EIGHT HOURS DON'T MAKE A DAY
ACHT STUNDEN SIND KEIN TAG
1972, Janus Films, 478 min, West Germany, Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Commissioned to make a working-class family drama, up-and-coming director Rainer Werner Fassbinder took the assignment and ran, upending expectations by depicting social realities in West Germany from a critical - yet far from cynical - perspective. Over the course of several hours, the sprawling story tracks the everyday triumphs and travails of the young toolmaker Jochen (Gottfried John) and many of the people populating his world, including the woman he loves (Hanna Schygulla), his eccentric nuclear family, and his fellow workers, with whom he bands together to improve conditions on the factory floor. Rarely screened since its popular but controversial initial broadcast, EIGHT HOURS DON'T MAKE A DAY rates as a true discovery, one of Fassbinder’s earliest and most tender experiments with the possibilities of melodrama.


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.


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