The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released from Arrow and the films on them.
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nick
grace thought I was a failure
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:42 am
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Re: The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection

#151 Post by nick » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:45 am

I finished Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day a few nights ago and I think this might be Fassbinder’s most humanistic work. Honestly I never expected a character like Grandma to show up in a Fassbinder film: she has such an enthusiasm, initiative, and persistence that it’s easy to get caught up in her scheming and swayed by her charm.

One of the aspects I really appreciate is how much the film shows people at their job and how work, and the politics of work, affect their lives: The way frustration at work often carries over into home life. Where I often feel that Fassbinder’s main theme is power dynamics (dominance and submissiveness), which are still relevant in Eight Hours, here he is much less cynical about relationships, choosing to show familial warmth and bonding (even through bickering!). Jochan and Marion’s relationship often centers around discussions of work, with Marion offering clarity to Jochan’s raw ideas and sense of justice.

There are still power dynamics, most obviously in the case of Harald and Monica. But even here Fassbinder offers more depth to the abusive Harald, ultimately showing that his authoritarian violence is a front to his sense of inadequacy.

ozufils
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:30 am

Re: The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection

#152 Post by ozufils » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:33 am

Totally agree. The charming grandma, even with her petty connivances, expresses a warmth that's not very different from similar characters in ozu's films.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection

#153 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 30, 2020 12:18 am

Chinese Roulette used to be my hands-down favorite RWF, and while a return didn't bowl me over like the first watch did, it's still sitting near the top of his oeuvre. This is Fassbinder’s most puckish film, where the cruelty is earned through a combination of specifically-deserved mockery and broad-minded sympathy for humanity’s sensitivities. No matter how awful these characters are, there’s a tragedy to how soft and vulnerable they are, a weakness Fassbinder identifies with and feels empathy for, just as he does with the projective spouts of emotion that attempt to hide the pains of isolation by connecting through maladaptive harm. The acidic humor revolves around the objective interplay, cut through to reveal a universally terrifying pathos. We don’t care about any of these people, just their existential trappings that hit our own Achilles' heels of psychosocial horror.

Even before the titular game beings, Angela spends the bulk of the narrative playing 'games' with the adults in her life as unwitting chess pieces. She is getting power where she can, as kids do, but we also suspect that she's playing by the rules emulated from her social context; her parents gaming each other through lies and secrets, Gabriel doing the same with his plagiarizing, Kast enabling everyone through posing as a pathetic gatekeeper without an identity of her own. Angela's mother resents her, the innocent, due to her own failings and incapacity to actualize her full desires openly. So it would logically make sense for Angela to project her own anger reciprocally on her mother. The irony is that everyone wears their selfishness on their sleeves, even as they hide their other emotions, relational secrets, etc.

As for the game, well... no wonder Sarris supposedly taught a whole class on this film. The game is intricate in how it dominates its opponents, which are really everyone in the room regardless of who they're distinctively talking about. By coding reflections of one’s feelings for another person, passive aggression finds its sharpest weapons in what is left unsaid. The game forges vague reflections from clear cultural representations (including people both in the room or artists, symbols in psychological art-test suppositions, roles in historical events) to define the way they see the mystery person in question. All must evaluate themselves against these overwhelmingly nebulous, and thus threatening, anti-signifiers by the nature of their invisible connotations from the beholders. If 'hate' was an obvious implication, I doubt anybody would have been so affected, but unknown judgments engulf the subjects in the oil of everything they know, from superficial ideas to intimately familiar people, and they are forced to wonder what others' associations are to these terms. This then triggers another awful reminder for each person on the other team: that they don't really have a pulse on anyone else. They are each so. fucking. alone.

If a key theme is how fragile our egos are, it's significant that only one round of this game is able to be played before ids erupt. They can’t bear to cope with this kind of flooding paranoia, and there is a sadomasochistic pleasure in unmasking this vulnerability, just as there is a relatable discomfort when we process the idea of being in their place. The cowardice of anyone but Angela to be transparently honest is worth exploiting though, and my favorite moment of the film is when they all go after the ‘help’ in their final answer (of course), protecting themselves and one another from the shame for a brief instant, to engage in a self-fulfilling prophecy by projecting onto the safest mascot in the room, as Angela immediately calls them all out for doing! They can't possibly believe it's her, but it doesn't matter- they choose to believe it because any alternative is too insufferable to endure even musing on internally.

The mystery of the second gunshot disinvites us to join in finding out who is the second most ego-fragile person in the room, and who provokes them into violence to cope… a mystery that reflects the dense, disturbing, confounding experience of witnessing the game and engaging in negative self-reflection while wondering what others think about you- as a half-truthful consideration of who you really are. Why are we not invited? Well, probably because it doesn't matter. The first answer in the game was obvious, given the information we had through the narrative as well as the body language and framing of the scene- but it was still tense, because everyone in the room was being tortured through their persecution-complexes being tested. Now that we've experienced this horror by proxy, there's no need to know who is next to cave to their ids to protect their egos, as their culturally-ingrained consciences crumble. We only know that it's definitely not Angela who fires the gun, for her weapon is exploiting these deficits in the adults around her with language and wit, nor Traunitz, who supports her by doing the same via sign language. It's an anti-mystery because by now we know that they're all equally empty characters, vapid personalities -not because they don't have them but because they're hidden from everyone, including themselves- and so with the information we're given, only their emotional control is salient. Who fires the second shot (or any subsequent ones) doesn't matter, as the game has been established and the consequences set in motion, so all that matters is that someone else does- and that action, divorced from any of its details, evokes the brutal point that the violence was not specific to the mother-daughter dynamic, but to the intolerability of psychological challenge to adults, as Fassbinder sees them.

The final image we see is texted script: a binding-marriage vow question asks us to consider whether we really want to be tied to another human being, who morphs and becomes unknowable and leads to tragedy, or perhaps even exist in a social world. Does Angela want to be killed? Does she hurt others as a death wish, or simply because she is so hurt herself? Is this the only strategy she -or Fassbinder- knows to implement to stay alive, acerbically provoking others' emotions in order to feel stable? If humanity's cowardice, and failure to be honest, is worth exploiting- and if Fassbinder relates to these people, as I assume he does- this film feels a bit like a suicide note; or an admission that he needs to continually, masochistically exploit himself for a chance at salvation.

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