BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) Rating: NNNNN
This is a great season for admirers of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. His German economic miracle trilogy of Lola, Veronika Voss and The Marriage Of Maria Braun is due from Criterion, the Cinematheque has a huge retrospective scheduled for October and November, and the Goethe-Institut has this unexpected starter, a very rare theatrical screening of the director's epic 15-hour adaptation of Alfred Döblin's novel Berlin Alexanderplatz over four evenings and two afternoons. This one's not on video in any form. It is, in essence, the longest narrative film ever made. As the Weimar Republic is going through its economic upheaval, Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht) gets out of prison and becomes involved in the lively criminal underworld peopled by Fassbinder's stock company of actors: Hanna Schygulla, Barbara Sukowa, Gottfried John, Irm Hermann. It's Fassbinder's Greed, a relentless naturalistic portrait of a crucial moment in German history, and a hard-edged, emotionally draining melodrama that's both savage and enormously tender.
The epilogue, Fassbinder's own conception, is either a daring leap or an incredible miscalculation; I've never been able to decide which. (September 21, parts 1-4; September 23, parts 5-7; September 25, parts 8-10; September 28, parts 11-13 and epilogue. Kinowelt Hall, Goethe-Institut)