WORLD ON A WIRE
WELT AM DRAHT
1973, Janus Films, 212 min, Germany, Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Originally created for German television, director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s sci-fi epic lends a tense, noir-ish atmosphere to virtual reality head games that THE MATRIX would play a quarter-century later. Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch) takes over a computer simulation program at the Cybernetics and Future Science Institute after the death of a top researcher. The man reportedly had been on the verge of a major discovery, but as Stiller investigates, others begin to vanish mysteriously as well.


GODS OF THE PLAGUE
GÖTTER DER PEST
1970, Janus Films, 91 min, Germany, Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Situated as the centerpiece in a loose trilogy with LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH and THE AMERICAN SOLDIER, Fassbinder’s engrossing take on the crime film is New German Cinema meets film noir. Franz Walsch (Harry Baer) is newly released from prison and, following in the footsteps of heist antiheroes immemorial, tracks down his old cohorts and gets busy planning a new robbery. While Fassbinder plays the Walsch role in the trilogy’s other two films, the presence of Baer (who looks like a hirsute Alain Delon) gives GODS OF THE PLAGUE a surreal, playfully tongue-in-cheek feel, even as it beautifully descends into tragedy. In German with English subtitles.


THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS
HÄNDLER DER VIER JAHRESZEITEN
1971, Janus Films, 88 min, Germany, Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Back from the war and greeted with chilling contempt by his mother, Hans Epp (Hans Hirschmuller) continues his streak of disappointing his bourgeois family by becoming a fruit peddler. This lowly profession depresses Hans, driving him to drinking, drugs and casual abuse of his wife (Irm Herrmann), but it’s nothing in comparison with the despair he feels when his business actually begins to flourish and he’s suddenly the pride and joy of his relatives. A merciless and formally virtuoso drama from Rainer Werner Fassbinder, shot with perfection by cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann and named one of the director’s top films by critic Roger Ebert. In German with English subtitles.


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