The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972)

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Rainer Werner Fassbinder directs Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla and Irm Hermann in this German drama about a seemingly bed-ridden fashion designer who tries to control her latest concubine. 

One of those nexus point movies that appears to tie-in with the themes and plots of everything you’ve watched lately. It is the anti-Carol in its presentation of an exploitative, sensitivity free relationship between a young girl and a regal older, richer lady. The power struggles, both sexual and emotional, between model and designer mirror Phantom Thread. And being only my second experience of Fassbinder, it is nice to see Hanna Schygulla play another variation on her beautiful hustler as in  The Marriage of Maria Braun, though this one is viewed less sympathetically and is far less complex a creation. Heartless in comparison, really. This is essentially a filmed play, though Fassbinder seems to delight in finding continually different, starkly obvious camera angles to film the drama, often entangling his actresses in unnatural poses for framing purposes. As a formal exercise it is visually impressive enough, but it is a cold, cynical tale, full of Brechtian distractions. I was also slightly misled by myself. I assumed Irm Hermann’s often in the background, often silent, always present “assistant” would turn out to be Petra’s estranged, often mentioned husband in drag. Some kinky subservient fallout from their disastrous marriage. Turns out I brought that weird little twist in entirely from my own subconscious. Disparaging the femininity of a fine actress. Whoops!

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