Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Love Is Colder than Death": gangster comedy was Fassbinder's first film

I tried an older film tonight, said to be Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s first feature film, “Love Is Colder than Death” (“Liebe is kalter als der Tod”, 1969).  This was the first of a triptych of three gangster films (“Gods of the Plague” and “The American Soldier”).  The Wellspring DVD has a trailer also for “Beware of the Holy Whore”.
It is shot in rather simple sets, in black and white, in Munich, in the 60s, in West Germany, long before unification.  The film tends to go outdoors in the second half. The box-cut style is supposed to add to humor.
Fassbinder plays Franz, a somewhat unattractive pimp, who refuses to join a mob.  A hit man Bruno (Ulli Lommel), quite attractive, is sent after him, but they become, so to speak, friends.  Franz even let Bruno sleep with his girlfriend, Johanna (Hannah Shygulla).  When she gets tired of Bruno, he plots to kill her but is killed by police himself.   

The problem with the concept of the film, for me, is that the hero himself doesn't inspire much sympathy or admiration. Of course, being forced to join something is a big problem, as always with organized crime.  Today that's an ISIS tactic. 
Netflix offers the Wellspring DVD but the Criterion Collection also carries it.
I was in “West Germany” once, in 1972, and could see the Wall from the train north of Frankfurt at one point.  I would visit Berlin (unified) in 1999, as well as Dresden, and take the night train East to Cracow. 

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