Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lola

Lola (1981) is Rainer Werner Fassbinder's take on that classic monolith of German cinema, The Blue Angel, in which an upright schoolteacher is seduced and ruined by a conniving cabaret singer named Lola, played by Marlene Dietrich. Fassbinder shifts the setting to 1950s Germany, during the "economic miracle" in which Germany rebounded from the war. And he makes the seduction of the "pillar of rectitude" by the singer-prostitute more morally ambiguous.

It's the third in Fassbinder's "BRD" trilogy about the post-war period in Germany: the others being Veronika Voss and the Marriage of Maria Braun. Like those two films, Lola centers on a female character and the whirlwind of circumstances that swirl around her. The story is told in the garish poster-art primary colors of vintage Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli melodramas, belying the sleazy deals and sordid goings-on underneath the surface.

Although the story is somewhat discursive, Fassbinder never takes a false step. At times, his films can seem less like cinema and more like theater, and I mean that in the best possible way. His films share the theater's intimacy, complexity and ambiguity. It's as if a superlative theater company had somehow gotten hold of film equipment, which actually isn't far from the truth. The casts in Fassbinder's film are comprised primarily of actors from his theater troupe, in existence before and during his film career. His films always retain something of the theater's purity, clarity and purpose.

All in all, another great piece in the tremendous output of the prolific Fassbinder.

FilmStocker Rating: A

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