November 23, 2016

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Taught Himself Cinema with These 10 Movies

The autodidact auteur lists the 10 films that influenced his brief yet prolific career.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was only 37 years old when he passed away in 1982. But even within the confines of an all-too-brief filmmaking career, he managed to direct 50 different features, three shorts, and two revolutionary television series.

It's important to note that Fassbinder got his start in the theater: he was persuaded into pursuing the theatrical arts by his mother, which lead to two years of acting school at the Fridl-Leonhard Studio in Munich, Germany. The theatrical influence on his films is clearly visible in a range of classics, perhaps most notably The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and The Marriage of Maria Braun. It was this stageplay aesthetic that separated Fassbinder from other auteurs of the New German Cinema, such as Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, whose influences were mostly limited to the medium of film. In fact, Fassbinder's first 10 films, incredibly produced between 1969 and 1971, were said to be an extension of his work on the stage. Shot with a static camera, Fassbinder deliberately employed unnaturalistic dialogue.

It's not that Fassbinder didn't attempt to capitalize on the film medium from an early point in his career, however. While he was still in theater school, the future auteur began to fool around with Super 8 film. These films forced him to learn various production roles, including actor, assistant director, and sound. He made several attempts to gain admission into Berlin Film School, but he was turned down every time. True to the No Film School mantra, these rejections only led Fassbinder to self-educate. His hunger for learning every aspect of film production led to one of his greatest qualities as a director: a versatile skillset. Fassbinder served as composer, production designer, cinematographer, producer, and editor. 

So what were the films that he learned from?

According to Metrograph, "in 1980, an editor at the publishing house Rowohlt Verlag asked Fassbinder to name his 10 favorite actors and films for a book modeled after an American anthology called The Book of Lists. In his notebook, Fassbinder wrote down his 10 favorite films, actresses, actors, books, plays, operas, pop musicians and soccer players, then neglected to submit any of the lists." It wasn't until his death six years later that they were found and released.

They are some pretty obscure films, but we managed to dig up some trailers below.

1. The Damned (1969, dir: Luchino Visconti)

2. The Naked And the Dead (1958, dir: Raoul Walsh)

3. Lola Montes (1955, dir: Max Ophuls)

4. Flamingo Road (1949, dir: Michael Curtiz)

5. Salò, or the 120 Days Of Sodom (1975, dir: Pier Paolo Pasolini)

6. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, dir: Howard Hawks)

7. Dishonored (1931, dir: Josef von Sternberg)

8. The Night Of The Hunter (1955, dir: Charles Laughton)

9. Johnny Guitar (1954, dir: Nicholas Ray)

10. The Red Snowball Tree (1973, dir: Vasili Shukshin)

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