Irm Hermann in Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven

In Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven Irm Hermann plays the heartless and soulless wife Helene. ‘Father is sick of your salads,’ says Brigitte Mira to Irm Hermann at the start of the film, introducing yet another frosty and unbearably unloved character sketch by Irm Hermann. Hermann is without doubt, Fassbinder’s favourite cold lady, expressing disdain, stupidity, and all the worst of local gossip and public opinion – and she does it so well that we are also quite terrified of her.

Read more: Irm Hermann in Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven

Lou Castel in Nada (1974)

Nada (1974) was the first Claude Chabrol film I saw, and it remains a favourite; quite a plaudit given that I must have seen over 30 of them. In terms of Chabrol’s work as a whole however, Nada is quite odd; there is no mysterious riddle of a murder and there is no provincial setting; instead there is kidnapping and there is an urban setting countered with a completely rural setting.

Read more: Lou Castel in Nada (1974)

Kurt Raab in Beware of a Holy Whore

Kurt Raab (as Fred), here wearing a ridiculous hairstyle, is struck high and dry on this endlessly boring movie shoot, with nothing better to do than drink all day and shout at the Italian hotel staff. I say Italian, because although Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) is set in Spain, it was shot in Italy; in fact it’s a super-lingual mix, even late at night when Raab (who has gone to bed and gets up again to re-join the drinking) bursts in on Lou Castel reflectively quoting the title of Fassbinder’s first film – in French – while David the soundman disagrees.

Find out moreKurt Raab in Beware of a Holy Whore

Volker Spengler in Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven

If you saw the actor Volker Spengler first you might want to cast him in dumb-guy role, a bit like he is here. He can be awkward, wobbly, and peer at you through thick glasses. You might just want to stick him in your movie and get him to peer, as he does at the creepy Kusters family funeral, much photographed by the Frankfurt press.

Read more: Volker Spengler in Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven

Eddie Constantine in Beware of a Holy Whore

Eddie Constantine, who appears as himself in Beware of a Holy Whore (jah, Er selbst) is something of a 60s and 70s token, thanks largely to his appropriation by Jean Luc Godard, who moved him into a metafictional role in Alphaville when he reprised Lemmy Caution.

Read more: Eddie Constantine in Beware of a Holy Whore

Hannah Schygulla in The Wrong Move (1975)

It’s great that there are so many versatile actors out there, able to enrich the directorial work of the men and women of cinema – but without direction, or clear direction at least, even the mighty will flounder. Yes, actors turn up on set, and when skilled they can turn their hand to the required creation. But occasionally they are unused by directors who don’t have vision, or vision enough that they can communicate.

Read more: Hannah Schygulla in The Wrong Move (1975)

Eddie Constantine in It Lives Again (1978)

Within seconds of watching It Lives Again, which also goes by the name It's Alive 2, I was hooked in a way that surprised me; I was convinced that the music for the film was by Bernard Hermann, because of how moved I was by the score as the credits opened, with its shades of Taxi Driver and Vertigo.

Read more: Eddie Constantine in It Lives Again (1978)

Hannah Schygulla in Beware of a Holy Whore

Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) does offer an amazing role for Hannah Schygulla as the ultimate vacuous vamp of an actress. She is certainly good looking enough, and appears throughout in the type of iconic white dress that Marilyn Monroe may have filled, but which she cannot quite; certainly not off camera anyway. It’s the ultimate separation for the viewer between what you expect to see in film, and the rather mundane background; lights, cameras and philistines and sexual prowlers on the make.

Read more: Hannah Schygulla in Beware of a Holy Whore

Hannah Schygulla in The Wrong Move (1975)

It’s great that there are so many versatile actors out there, able to enrich the directorial work of the men and women of cinema – but without direction, or clear direction at least, even the mighty will flounder. Yes, actors turn up on set, and when skilled they can turn their hand to the required creation. But occasionally they are unused by directors who don’t have vision, or vision enough that they can communicate.

Read more: Hannah Schygulla in The Wrong Move (1975)

Hark Bohm in Underground (1995)

Underground (1995) is an epic Serbian tale showing the history of Yugoslavia in full satiric glory, from the Second World War, up until the Yugoslav War in 1992 – hence the three parts of the film, War; Cold War; and War. It doesn’t, as some critics have claimed, forward a pro-Serbian view of the Yugoslav conflict (including animosities during WWII), because it is pretty true art, and so treats everyone pretty much the same.

Read more: Hark Bohm in Underground (1995)

Hannah Schygulla in Beware of a Holy Whore

Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) does offer an amazing role for Hannah Schygulla as the ultimate vacuous vamp of an actress. She is certainly good looking enough, and appears throughout in the type of iconic white dress that Marilyn Monroe may have filled, but which she cannot quite; certainly not off camera anyway. It’s the ultimate separation for the viewer between what you expect to see in film, and the rather mundane background; lights, cameras and philistines and sexual prowlers on the make.

Read more: Hannah Schygulla in Beware of a Holy Whore

Eddie Constantine in SOS Pacific (1959)

Before he became the meta-filmmaker’s perfect metaphor for gangster cinema itself, Eddie Constantine did have a regular career, playing regular tough guys on the non-ironic side of the cinematic art. One of his best outings as an action man was SOS Pacific (1959), in which he stars with Richard Attenborough, Eva Bartok and John Gregson.

Read more: Eddie Constantine in SOS Pacific (1959)

Isolde Barthe in The Bridesmaid (2004)

I have never calculated how much of my life I have spent watching the films of Fassbinder, but I can’t say that of Claude Chabrol. Chabrol, who died in 2010, made around sixty films, and completist that I am, as soon as I had seen and enjoyed one of them, it was my sworn duty to see them all. I haven’t quite succeeded in that aim but to make up for it I’ve seen some of them more than once, meaning that I have probably spent about 170 hours of my life to date – that is one entire week – watching the films of Claude Chabrol alone.

Read more: Isolde Barthe in The Bridesmaid (2004)

Isolde Barthe in Young Indiana Jones (1993)

Those producers of the world, who wish to do whatever the hell they like with their money, and what George Lucas likes to do, is entertain middle classed boy children of about 9 to 15.  No matter how great you think the Star Wars output is, with its translation of American values to the other side of time and space, you should maybe think of Young Indiana Jones as a more accurate measure of the man; certainly it reveals something consistent about what he feels to be entertainment.

Read more: Isolde Barthe in Young Indiana Jones (1993)

Lilo Pempeit in Satansbraten

Lilo Pempeit, dressed as a bourgeoise German lady, is counting the money she has withdrawn from the bank as Walter Kranz backs into her and causes her to drop it. As he grabs what he can and quickly heads off, the bank manager, who like everyone else in this daft world is impressed that Kranz is a poet, tells her this is so: ‘a poet,’ he tells her on being robbed; ‘it doesn’t hurt so much then.’

Read more: Lilo Pempeit in Satansbraten

Gottfried John in In a Year of 13 Moons

As news of General Pinochet’s political corruption in Chile rings over a deserted Frankfurt skyline, we are fortunate to have a look into what Fassbinder really thinks of WDR’s ‘economic miracle’; and we visit Gottfried John as Anton Saitz in an office building, which looks shining and glassy on the outside – but is in fact empty.

Read more: Gottfried John in In a Year of 13 Moons

Lilo Pempeit in Effi Briest

Lilo Pempeit as Louise Briest, mother of Effi Briest, raises a few eyebrows in the critical camp, but I am not so sure that the significance is that important. If you were to look at Fassbinder’s regular actors at the time of Effi Briest, and do the casting yourself, you would alsp cast Pempeit in this role, without worrying about the psychoanalytical implications which have bothered subsequent generations of commentators. Yes, you could have picked Brigitte Mira, but Pempeit is much stronger here, perfectly harsh, tall and not as peasant or pleasant as Mira could be.

Read more: Lilo Pempeit in Effi Briest

Lilo Pempeit in Satansbraten

Lilo Pempeit, dressed as a bourgeoise German lady, is counting the money she has withdrawn from the bank as Walter Kranz backs into her and causes her to drop it. As he grabs what he can and quickly heads off, the bank manager, who like everyone else in this daft world is impressed that Kranz is a poet, tells her this is so: ‘a poet,’ he tells her on being robbed; ‘it doesn’t hurt so much then.’

Read more: Lilo Pempeit in Satansbraten

Gottfried John in In a Year of 13 Moons

As news of General Pinochet’s political corruption in Chile rings over a deserted Frankfurt skyline, we are fortunate to have a look into what Fassbinder really thinks of WDR’s ‘economic miracle’; and we visit Gottfried John as Anton Saitz in an office building, which looks shining and glassy on the outside – but is in fact empty.

Read more: Gottfried John in In a Year of 13 Moons

Lilo Pempeit in Effi Briest

Lilo Pempeit as Louise Briest, mother of Effi Briest, raises a few eyebrows in the critical camp, but I am not so sure that the significance is that important. If you were to look at Fassbinder’s regular actors at the time of Effi Briest, and do the casting yourself, you would alsp cast Pempeit in this role, without worrying about the psychoanalytical implications which have bothered subsequent generations of commentators. Yes, you could have picked Brigitte Mira, but Pempeit is much stronger here, perfectly harsh, tall and not as peasant or pleasant as Mira could be.

Read more: Lilo Pempeit in Effi Briest

Rosel Zech in Salmonberries (1991)

Even looking at the cover for this DVD release, I knew that if I watched it I would be seeing KD Lang naked. I don’t know why this was, perhaps something about her expression told me I had better beware. I do like Rosel Zech however, and the experience wasn’t wasted; it was comforting to see her in a starring role, even if she had to go to Alaska to achieve it.

Read more: Rosel Zech in Salmonberries (1991)

Hannah Schygulla in The Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

As far as I can see, Bela Tarr movies exist to prove one single point: that in a movie theatre there is no fast forward button. This I have demonstrated by fast forwarding nearly every DVD presentation of Bela Tarr’s movies that I have watched, and will certainly never go the cinema to watch him again, as I cannot take the sore bottom and head that he seeks of his viewers.

Read more: Hannah Schygulla in The Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

Ursula Stratz in Effi Briest

I’m surprised Ursula Strätz isn’t in more Fassbinder films; certainly her looks and ability as a character actor would rank her alongside any of the other regulars.  She would have always made a great counterpoint to Brigitte Mira, I thought, and her dafult expression is one of suich kindness that she would have been a perfect piece of clay for the Fassbinder film factory to toy with.

Read more: Ursula Stratz in Effi Briest

Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Beware of a Holy Whore

Warnung Vor Einer Heiligen Nutte; The title speaks volumes. In principle it says that Fassbinder thinks his art is holy, but that it must also whore itself. The harsh economic message was a necessary follow-up to the free art experiments which he was part of and which were going on all over Europe when he was growing up. Artists have ever since been preoccupied about where their money comes from, more than they ever were before; and still are. In Beware of a Holy Whore, we can more than anywhere else (Germany in Autumn excepted) Fassbinder playing himself, twice if you count Lou Castel playing it.  Better yet Fassbinder chooses to reprise his crazy white suit from The American Soldier while he is playing; his role is get a film made. by telephone, from a foreign hotel, while his cast and crew lounge around him, bored, selfish, horny, drunk and jealous.

Read more: Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Beware of a Holy Whore

Hannah Schygulla in The Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

As far as I can see, Bela Tarr movies exist to prove one single point: that in a movie theatre there is no fast forward button. This I have demonstrated by fast forwarding nearly every DVD presentation of Bela Tarr’s movies that I have watched, and will certainly never go the cinema to watch him again, as I cannot take the sore bottom and head that he seeks of his viewers.

Read more: Hannah Schygulla in The Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

Irm Hermann in Effi Briest

Enter the eternally suffering form of Irm Hermann, dressed like a black pawn, in another frighteningly depressing role, here Johanna, the Haushälterin.  There were always moments of great consequence when Fassbinder cast Irm Hermann, and the black and white of Effi Briest does nothing to diminish her frightening appearance and the acting power she brings to any ensemble.  She can be uniquely unpleasant as she is here, and as she is in Mother Kuster's Trip to Heaven, and her stillness is especially suited to Effi Briest, in which she is certainly one of the stars.

Read more: Irm Hermann in Effi Briest

Margit Carstensen in The Niklashausen Journey

There is a lot of Jean-Luc Godard in The Niklashauser Journey – probably too much for the self-conscious Swiss director, who went into virtual retirement from cinema a few years into the 1970s, presumably feeling that his pioneering techniques were becoming too standard in the films of his contemporaries, and that video was the medium that needed him the most. The long dialogues and bizarrely dressed revolutionary groups on the edge of the woods featured in Weekend, are imitated here; as are the sudden manifestations of people from other centuries.

Read more: Margit Carstensen in The Niklashausen Journey

Barbara Sukowa in Cradle Will Rock (1999)

If there is a genre known as ‘feel-good’, then Tim Robbins’ second film as director, Cradle Will Rock (1999) applies to it. The feel-good starts early on, and even though Cradle Will Rock covers pretty grave economic times, it does so with the froth to the max, with everyone belting out the same stylised version of the zippy 1930s. The feeling good continues in comedy, song and in about 300 extras – all the way to the finish.

Read more: Barbara Sukowa in Cradle Will Rock (1999)

Irm Hermann in Effi Briest

Enter the eternally suffering form of Irm Hermann, dressed like a black pawn, in another frighteningly depressing role, here Johanna, the Haushälterin.  There were always moments of great consequence when Fassbinder cast Irm Hermann, and the black and white of Effi Briest does nothing to diminish her frightening appearance and the acting power she brings to any ensemble.  She can be uniquely unpleasant as she is here, and as she is in Mother Kuster's Trip to Heaven, and her stillness is especially suited to Effi Briest, in which she is certainly one of the stars.

Read more: Irm Hermann in Effi Briest

Hark Bohm in Effi Briest

A character actor like Hark Böhm was perennially of use to Fassbinder, and he could not be better suited to the provincial backwaters of late nineteenth century Prussia, with his peering face and slightly inadequate demeanour. What is odd (aside from the fact that he speaks in the unmistakeable voice of Kurt Raab) is the fact that he is not credited at all, for what is a fairly significant part.

Read more: Hark Bohm in Effi Briest

Barbara Sukowa in Cradle Will Rock (1999)

If there is a genre known as ‘feel-good’, then Tim Robbins’ second film as director, Cradle Will Rock (1999) applies to it. The feel-good starts early on, and even though Cradle Will Rock covers pretty grave economic times, it does so with the froth to the max, with everyone belting out the same stylised version of the zippy 1930s. The feeling good continues in comedy, song and in about 300 extras – all the way to the finish.

Read more: Barbara Sukowa in Cradle Will Rock (1999)

Lou Castel in Beware of a Holy Whore

Certainly, Lou Castel’s character Jeff, the director in Beware of a Holy Whore, is an imitation of Fassbinder himself. Indeed, the leather jacket is a great give away, and then there is the shouting and the flinging himself physically on to the nearest person for comfort.

Read more: Lou Castel in Beware of a Holy Whore

Kurt Raab in Effi Briest

It is typical of a Fassbinder film that all would muck in when called upon to do so, and this it appears would operate on several tiers. Therefore, when it came to dubbing Effi Briest, and when we can presume that Hark Bohm was no longer available, the job fell to Kurt Raab. Perhaps Raab was just at hand, and cheaper, but it would have been unlikely that he could have been first choice. Raab’s voice is smooth and always slides along from word to word, whereas Bohm’s own voice, more meancing and quiet, would have been better for the role of Apotheker Gieshübler.

Read more: Kurt Raab in Effi Briest