: itís a stunner of a presentation, delivering terrific detail and great depth, despite the limitations of the filmís setting. The image looks consistently crisp throughout, delivering textures and fine details (specifically in some of the outfits that appear throughout) and the colours, despite the limited autumn tones, are vibrantly rendered, looking pure and natural. Black levels are also deep and rich without crushing out details.

As with other Fassbinder releases from Criterion as of late the print appears to be in extraordinary shape, with little to no damage present. In all itís an impressive looking presentation beyond what I would have expected.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM mono track can come off a bit flat with little fidelity, but dialogue at least sounds clear and the music that does appear sounds clean.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Though itís disappointing to not have a commentary here, this edition stacks on a number of strong supplements starting with Outsiders, a 30-minute piece featuring interviews with actors Margit Carstensen, Eva Mattes, Katrin Schaake, and Hanna Schygulla. The four, who refer to themselves as ďoutsidersĒ in comparison to the regular group of actors Fassbinder would work with, talk about the experience of shooting the film (based on a play he wrote) and what it was like working with the director. They get into details about how he would create conflicts between the actors, and how he directed them, which was pretty basic and simple. After this they actually then talk about the more technical aspects of the shoot, including camera work and lighting, and also talk about the possible biographical elements found within the film.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus next talks briefly about the challenges in shooting the film with such a closed set (it was an actual apartment they shot in, not a set), which severely limited the movement of the camera, and the kind of look he and Fassbinder were after (classic Hollywood). He also amusingly talks about the tumultuous working relationship between him and Fassbinder, with the two apparently constantly butting heads. Itís barely 8-minutes but itís a great interview.

Criterion then includes a 23-minute interview with Jane Shattuc, professor of visual and media arts at Emerson College. She offers an examination of Fassbinderís work, which, especially in this case, great images with awful things going on in them. She focuses a lot on the victim/victimizer relationship(s) that are in the film, breaking down a few sequences and explaining how the images, the camerawork, and the framing represent this aspect. She also talks about the film as a feminist film, even though itís about women being awful to other women. I found it to be a good analysis of Fassbinderís style and classic Hollywood influences.

The disc then closes with the 58-minute German television documentary, Role Play: Women on Fassbinder. Featuring interviews with Carstensen, Schygulla, Irm Hermann, and Rosel Zech, itís a rather fascinating extension to the other interviews on this release. The four recall how difficult it could be not just to work with the man, but just to be around him in general. They share some personal stories about him, including what they know about his relationships, and their own personal feelings. Though they all appreciate his work and the work they did in his films, you get a sense that despite whatever respect they have for said work, they may not have been entirely fond of the man himself. Itís a surprisingly honest and engaging documentary, a terrific inclusion on Criterionís part.

Closing it off with a rather nice essay by Peter Matthews in the included insert, Criterion delivers a fairly loaded and well-rounded collection of supplements going over Fassbinderís style and his relationships (working and otherwise) with his actresses.

8/10

CLOSING

A strong release sporting a great visual presentation and some great supplements about the film and Fassbinder make this an easy recommendation.


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