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It is 35 years since the untimely death of German New Wave director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and we are seeing a renewed interest in his films. From a retrospective at BFI Southbank in May to reissues of his collection, including this newly restored 4K version of Lola from STUDIOCANAL.
The tempestuous and self-destructive Fassbinder was an incredibly prolific director, making more than 40 films over a period of just 15 years. It’s difficult to think of anyone willing to match that output now. Perhaps instead of looking at today’s auteurs, he could be better compared to those passionate musicians (Dylan, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who) laying down hits in a single take. A good example is Velvet Underground’s 17 and a half minute Sister Ray from their album White Light/White Heat (1968), with its Fassbinder-esque subject matter: drugs, violence and homosexuality. Scenes from Fassbinder’s films play like music, often becoming more conductor than director. Fassbinder really leaning on the quality of the cast: Barbara Sukowa (Hannah Arendt, 2012) as high-class sex worker Lola, Armin Mueller-Stahl (Angels & Demons, 2009) as the uptight new building commissioner von Bohm, and Mario Adorf (Tin Drum, 1979) as corrupt developer Schuckert. Lola is heavily scripted, yet loose. The pressure of a single take produces a raw energy which enlivens the film throughout.
Initially taken as an interpretation of the Blue Angel (1930) starring Marlene Dietrich, though transferred to a 1950s setting and rewritten to become the final part of Fassbinder’s BRD trilogy. The Bundesrepublik Deutschland trilogy, which includes The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) and Veronika Voss (1982) represents postwar West Germany from Fassbinder’s point of view. In Lola Fassbinder points to the mistakes of the previous generation as they enter a period of prosperity after the war, each character failing to maintain their own integrity. In several scenes a character will repeat verbatim the line just spoken by another character, hypnotised by each other as much as they are hypnotised by the rise of capitalism.
Action is obscured and revealed: props, structures and minor characters invade the foreground to create framing. This all puts the viewer in mind of a theatre set, abandoning realism wherever possible. Fassbinder’s penchant for unnatural lighting to define and enhance individual characters is a feature that benefits from the restoration.
The newly restored 4K version of Lola is released by STUDIOCANAL on DVD, Blu-Ray & EST on 03/07/17