Love Is Colder Than Death (Rainer Werner Fassbinder / West Germany, 1969):
(Liebe ist kälter als der Tod)

Chabrol, Rohmer and Straub are among the dedicatees, Godard goes unmentioned as Bande à Part's crisscrossing romanticism is traded for acerbic catatonia. Rainer Werner Fassbinder boils his Anti-Theater aesthetics down to the four opening shots: Fassbinder reads in a bare, blanched waiting room, Hans Hirschmüller rips the newspaper from his hands and is knocked out, Fassbinder faces representatives of "the Syndicate" in a makeshift office, he's knocked unconscious and Hirschmüller rifles through his pockets. Fassbinder is a pimp living in Munich with his hooker-squeeze (Hanna Schygulla), the center of the triangle is a mock-Delon (Ulli Lommel) who's forever reaching for his pistol inside his trenchcoat. The attitudinizing New Wave thriller is turned into narcotized tableaux as the three filch sunglasses and scheme a robbery -- tight planar arrangements are prevalent, going into a bank and surveying it side to side is like a Noh gesture filmed underwater. À Bout de Soufflé figures in the finale, before that the abstract nocturne of The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp is recreated (interminable lateral tracking past working gals on the sidewalk), the patrolman's shades from Psycho and the interrogation long-take from Le Doulos are also among the mementos. Fassbinder's recherché feature debut is a pencil sketch for a poem, with an offhand nexus of seditious messages that keeps surfacing in the damndest places: "Are you thinking about sex," Lommel asks the beauty facing him in the train, she answers while fondling her own breast ("About the revolution"). Cinematograpy by Dietrich Lohmann. With Peter Berling, Katrin Schaake, and Kurt Raab. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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