Friday, February 26, 2010

#143 The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972)


Director:Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast: Margit Carstensen, Katrin Schaake, Hanna Schygulla, Eva Mattes, Irm Hermann, Gisela Fackeldey

I have to perfectly honest and say that this movie had me grinding my teeth at first. I was totally lost by this bizarre, slow-moving film, shot entirely in German (not my favorite of languages to listen to either...).

Then, slowly, I think I started to understand that I was witnessing something much bigger and much more extravagant than just an artsy German film.

But let me step back for a minute.

This film is the story of cruel, selfish fashion designer Petra Von Kant, who treats her servant terribly and indulges herself in her own philosophies about love and life. Marlene, get me gin. Get me brandy. Do your sketches. And so on, so forth. She eventually is introduced to young Karin, whom she immediately falls in love with, promising to start her a succesful modeling career if she moves in. Karin obliges, and the two begin a relationship that is beyond complicated. Karin eventually retreats to men-- strangers and her estranged husband, and it sends Von Kant stumbling back into reality in a fit of rage and hysteria.

For one, the film is shot with amazing consideration for composition. Every shot is posed like a renaissance painting-- to the point where it is absolutely obvious and awkward. It does, however, allow you time to focus on the meaning behind the rigid compositions, and I guarantee, they are all 6 feet thick with symbolism. One thing I found so striking were the way Von Kant's mannequins resembled her so much, and the way they were used/positioned/played with to create meaning in the scenes. FOr instance, after Karin's leaving, Von Kant mourns her losses in her bedroom with all the furniture removed. It is only after some time that the camera pans and allows you to see the way she has moved her furniture and mannequins to reconstruct scenes from her happier days in an adjoining room. Truly creepy.

I'm having such a hard time writing about this film because it was really just so bizarre... and boring... and beautiful... and meaningful... and drab... and emotional. I can't make up my mind. One thing is for sure though, in its absence of any real action... this is a very erotic film. I also believe it was one of the first lesbian films.
But I might be wrong.

Maybe I'll come back to this.
My head is still spinning.

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