24 MONTROSE VOICE / JUNE 18, 1982
Film director Fassbinder found dead
By John W. Rowberry
International Gay News Agency
Ranier Wemer Fassbinder, the openly-
gay German film director responsible for
the resurgence of the contemporary German cinema, died on Thursday, June 10 in
his Munich home.
At the time of his death he had been
working on a new film, his 42nd feature
project in the space of 13 years.
Fassbinder was discovered nude on his
bed by housemate and film editor Juliane
Lorenz. The official announcement ofthe
cause of death was being withheld until an
autopsy could be performed, although
authorities in Munich ruled out foul play.
Another German film director, Wolf
Gremm, for whom Fassbinder had
appeared as an actor in his unreleased
film Kamikaze, was also in Fassbinder's
house at the time of his death. Gremm told
reporters and police that Fassbinder had
been intently working on his newest film
project all night.
A notebook and a video recorder which
was still running were found next to the
Fassbinder came to American attention
in 1971 when his film The Merchant of
Four Seasons was shown here. But in his
homeland he had already established a
professional status as a filmmaker, actor
Often involved in leftist theater and sentiments, Fassbinder was too untrusting of
political organizations, regardless of their
political/social philosophy, to embrace
any specific doctrine. Openly homosexual.
Fassbinder flourished in an artistic environment that judged him on the quality of
his work and not his sexual proclivities.
Fassbinder's first feature-length film
was released in 1969, when he was 23
years old. The film, Love is Colder Than
Death, began a cycle of 10 films, all completed in one year, that represented what
Fassbinder termed his "pure passion for
A devotee of American gangster films,
the elements of illegal countercultural
activities often filled his early works—in
which the director and his mother, under
the name Lilo Pempeit, often appeared in
the cast. His 1970 film about a group of
filmmakers in a hotel during the making
of a film, Beware of a Holy Whore, began
the explosion of interest and acclaim for
the rebel director.
For the next decade, Fassbinder worked
at a neck-break pace. He completed 31
additional feature films, including some
which became international successes like
The Marriage of Maria Braun, The Bitter
Tears of Petra von Kant. Effie Briest, Fox
and His Friends and Lili Marleen.
His just-released Veronika Voss won the
Best Picture award at the 1982 Berlin Film
Festival and his last film, Querelle, based
on the novel by Jean Genet, was shown
out of competition at the 1982 Cannes
Indifference to the films of Ranier
Werner Fassbinder has never been an attitude of his critics or fans. Even films like
Lili Marleen, which received universal
bad reviews, were heavily attended. In
Germany Lili Marleen was second only to
The Empire Strikes Back in gross revenue.
Fassbinder explored themes of individuals caught in the social dictates of their
personal environments. Often using the
protagonist to decry his own anti-social
feelings, Fassbinder mastered an ability
to translate his distrust of rigid social restriction into an universal axiom. His distaste for following convention manifest
itaelf in his personal life.
At a time and in a country that honored
conformity as a national virtue, Fassbinder appeared the "mad genius" to the
chastisement of the press and the secret
delight of the public. His public notoriety
was that of an indispensible, if unbe-
haved, national treasure.
His treatment of homosexuality as a
theme in his films surfaced most
obviously in Fox and His Friends, The Bit-
Rainer Werner Fassbinder in drawing by Acel Clark
ter Tears of Petra von Kant, In a Year with
13 Moons, and his final work, Querelle.
But in many of Fassbinder's films there
are obvious homosexual sensibilities.
Fassbinder also produced a good deal of
television work that remains almost completely unknown outside his native land.
A major 13-hour historical drama, Berlin
Alexanderplatz, was the topic of heated
debate in Germany—where some of the
nationalized television stations refused to
air it—when it was seen in 1980. Financed
by the German State Television system,
the television drama centered around a
particular section of pre-war Berlin that is
now underneath the Berlin Wall.
Only a handful of Fassbinder's prolific
outpouring has been seen in America.
Querelle is next set to play the 1982 Montreal Film Festival.
Trekkies take note:
'The Wrath of Khan'
By John John W. Rowberry
International Gay News Agency
Almost flawless, and a damn sight closer
to perfection than you might have
expected after Star Trek: The Movie, Star
Trek: The Wrath of Khan is just what the
doctor ordered—a powerful and action-
filled two-hour version of what made the
television series a cult event.
While the original crew is back for this
second Star Trek adventure, they have
managed to get over their delight at seeing
each other again and get on to the business of exploring the universe.
William Shattner turns in his best
James Kirk performance—bar none—and
the delightful surprise is the introduction
of another Vulcan (yes, Spock is still
there), this time a woman, a starship captain in training. Ricardo Mantalban, as
the outlaw Khan, is the sexiest 200-year-
old you've ever seen, and also gives a
Except for a cliche or two at the end
(remember, I said "almost" flawless), this
adventure should guarantee at least a couple more Trek films and give the Star Wars
crowd something to scratch their heads
about, since The Wrath of Khan has a
screenplay that doesn't embarrass the
A surprise at the end (I wouldn't dream
of giving it away) makes the whole thing
much, much more believable. If you like
science fiction at all, then you deserve to
treat yourself to The Wrath of Khan.
The ghost of
By John John W. Rowberry
International Gay News Agency
There is a very good reason why Steven
Spielberg's name is stamped all over the
Tobe Hooper film, Poltergeist; Spielberg
co-produced, authored the story and co-
authored the screenplay.
Beyond that, it is a Spielberg film from
beginning to end; it has the stamp ofthe
famous director on every frame.
Now that's fine if you like Steven Spielberg's particular brand of filmmaking;
some parts magic and some parts high
religious metaphor. But I have to wonder
why Hooper was there at all. And beyond
that, since Poltergeist is actually two and
a half films, who really directed whom?
In case you have never delved into the
dark mysteries, a poltergeist is a playful
spirit, usually connected to a personality
in the concrete world, that upsets the order
of ordinary lives by moving things
around: chairs, tables, watches, televisions, sometimes even people. But poltergeists, unlike ghosts, are universially
Part of the Hooper/Speilberg film is
about an average middle class family living in a housing tract in middle America.
A father, a mother, a teenage daughter
who lives on the phone, a younger son, and
a five-year-old daugahter.
It is the latter who attracts the playful
(usually) spirit. She communicates with it
(or them) through a imageless channel on
the television. That's all very well laid out,
the family are inherently interesting people as a unit, and Hooper/Spielberg create
a senseof tension within the first few minutes of the film—a tension that is the one
constant and dependable element for the
next two hours.
In fact, the suspense is everything in
Poltergeist; the special effects, while
interesting, do not go beyond the realm of
what state-of-the-art moviemaking is all
The big problem comes when Spielberg/
Hooper try to mesh their clever poltergeists with a real evil and destructive
haunting. Too many contradictions. It
sounds more like Paul Schrader, who
openly claims to do no research for his
films (Hardcore, American Giggolo, etc.),
than the very ingenious man who gave us
Jaws and Close Encounters.
But then again, maybe that's not as
weird as it sounds, since both of those
films, for all their brillance, had slight
structural problems. Poltergeist has more
than slight problems; it suffers from too
much of Spielberg's influence.
In a film that just won't wash, given
what little we know about the supernatural, we are treated to a religious experience
straight out of Chee Encounters, along
with those beautiful, but already-done violent cloud formations.
There is a medium (a spiritual house
cleaner) who brings a jarring note into a
cast otherwise acted out in a low key.
There are some physical malfunctions: the
spirits came out of a television, hut their
source of power is a closet in a child's bedroom, and the point of exit from their
bright-lit domain is a spot on the ceiling in
the living room.
How you get from point A to point B to
point C is just not very clear, but perhaps
you should forget about the title of this
film and just go be scared half to death
because no one does it better than Spielberg and Hooper.