Tuesday, December 8, 2015

#758: The Merchant of Four Seasons

(Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1971)

Goddamn I hated this movie. Ugh, it was so bad. Who the hell wants to watch this asshole for even 80 minutes? I don't get the point of this movie beyond its technical proficiency in storytelling and framing (though it even lacks many of the impressive traits of Fassbinder's later work). Yes, we get insights into Hans in novel and often unexpected ways. But there's little redeeming value in these insights, and Hans's behavior even with his friends - let alone with his wife and child - is absolutely atrocious.

Can someone explain why Hanna Schygulla's character defends Hans in this film? Can someone tell me why we should care at all about what happens to him, or even really what happens to his wife? What is the point of Fassbinder's obsession with his daughter? Where does any of this go?

Fassbinder has replaced Godard as the director that elicits the widest range of reaction from me. Something like World on a Wire or The Marriage of Maria Braun would be a strong candidate for inclusion on my best-of list for the 70s, while this or the unbearable Berlin Alexanderplatz immediately come to mind as the most difficult slogs in the Collection.

It's also interesting how much I disliked this movie considering how recent of a release it is. Most of the movies I have a strong dislike for were released early in Criterion's run. The last movie in terms of spine numbers I both didn't like and really didn't think should be in the Collection was probably The Four Feathers, way back at #583 (though The Canterbury Tales is a pretty bad middle chapter in Pasolini's Trilogy of Life). So maybe I'm just missing something here, I don't know. All I can say is that even at 80 minutes I was more than happy to see the final card even if it came at a most random and unsatisfying time.

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