Pioneers in Ingolstadt (1971)

21 06 2008

Another early Fassbinder television production. Just like with Rio Das Mortes, this is very austere and the film stock is very grainy. Once again, the subject matter revolves around young adults / “slackers” looking for more substance out of their relationships. Unlike Rio Das Mortes, the film operates from a female perspective, which gives Hanna Schygulla plenty of screen time. Thus, it isn’t the most difficult of movies to sit through, but even with Fassbinder’s good intentions, the production values prevent stronger reactions. It’s a good film, but never amounts to anything more than just a few solid cinematic moments strung together half-heartedly.

A group of young army engineers come to the town of Ingolstadt in order to construct a new bridge. Bored by the repetitious nature of their labor, they seek out several forms of escapism: sex, alcohol, and violence. Meanwhile, a naive maid by the name of Berta is looking for love. She finds it in the form of Karl, but he sees nothing in her. A seasoned veteran, he has gone through many short-lived affairs and sees his relationship with Berta in a similar light. Despite his resistance to love, Berta is heart-broken when he leaves.

Depending on how one thinks of Hanna Schygulla, this film is either very interesting or skull-crushingly boring. I, obviously, fall into the former category, but this doesn’t really mean the film is cohesively great. All things considered, Fassbinder probably quickly threw this (and most of his other early TV productions) together rather quickly. Therefore, you cannot really blame him for the film essentially not going anywhere, in an emotional sense. Even if it hits close to home (and it does for me) there simply isn’t enough there for the film to work for anything more than a curious exercise in formalism for Fassbinder. Of course, it is definitely worth watching, but it isn’t particularly special.

Noroit (1976)

21 06 2008

The second part of Rivette’s proposed four-part series (Les Filles du Feu) is even more of a straight-forward fantasy film than its predecessor, Duelle. All the problems of that film remain, but they are somewhat downplayed by a much more carefree and playful spirit. On the other hand, this is a bit more theatrical though not in the usual meaning of the word. In fact, all the performances here are quite excellent and again, Lubtchansky’s camera work is absolutely breath-taking. It feels a bit repetitive to continue to praise the visual aspects of Rivette’s work regardless of the other factors, but he (and Lubtchansky) always seem to capture something so beautiful that it simply must be noted.

Unlike its companion piece, Noroit establishes its very muddled narrative rather quickly. Morag’s brother has been killed by a group of female pirates. She makes it her personal mission to see that this group is put to justice. She decides to do so by going undercover and begins to gain the trust of many of the pirates. This ultimately leads her to a showdown (supposedly) with the Daughter of the Sun.

In other words, this is pretty much all of Rivette’s narrative silliness brought to an exaggerated level. In an almost fashion methodical fashion, he transcends the story or even the idea of a story to begin with. It is much more rewarding to approach the film as a series of completely odd sequences, all beautifully rendered. Even though it has its place in Duelle, it was during my viewing of this film, that I realized how Rivette is essentially the father of the whole “color-saturated” look. Such a look is now far more general, which should indicate a great level of importance in Lubtchansky’s work.

There is a very elusive feeling of “epicness” throughout almost all of Noroit. In a manner not unlike the films of Miklos Jancso, the camera captures many (quite literal) layers. Perhaps its just an inherent result of shooting long tracking shots in deep focus, but there seems to be plenty going on in nearly every frame. This is complimented by the much more “minimalistic” vibe, which contrasts to the kinetic/shaky camera work in Duelle. If anything, these two films show just how much range Rivette has as a director, and just how brilliant he is at establishing a mood under different circumstances. Still, the overall fantasy-ness of his two 1976 features present somewhat a cinematic roadblock. There’s simply some events in both of these films that are too silly to not be bothered by. Once again, though, the positive greatly outweigh the negatives.