The Third Generation (Rainer Werner Fassbinder / West Germany, 1979):
(Die Dritte Generation)

"A comedy in six parts," each introduced with a quote taken from a public bathroom wall ("Slave seeks master to train me as his dog," etc.). The Kaiser Wilhelm Church dominates the Berlin skyline as seen from a glass-paneled, high-rise office, a shooting takes place on a monitor. Surveillance footage? No, the ending of The Devil, Probably. Each generation has the revolutionaries it deserves, after the Baader-Meinhoff affair you're stuck with middle-class ninnies: leader Volker Spengler secretary Hanna Schygulla, schoolteacher Bulle Ogier, composer Udo Kier, housewife Margit Carstensen. The puppet master is the industrialist (Eddie Constantine) who heralds cinema's utopian lies ("As long as films are sad, life isn't"); his corporate must promote security equipment, so he manipulates the radicals into kidnapping him and sits back to enjoy the clown show. Ovid's "mid course between extremes" has deserted Rainer Werner Fassbinder's West Germany, the dissenters stand around playing Monopoly and adorn themselves with wigs, veils, and mustaches that look ready to slide off. Raúl Gimenez with fedora and gun is a throwback to the mocking noir tropes of The American Soldier, the group's infiltration of a government office is staged like a Laurel & Hardy one-reeler. Included in the wackiness is Günther Kaufmann in blackface and albino stache, Y Sa Lo calmly shooting smack in the foreground of a swarming composition, and Mutter Fassbinder (Lilo Pempei) caked with Baby Jane dust at the piano. The old-timers are duly crestfallen: "Back in my day we read more positive things. Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche..." A parallel vaudeville of anger and disillusionment, a Dziga Vertov Group revue done over by Macke. Once the ideals of rebellion are effaced, radicalism itself becomes bread and circuses -- mutiny is just a carnival, the plutocrat taken hostage smiles for the camera. With Harry Baer, Hark Bohm, Jürgen Draeger, Peer Raben, and Vitus Zeplichal.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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