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Features


The Early Works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder brings together all of the German director s surviving works from the 1960s plus a documentary portrait examining his earliest days as a filmmaker.

In the two short films, The City Tramp and The Little Chaos (heavily influenced by Jean-Luc Godard s Bande à part), we find Fassbinder in search of an identity. In the two features, Love is Colder Than Death and Katzelmacher, he begins to discover it.

Dedicated to Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer, Jean-Marie Straub and the main characters from Spaghetti Western A Bullet for the General, Love is Colder Than Death is a playful crime picture, heavily indebted to the nouvelle vague. Katzelmacher is more in line with Fassbinder's stage efforts, a character study and mini-melodrama in which the dynamic between a group of friends is radically altered by the arrival of an immigrant worker. Official Synopsis


So this collection of Fassbinder's Early Works is my first entry into a German director I've never heard of's work. I've have a number of his films delivered for review and intend to journey through them in order to watch how Fassbinder grew and try to discover how his legacy has lived on to the point of having these Blu-ray release available in the UK. I've purposely not researched the director, I'm intentionally going in blind, so forgive me for not celebrating particular elements or missing the point at times but I just wanted to wade through the film's laid out on these discs and draw my own conclusions. So without further ado, we're off.

Love is Colder Than Death

(88:39 HD) is an odd, minimalist film with some rather abstract events within a cast of very few. That said, it's very cool and has some good character moments. The film has some well played out moments of silence between players and despite its extremely small scale manages to pull you in, even of its initially out of intrigue as to what the hell is actually going on here.

Video & Audio

The black and white, low fi production is full of dancing grain but is otherwise wonderfully sharp and detailed. The lighting really brings the image to life and the relatively timeless styled film manages to feel modern despite its age. As for the audio, it's minimal, literally dialogue and the sounds of shuffling feet, all of which are crisp and central.

Katzelmacher

(99:24 HD) moves us quite coldly through some young couple's relationships and sits either in silence or in a series of discussions between the men and women about their thoughts and inner feelings on their partners.

Video & Audio

The second film on the disc has a much rougher black and white image, there is noticeable more grain and the film doesn't look quite as fresh and bright in terms of lighting as the previous film. Again, the minimal sets keep most things simple but here the crispness isn't quote there. Again, on the film is largely dialogue based and little else beyond a bit of background noise.

End of the Commune?

(49:18 HD) is seemingly not even a film initially. More a document or behind the scenes footage of a conversation about making a film. It goes into other elements, dances and fun with Volkswagon Beetles as well as some street footage but it's rather aimless really.

Video & Audio

The video here is more documentary like and full of grain.  To say the image is raw is probably the best description and the audio is much the same.

The City Tramp?

(11:56 HD) and

The Little Chaos

(09:45) are back to a more filmic, focused affair with their much shorter run-time.  The storytelling is still loose and fly on the wall in the design and following subjects around the shorter run-time makes these shorts seem more purpose built for the loose style.

Video & Audio

The image for The City Tramp? is still a bit rough around the edges but given its a film set outside, the black and white image actually looks pretty good. Grey and black levels are good and detail can be quote striking in wider shots due to some good framing. The image isn't all that sharp or crisp but close ups look good at times. The audio is largely dialogue free and when it arrives it's raw and realistic within its real world setting. This short film actually plays a bit with score,  which is strong and bold despite its smallness.

The Little Chaos is a much cleaner affair than the previous two films on the disc. black levels are much stronger, detail is better due to the lighting but there's still a distinct softness to the presentation. Once again there's some minimal score use here and it's well placed and strong, the dialogue however is once again raw and sat in its real world setting and can often feel a bit lost in its realism.


Extras


Love is Colder Than Death: An Appreciation by Ulli Lommel (10:01 HD) has the film's lead actor talk of the bizarre film shoot and Fassbinder's aloof and memorable directorial style.

There's also the Katzelmacher Trailer (03:14 HD)

Overall


Well my first venture in Fassbinder's work was a little like being pushed into the deep end of a swimming pool. Beyond a brief ten minute interview on the extras I had no sense of the director's style or body of work, so it took a while to feel comfortable with his minimal set ups and low budget approach. His characters are not cold as such but they are not doing a lot for the audience to warm to either. That said, there's a coolness to that I liked. These films are the epitome of what you could describe as European Artsy Cinema and on top of that being the German director's early works they are particularly abstract but as is the case with many of these things, the experiments taking place here generate a fair share of things to like and intrigue so it'll be interesting where Fassbinder goes next as I venture into his catalogue over the next few reviews. Disc wise, it's a mixed bag of quality across the films but audio remains solid throughout. The lack of extras is a little disappointing really and I hope to see them improve and fill out a bit more information on the director as it's sorely lacking here.


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