Pioneers in Ingolstadt (West Germany, 1971):
(Pioniere in Ingolstadt)

A troop of German soldiers arrives at tiny Ingolstadt with orders to build a wooden bridge, though, besides a couple of shots of the guys hammering the same beams over and over, their interests are more attuned to brawling, boozing, and whoring -- the last amply supplied by the bored female populace, embodied by forlorn Hanna Schygulla and her looser pal Irm Hermann. Both housemaids ditching their aprons for microskirts, the two take to the streets for uniformed horndogs, with Hermann diving into trick-turning with a vengeance (earning the hatred of the other gals) while the still-romantic Schygulla, already with the boss' son (Rudolf Waldemar Brem) hounding her ass, has to fall for the most narcissistically dislocated of the grunts (Harry Baer). In this Rainer Werner Fassbinder TV quickie, Schygulla's love for the soldier (which inevitably brings about her misery) is not so much an emotion as an incantation of an emotion -- no campy put-on, but the realization of a character who wants to believe in love, in the possibility of regeneration from a society's spiritually coagulated stasis. Somnambulistically terse, the movie reaches for Brecht (it's no surprise that the source material, Marieluise Fleisser's 1929 play, was a favorite of Herr Bertold's) but ultimately settles for disinterested sadomasochism. If little of the military setting matches the pungency of Claire Denis' Beau Travail, bits of Fassbinderia still twirl in between the Antiteater tableaux -- an interminable circling pan around a tavern of dancing gropers may be more mobility than cameraman Dietrich Lohmann can deal with, though a brief interlude between a loudmouth sergeant and a tiny Lana Turner wannabe shows how a mere dance for the director can be a battleground of emotional brutality. With Walter Sedlmayr and GŁnther Kaufmann.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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