Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Writer: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pea Fröhlich, and Peter Märthesheimer
Cinematography: Xaver Schwarzenberger
Producer: Horst Wendlandt
by Jon Cvack
I’m still waiting for the next Fassbinder film to blow my mind - all I’ve loved thus far is Ali, Fear Eats the Soul (1974). Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) was about eight hours too long, and I can’t remember anything from The American Soldier or The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. I’m more convinced it was his sheer volume of filmmaking - 25 films over 17 years; 23 by the time he was 32. He’d die at 37 - which prevented all that many films from really shining; given that some were made in a matter of months from script to screen. There never quite seems to be the coherence or economy of a more carefully crafted picture. They often just felt imagined and immediately executed.
Lola is at least the second best I’ve seen, part of the “BRD Trilogy” which follows three “remarkable” women (according to Criterion). Lola is the title character played by the brilliant (Barbara Sukowa) who works at a brothel, owned by a local property developer, the chain cigar smoking aristocrat, Schukert (Mario Adorf) who just so happens to lead the corrupt endeavor, ensuring that all of the major government players are properly taken care of.
That is until the new commissioner, Von Bohm(Armin Mueller-Stahl), arrives in town and vows to end the corruption. Recently divorced, his housekeeper introduces him to her daughter Lola, who he falls in love with and attempts to court against her better warnings. Soon he discovers the truth and after failing to reform the city, he returns to the brothel and attempts to pay her for sex. She refuses, though they later make up and get married. One of the closing scenes is Lola on her wedding day, sneaking with Schukert to sleep with him in the barn.
Similar to his other films, Lola left me with an empty and hollow feeling; as though the world is completely devoid of true love or attraction and all Fassbinder saw were the self-centered personas of some pretty interesting characters; never attempting to follow them as they change, but to only show them as they are. There are interesting moments and memorable scenes, specifically when Baraba Sukowa breaks down in song after losing Von Bohm. Allegedly Sukowa had done it in a single take, as Fassbinder hated to shoot more than one take for any scene. As impressive as the performance is, that anecdote also seems to explain his films. We never get to see the greatest that is deliberate, but rather the first idea, the first take, the first course of action. I’m sure there’s another Fassbinder film that I’ll enjoy, but I’d bet there won’t be many.
BELOW: A taste of Barbara Sukowa's talent
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