Katzelmacher (West Germany, 1969):

A batch of Munich deadbeats spend the days bitching, smoking, drinking beer and fucking each other (mostly for money), until the arrival of a young Greek immigrant gives their petty cruelty a new focus -- ranging from rape to communism, gossip ferments until it makes the fellas take a break from leaning against the building railing to tap dance on the outsider's face. Very much a spawn of his Anti-Theatre sensibility, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's follow-up to his debut Love is Colder Than Death is all blank walls, blunt alienation and deadpan puckishness. Adapting his on his own play, Fassbinder (who plays the Greek lunk) sheathes a generation's post-war prejudice and despair in rootless posing and unbudging camera setups -- the group's social-spiritual deadness, recorded in static long takes, is razzed in mock-ethereal reverse tracking shots across the courtyard, accompanied by some unseen Schubertian tickling. The theme is dislocated ennui, but the director keeps things harshly droll, steering his bored-insouciant-witty troupe (including such future staples as Hanna Schygulla, Irm Hermann and Harry Baer) in and out of their microdramas and, Godard-style, making something out of nothing (a couple stripping in a tiny bare room with only a mattress on the floor and a drawing on the wall, an argument pitched over a meal, Elga Sorbas doing a little song around an imaginary spotlight). Cinematography by Dietrich Lohmann. With Lilith Ungerer, Doris Mattes, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Hans Hirschmüller, Peter Moland, and Hannes Gromball. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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