My Favourite Film Number 2

This is part of my effort to write about my 100 favorite films in two pages or less. This film is important to me for a lot of reasons, as evinced by my naming the place after it. So I only hope my words help you seek it out and uncover its mysteries. 

Apocalypse Now
by Francis Ford Coppola

“You Americans are fighting for...the biggest nothing…” That’s how artists must have felt all throughout the 1970s. A friend of mine who was around for it told me that people had been predicting a progressive era before the early 60s happened. They killed everyone…the peace movement became a joke…no one seemed to believe in love anymore. The films of the 1970s all had that feel, that joy was on it’s way out. Bertolucci, Scorsese, Coppola, Makavejev, Godard, Peckinpah, Bergman; it was a tough love the great directors gave to the world in the 70s. Film theory was being tested in a big way; the old ways of the studios was essentially abandoned, and vision was now dark, elaborate, and unfathomably long. The ways of the peaceful artiste, the harmless beatnik were gone in favor of the colorful realist. The idealist was dead; murdered like the ridiculous protagonists in Easy Rider. The centerpiece of the beautiful banquet of morbidity and lost love was Apocalypse Now.

Three hours long, darker than noir and twice as violent, and astoundingly beautiful, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now long went unseen as he intended it (and unlike more zealous epics like 1900 or The Last Emperor, it does benefit from it’s length), and so the breadth of Coppola’s disdain for America/organized humanity was long unknown. The movie is not a war film as had ever been done before. It’s a message, an elegy to peace and love, written backwards. Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse follows Captain Benjamin Willard on a mission up the Nung River into Cambodia during the Vietnam war to kill a renegade colonel called Kurtz. He’s asked to do it by dry higher-ups in olive fatigues, and we will slowly learn the metaphor, the real nature of the mission as Coppola and co-writer John Millius envisioned it. Williard, the hero, has been sent to murder an idea, the innocence of America. Kurtz is an affront to order, standing in the way of the tidy military operation the men in green wish they were running. He is the free love that turned sour when Charles Manson started killing people (Manson’s face makes an appearance in a newspaper that the high-strung Chef reads in the mail). He is the irony of sending a pot-smoking 17-year-old African American to murder families to make his own family proud. The politics I suppose couldn’t be more clear-cut, the recurring musical theme is a Door’s song for pete’s sake. This is a movie that fed hundreds of cynical teenagers who’d missed 1968 by a few years.

“He dies when it dies”. Dennis Hopper’s photojournalist, the last jabbering follower of the dying colonel squeals when Willard finally arrives to do the deed. When Willard kills the man (an act just as inevitable as the one in I Shot Jesse James), his armed followers, his children, throw down their guns and obey the conquering soldier, just like the baby boomers threw away their ideas, put suits on, and started their own wars. Murder is literally everywhere and men are supposed to function as people, let alone as soldiers. Kurtz’ retreat into his own world would make sense to any bored basement-dweller today, and so the legacy of the late 70s lives on. Will they act when the time comes? The Iraq War continues. During the late 70s the young mavericks were getting to use old Hollywood stock players they had so long worshipped. Wim Wenders got Nicholas Ray, Roman Polanski got John Huston, Bernardo Bertolucci got Sterling Hayden and Burt Lancaster, and Coppola got Dennis Hopper and Marlon Brando. Brando’s first appearance in the film is not unlike a child’s nightmare. Martin Sheen, the man we’ve been pulled into complicity with, our guide through the horror of war, is a man of average height. The photograph we’ve seen of Kurtz makes him look like a beast; sasquatch or a serial killer. He lies, bathed in shadows, his enormous head and hands looking inhuman next to Sheen’s. His face is always partially shrouded in shadow, just like the mission. Of course Brando is almost no match for Sheen who gives one of his strongest performances. He wears every second of combat on his face, and I feel no one else was quite capable of taking this journey from weary GI to bleary-eyed killer and staying in control.

And what a journey. This film is as much Coppola’s as it is Walter Murch and Vittorio Storaro’s. Murch, the chief editor and sound designer gives this movie it’s frantic, combat-like pace. All war films that followed were in his debt. The sounds, breaking from the background and raging to the foreground, is riveting. Like the characters, it moves in and out of fog, becoming warped here and crystal clear there. He went to great lengths to let us know the difference between the ending throws of Ray Manzarek’s organ and the guitar solo on the small tape player at the Do Lung bridge. Storaro, already one of the greatest working cinematographers, paints the most vivid picture of his career. The last trick the movie has up its sleeve is the change in color scheme. As Willard nears his objective, the danger heightens, the death toll rises, and the colors become lush and tropical. I’m always stricken by the difference between Martin Sheen’s sweating figure and the serene water behind him. Every set piece and symbol comes in colors; the purple flares, the blood, the pink tracer rounds fired from the jungle, the deep greens that constantly surround the boat. Smoke, haze, fog, rain, fire, layer upon layer, each ignited by the ferocity of their context. It is a brilliant, bold color scheme, one that is wonderfully dissonant with the muddled humanity on display. The movie tries repeatedly to evoke the feeling of a drug-induced state; I surmise that the vividness of the color, and the incredible soundscape were attempts at recreating both the feeling of war through the filter of an acid trip.

Part of the reason I love this film as much as I do is because of the history I’ve had with it. In the sixth grade, when my dreams were still hazy, I was eyeing my first electric guitar, my love for film already cemented, my teacher, a 30-something ex-soldier, used to talk to me freely, unlike the rest of my class. We would discuss music and film (I bought him a Grateful Dead bootleg for Christmas, and he lent me The Doors greatest hits), and he suggested I watch Apocalypse Now. The sound and the color were not given justice on the warped VHS tape I rented, and there were many Americans who had never heard the word Redux, but I knew this wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before. “Do you think Kurtz was right to do that?” My teacher asked me the day after I watched it. He clearly considered doing something similar, fed up as he was with my classmates. I had no idea; I still have no idea. At the start of my senior year, after my initial foray into foreign cinema, I found it playing, heavily censored, on network television. They began running it once a week, and I made a ritual of watching it (always with guacamole chips and black bean salsa). The place where I usually tuned in was when the boat stops at a French plantation. Willard listens in a daze to the noise of an entire family (the conversation is a marvelous insight into colonial mentality, but that’s not what did it for me). After dinner Willard and Roxanne, the only member of the family not related by blood retire to the deck of the house. Her silky French tongue and the swelling synth music prepared me for something that never came; a tender love scene. Instead Roxanne takes Willard to her bedroom, gets him high like she would her deceased husband, and then undresses, a scene made more haunting in the TV edit as her naked body would become a dark blur in the lowlit room, a nightmare in the middle of a rapturous dream. The scene isn’t tender or romantic, but overpowering and urgent. Her words to him make perfect sense, more sense than anything about the Vietnam War, “All that matters is that you are alive.”

All Real Men's Likes and Dislikes

Whenever I sign out of my hotmail account I am always brought to MSN's mainpage and there is always some ridiculous article title in the center of the page. And occaisonally I'll click on it just if it is possible for the articles to get worse. And each time I am surprised to see that yes, indeed, the human race (as represented by "journalists") have less interesting or intellegent things to say.

Today I came across this article: 5 dates no guy wants to go on. By Mark Miller.

Here is the bio that is found at the end of the article: Mark Miller has written on sitcom staffs, performed stand-up comedy in nightclubs and on TV, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and enjoys reading National Geographic. He can be reached at For the gal’s point of view on bad date choices, read Don’t take a woman here!

Mr. Miller's article generalizes men (and women) grossly and lumps them all into one category. Everything in " " is Mr. Miller's:

"During courtship and dating, women — being the more creative gender — will often come up with the majority of suggestions for where they’d like to go and what they’d like to do with their romantic partner. You’d think this would be a positive thing. After all, their motivation appears genuine.

“'Oh, come on, it’ll be fun!' they say to us. And yet according to my latest “Aw, Jeez, Do I Have To?” survey of myself and my friends 96% of these suggestions are viewed by men as embarrassing, boring, or uncomfortable." *Because clearly, him and his friends, who all share the same exact interests, can speak for all men everywhere.* "Ladies, the following is inside information—a select listing of some of your most common activity suggestions, what men don’t like about them, and what we’d like to do instead

"Hiking is an activity many men look forward to with the same relish they take in reading Aristotle in the original Greek, receiving a prostate exam, or attending a Celine Dion concert." *Really? If we're using stereotypes, isn't this one backwards? I thought women were the ones who were supposed to hate hiking. Although he did say 'many men' instead of implying 'all men', hiking is something that anyone, regardless of gender, who is athletic would enjoy doing.* "The way we see it, nature is way overrated." *Fantastic. Thanks for recognizing that everyone relys on nature everyday for it's ability to grow food and provide us with medecine to name a few of numerous ecosystem services.* "How many flowers can you smell? How many sunsets can you ooh and ahh over? How many coyotes can you worry about being in the vicinity? Plus, there’s no access to the Internet or email. No TV sports." *Yes, because ALL men love watching sports on TV.* "Bugs everywhere. What about any of this spells fun? Unless you look at fun as the first three letters of funeral.

"You want your shot of nature? Invite us to the beach at sunset. Take a blanket and a six-pack, make out for half an hour," *Because apparently men only like beer and making out* "...then head home so we can get back to civilization. That’s enough nature to hold us for the next three months."

"If given the choice of how to spend a Friday or Saturday night, what guy wouldn’t vote for putting on some uncomfortable formal clothing after spending a couple of hundred dollars for tickets, then another hefty chunk for parking, all to hear overly-costumed and overly-made-up folks belting out tunes that don’t have a beat and don’t rhyme, in a language only U.N. translators can understand?" *Yes, that's right. Only U.N translaters can understand multiple languages. Although, I would agree that the average American can only understand English and no other language. And there are operas that are sung in English.* "Exactly. And yet we still get the evil look from girlfriends when we try to stay awake during Madame Butterfly by playing a video game on our cell phones.

"If we must do something cultural and uplifting, at least make it ballet, where the women are in shape, wearing form-revealing clothing and moving their bodies in ways that cause us to imagine them with us in a variety of other non-dance situations." *Excuse me. Isn't a date normally with a girlfriend, or at least somebody that you're interested in? If you are trying to imagine having sexual relations with a ballet dancer, perhaps you shouldn't be on a date. But I guess since ALL men imagine having sex with ballet dancers, then we women must submit to the idea that our dates are interested in women who are most likely skinnier than us. "It ain’t Dancing With the Stars, but it sure beats counting down the seconds ’til it’s over when the fat lady sings.

"If my extensive online-dating experience has taught me nothing else, it’s that, at least according to their dating profiles, the one thing every woman most enjoys is travelling. Yes, they all want to get out of the country and see the world, explore other cultures, become enriched and broaden their horizons." *So, now only women like to travel and study other cultures. And yet I know (and know of) many males who love the idea of traveling and want to do it.* These are all noble and worthy pursuits. Men, however, view travel slightly differently. We even spell it differently. We spell it this way: t$r$a$v$e$l. *I thought both genders worried about money. But I guess women always force men to spend money - never the other way around* "We also view it as time away from our jobs. This will virtually guarantee that not only will a huge stack of work be waiting for us upon our return (and that our bosses will find out the business runs just fine without our being there), but we’ll no doubt come down with some exotic disease and need to be treated in a culture where doctors are still playing catch-up with the wonders of Medieval medicine." *First, people travel all the time without getting sick. Second, all medecine is superstitous, inlcuding the medecine in the United States. Plus there are many, many countries that have the similar, and arguably more advanced medecine than us.*

"Got the travel bug, ladies? That’s why God created National Geographic. We’ll gladly treat you to a subscription." *Because National Geographic is like a vacation in magazine form!*

"Clothes shopping
"This is how men view clothes shopping: You get to follow your sweetie from store to store with the added bonus of holding her purse as she tries on one dress, blouse, or pair of shoes after another, while you struggle to convince her that each garment does not, in fact, make her butt look big. (Even the shoes!) Occasionally you meet the eyes of another girl’s boyfriend there against his will, and the look you give each other is as though you’re both begging, “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY NOW!”

"You want to try on clothes? Great, we’re OK with that. Just not in the mall. And we don’t care if you try to sweeten the offer with cappuccino and doing some clothes shopping for us. Instead, here’s what we would be interested in: We’ll light candles, put on some mood music, pour some wine, and you can give us a private fashion show. Oh, sure, it won’t be nearly the same without the neon lights, price tags, and judgmental stares from other women who think we’re perverts as we wait for you to emerge from the dressing room. But it’ll be close enough for us." *This has always been a stereotype of men - not wanting to go clothes shopping. And it is more true than any other the other situations that the majority of men probably do not want to go shopping with their girlfriends. I'm okay with this, given what the article is about. But still...not ALL men*

"Relationship workshops" *What couple considers a 'relationship workshop' a date? And I've never heard of any of these seminars or workshops.*
"Naturally, we men are going to want to avoid the mistakes we made in our past relationships, and we’re not averse to keeping our current romantic relationship as perfectly tuned up as our cars. But that doesn’t mean we welcome the prospect of attending the “Enhancing Couples’ Intimacy Workshop” or “The Two of You: Closer than Ever! Seminar” to which you’re so determined to drag us. It’s bad enough our intimacy needs enhancing; must we now attempt to jump-start it in a face-to-face with other romantic losers? We’d rather get up at 5 a.m. Sunday morning to join you on a bird-watching walk." *Oh, so the way to get a man to enjoy nature is to threaten to take them to a relationship workshop?* "We’d rather get in touch with our feelings and cry about what we never got to tell our fathers. We’d rather attend a taping of Ellen.

"You want to enhance our intimacy? We’re all for it. Hold our hands, kiss us passionately, give us a massage, get naked with us—you’ll be stunned at the intensity of intimacy enhancement. In fact, let’s start right now. After all, we went hiking with you; it’s your turn to do something we enjoy. Hey, where are you going? Oh, come on, it’ll be fun! *Hmm...only men enjoy sex now, and not women. A man has to force a woman to have sex with him after she forced him to go on one of the five dates no man ever wants to go on. It can be a mutally agreed on 'activity' in which both members enjoy themselves.*

After reading this, I am afraid to see what the equivalent article about females says.

The Underated Work of Genius: Freddie Francis

Freddie Francis was an odd duck. If you've heard of him, it's as Hammer studio's number two director (after Terence Fisher). He gave the world gems like Paranoiac and Day of the Triffids He delivered such misfires as Trog, The Creeping Flesh and The Deadly Bees to the british aisles during the 60s and 70s. Direct worth a damn he often could not; he was however, a pretty goddamned legendary cinematographer, up there with the the other Freddie of British camera magic, Young, the man behind Lawrence of Arabia. There's some adage or other about bands who aren't very interesting doing their best work covering other songs. It isn't quite the same thing but for whatever reason Francis couldn't give Christopher Lee an iota of direction in his own movies to save his life, but he was capable of making other people's work look gorgeous. Don't let me downplay his talent, he captured some of the most arresting photography ever committed to film.

Now the way that some of you may have ever encountered Francis performing his side job is if you've ever seen any of David Lynch's lesser known work. He was a cinematographer before he was a director, but before that, he apprenticed for a still photographer in Ealing, and then (like many other men in the horror film profession) became a war photographer. When he left the army he worked under cinematographers Oswald Morris and Christopher Challis on films like John Huston's Moby Dick and Powell and Pressburger's Tales of Hoffmann (little six degrees for you, George Romero's favorite film as a child was Tales of Hoffmann (he and Martin Scorsese unknowingly used to rent it while the other didn't have it out) and Romero would cement his cult status with Tom Savini's make-up effects, who, like Francis, had also been a war photographer, on their magnum opus Dawn of the Dead. Imagine if Francis had ever photographed a Romero, oh man). Anyway, he soon became a cinematographer, and won an academy award for his photography on Jack Cardiff's Sons and Lovers. If Jack Cardiff trusts you behind the camera - he was no slouch there himself - then you knew a major talent had arrived. His tenure as a technician was to be short-lived, as he soon went into directing full-time.

He never came close to duplicating his success as a cinematographer when he directed films (could be because they didn't trust cinematographers to make great films, so he got handed films from the bottom of the barrell. Jospeh V. Mascelli had sort of set a precedent I suppose). As it stands, most of his films were just good ideas that showed promise, but had no follow through and precious little of the mindboggling visual flare he exhibited as a cameraman. A budget the size of a caddis fly will have that effect. In the 80s through what I take to be a sort of "he's around, why don't you ask him" series of events, Francis went behind the lens to photograph David Lynch's The Elephant Man. He would give up directing in 1986 and go on to do some pretty amazing things with a camera lens. Following The Elephant Man, Lynch hired him again for Dune (a black eye, to say the least, but nothing he couldn't recover from). Soon after he did the cinematography for Glory, for which he won his second academy award. For a 72 year old man to win an oscar for something he hadn't done professionally in 20 years must have been a hell of a thing. He deserved it too. Glory, for all the things I'm not crazy about, is a fairly beautiful film, even if it pales in comparison to the work he did earlier in his life on the likes of The Innocents. And it wouldn't even approach the beauty of his last film.

He would do Scorsese's ill-conceived remake of Cape Fear, Bob Hoskin's all-but-entirely forgotten Rainbow, but the late career work that really makes him immortal to me is work on David Lynch's The Straight Story. I wasn't expecting too too much from this movie. Produced by Disney during Lynch's downtime between being shunned by NBC and praised by college kids, I knew it was a message movie with heart and very little of Lynch's usual flare (by which I mean hyper-sexualized violent behavior and vomit-enducing, limitless villainy). No, this was a quiet sort of film. We follow an elderly man who travels several hundred miles to visit his dying brother on a lawnmower. This is based on an actual story, stars Sissy Spacek and Richard Farnsworth and is sort of like an uninteresting story someone might have told on Twin Peaks. What caught me completely off guard were the images; the midwest has never looked so striking; so breathtaking. How Francis lost the academy award I simply can't fathom. This is exactly what was missing from all Lynch's other work; images that made the story grander than itself, that could reduce anyone to tears (especially in the context of the story), that scream out for humanity. Here's what man hath wrought; we have to live with it, and this is without question the most beautiful it will ever get unless man walks back into the woods.

Francis died not long after shooting finished for The Straight Story. Lynch has since abandoned celluloid for digital. He's experience a little in the way of a resurgence in conversation about the art of cinematography, but I feel his legacy is trapped beneath his subpar work as director or his predictable work on Glory. He could work magic, but often hid his talent away. I'm glad someone thought to coax a few more truly striking images out of him before he left us for good. 


What makes a man do the things he does? Why do we choose one second over another? Every day men will make hundreds of tiny decisions and thus life. We decide to stop to drink from a fountain. We choose to think briefly about religion. We choose which character will live or die. There must be a reason for all of them, otherwise why would we make them. We make these decisions every minute. These thoughts come to me when I listen to music and hear all the ways the music could have gone. When I hear Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures. When paintings show women one way and not another. These thoughts come to me after I watch movies of a type. Mostly foreign movies, mostly German movies. Mostly Rainer Werner Fassbinder movies.

Berlin Alexanderplatz
by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

For a good half-dozen of his staggering output, I treated Fass like one of my cinematic nemeses; I felt ok writing off him as too strange for his own skin. He made strange movies and he made straight-forward movies, but they were all about the same stylistically. Slow, languorous, sexual, iconoclastic, claustrophobic, pensive... It seemed that until about 1978 his movies were almost always too stifling for me to sit through. He seemed to care more about the thoughts and images he was suggesting than getting a natural performance out of any of his actors (I hadn't discovered Bresson yet, reader. Pity me.) He frequently cast himself or one of a few of his stock players as people with no control over their circumstances. Men taken advantage of by those with power, women who felt old and dry because of their oppressive social surroundings. His movies were all very similar in a few ways. Their pace: running is a rarity in his films and no one speaks quickly when they can take their time. Their style; the outrageous fashion statements and bizarre characterizations. People cry, kiss, give monologues to no one, demand insane things from those below them. To me he was like the Klaus Nomi of film; the few who know him love him and defend him, but they also tend to read too much into his insanity. Not that there aren't things to be found in the canon they leave behind. I could complain about the hours that felt like days spent watching his movies hoping desperately for something to leap out of the malaise and prove Fassbinder's worth as a filmmaker, but a more interesting course of action is to ask why. Why do people love him? Not so interesting, too broad. Why did he do what he did? Why are there barely more than 60 lines of dialogue in The American Soldier? Why move from the completely unique style of the Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant to the neorealist social drama of Fox and his Friends? It doesn't make any sense how one man could be as motivated as he was (43 feature films in 26 years, I'm not sure anyone but Joe D'Amato or Takashi Miike has matched his productivity while still leaving so distinct a stamp) could have made such lackluster examinations of the world he lived in.

He was a troubled man. He was a homosexual with two ex-wives who used production times to sleep with his leading men. His movies did scratch the surface of his problems (I feel like Fox & his Friends was as close as we come to Fassbinder the man). He tackled just about every dramatic genre there was and did his part to question (if not piss on) their assumptions. He often challenged the racist attitudes of early american films (while still perversely paying tribute to them) as in his disturbing western Whity, and his Douglas Sirk inspired melodrama Fear Eats the Soul. Learning of his admiration and later support for Sirk did a lot to warm me up to him. Fass punishes the womanizing heroes of his noir cycles (and his audiences by making them as slow and bleak as possible) and makes sure to give them sexually charged motives from both sides of the id. He spent so much time making tiny films with total control that when money started flowing in and expectations mounted there was bound to be change. Sweeping, beautiful changes.

Fassbinder loved the book Berlin Alexanderplatz for a long time before he made his film. He chose the name of its hero Franz Biberkopf, as the name of the man he plays in Fox & His Friends, the only time he built a film around himself. He used Berlin as a vehicle to display every complicated emotional hang-up he had ever experienced. He also cast just about everyone of his favorite actors. If El Hedi Ben Salem hadn't been in a french prison, I'm sure he'd have been in there too. It was a labor of love unlike any other. It took a year to complete and the finished film is nearly 16 hours long. It is among the longest movies ever made (yet somehow it feels shorter than The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant). It follows the life of massive, abrupt but sweet-hearted Franz Biberkopf after he is released from prison (his four year stint, we learn, was the product of his beating his girlfriend to death). He experiences unemployment, many girlfriends, deceitful acquaintances, rejection, highs, lows, insanity, love, and hatred. I was struck watching it realizing that this man had so much to offer the world but waited until this time in his life to finally let it all out. I imagined Maximilian Schell's harried lawyer Hans Rolfe in Judgment at Nuremberg "I want to leave the German people...with a shred of dignity." There has never been a more complete depiction of Weimar-era Germany. But that's not why I love this movie. Anyone could make a film about the horrors of living in Germany (Ingmar Bergman did it with David Carradine in The Serpent's Egg, and if that bizarre-o-world collaboration could yield results, then anything can), but not everyone can pour their heart into reels of film like Fassbinder did in 1980.

Any seasoned art fan can tell you about the many reappraisals they've experienced. In general, they're personal, chance encounters with one piece of an artists oeuvre. A boyfriend recommends a record, you spy a photograph that clashes with the pieces around it. Some people will tell you it happened when they saw Jeff Tweedy's breakdown in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, or one of the thousands of Rolling Stones documentaries out there. I can tell you what made me want to give Rainer another chance was seeing the picture of him making Berlin Alexanderplatz. I'd seen it before on the Criterion Collection webpage above the New German Cinema page, but I had no idea it was him. I'd seen him in Fox, Whity, and Fear Eats the Soul and a few other of his movies and he looked...well, he kind of looked like me. He had a pale, round face, he was kinda short and a little out of shape and he seemed meek and unimposing. I felt bad for him in most of the roles he'd given himself. But then I saw that picture again with his name in the margins. What had happened? I knew he'd died prematurely (a drug overdose in 1982), but that didn't really explain how he'd gone from the awkward chubby guy in 1975 to the gruff, arthouse biker staring provocatively at the camera in 1980. At the end of his life, Fassbinder was a mess of a man. His lover would hang himself in prison the same year.

Berlin Alexanderplatz is a beautiful film, one of the thousand or so best. The cinematography is incredible (proto-West Wing sunbathing aplenty), the characters are fascinating, the music is perfect, the production design is remarkable, the acting is phenomenal, there isn't much wrong with the movie. It flows unlike any other Fassbinder film (which in a movie that already takes a day to watch is pretty fucking important). If I had to cite one thing that I was displeased with at the time, it was the epilogue. The movie is told in thirteen one hour chapters and a two hour epilogue. The epilogue is Fassbinder's id run wild as it never had before. Here we see the beautiful, logical, colorful narrative we've been following so closely for the last day and a half dissolve into piles of naked bodies, brothels, satanic boxing matches, biblical judgment, quarreling angels, and all kinds of other madness. Not that it isn't effective, but, I feel like there was some way to explain the madness of Franz Biberkopf better than playing Elvis and Kraftwerk in the 1920s. It's like he had spent so long making this serene movie and needed at the last to take a knife to it. To slash his canvas, as the saying goes. Was this inevitable, that someone as self-destructive as Fassbinder would unhinge the story. He couldn't get through one film without harping on bisexuality and zombie-like sexuality. Before this point, Berlin was one of the most thoughtful films I'd ever seen. It still is, but I wish he hadn't slipped up like that and felt the need to show Gottfried John kissing his cellmate or Gunter Lamprecht in boxing shorts (he looks like Tor Johnson). He needed to squeeze his caberet in the back door. But the more I've thought on it, the more I see: it wasn't his until the epilogue. The man may have vanished behind a beard, sunglasses and a leather jacket, but he was still the chubby kid from those early features, and that kid saw the world just so. I can't begrudge him these final moments to himself - they are his soul bared. 

Whoever that guy is at the beginning of I Am Trying To Break Your Heart who says that ambition doesn't equal record sales couldn't have been more right. Berlin was a cult favorite when it came out, and has since disappeared. I don't think it ever got a vhs release because of its excessive length, and it appeared on American television exactly twice, in the 80s. It has to this day never been publicly shown from start to finish without interruption. I'm not sure what Rainer would have to say about this. He had to know he wasn't making Gone With The Wind (though I don't think I need to tell you which I'd prefer to watch), but still, the fact that there is a Rainer Werner Fassbinder Society and not one of them has paid to show the man's best film in its entirety in a movie theatre is a little disheartening. I can sit through anything (Female Vampire without once hitting fast forward. All of Carl Theodor Dreyer's films. Any DW Griffith film you put in front of me. All of Ed Wood's films. Gamera vs. anyone. 1900, anyone? Raymond Bernard's Les Miserables. Length or quality mean little to me. Watching movies is just what I do), but, I feel like there's gotta be someone out there who liked it as much as I did. This picture below is of him in Fox. He's the one with his eyes open. The photo below this one is of him making Berlin.

The reason I get so upset about this is because after I saw the tole that making films to the sounds of crickets had on Fassbinder, I questioned my future. If the reality of making movies or just trying to live as an artist could drive a man to this kind of devastation, what chance do I have? He might have been self-destructive, but no one had ever managed to put a leash on this guy and his work. Say what you will, his films are entirely his own. I respect him immensely even if I can take or leave a lot of his work and obviously recognize his contribution to the world I live in, but more than anything I feel some kind of connection to the guy. He was emotionally confused, clearly very awkward, stylistically alienating, and something of a pariah. Berlin Alexanderplatz is the work of a brilliant mind and his visual transformation is what confirmed this. People feel this way, I think, when they hear about Ian Curtis' suicide. What made this man so haunted? What made his world so dark that his music sounds like darkness and that made him end his life? Why did he do what he did? Why do we keep going back? Their lives frighten and excite us and their art does twice that. I'll be giving Fass and his films another chance from now on.