Katzelmacher Movie Review

Not much happens in Fassbinder's Katzelmacher (the title translates as Cock Artist), at least not until Fassbinder himself shows up to throw a wrench into things.

Those things are the empty lives of a group of Munich city-dwellers, a bunch of men and women roughly in their 30s who do nothing but sit on the sidewalk, smoke, and have sex with one another all day long. Fassbinder's Greek immigrant Jorgos mucks up the status quo when he moves in and takes up with one of the German women (Hanna Schygulla), throwing their slacker lifestyle out of its precarious balance. The local Germs do what any territory-protecting brood would do: They beat the crap out of him.

That's about the sum total of Katzelmacher, a (mostly) quiet film that erupts into violence and cryptic eroticism, much like his later effort The Merchant of Four Seasons. Aside from an obvious metaphor for xenophobia, the movie doesn't tell us much about anything. In typical Fassbinder fashion, he leaves the interpretation for you -- whether you're to scorn or embrace the lives of these Teutonic slackers (20 years ahead of their time, by the way), it's for you to decide on your own. That Fassbinder once again casts himself in the role of the underdog may or may not weigh on that decision.

Shot with the bare minimum of set design (in depressing black and white, of course), virtually no cutting within scenes, and photographed from afar, Katzelmacher is a minimalist work of art. It doesn't reach the level of despair of some of Fassbinder's other works, but the artistry is unquestionable.

The new DVD features a cleaned-up transfer and subtitles along with filmographies of cast and crew.


Comments

Katzelmacher Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 1969

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