Stanley Kubrick & Rainer Werner Fassbinder
When Stanley met Werner
Stanley Kubrick and Rainer Werner Fassbinder were two giants of post war cinema. If only they had met, says Paul Dale
This month two monsters of cinema meet in the central belt. As German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s takes over the Glasgow Film Theatre (courtesy of Goethe Institut) with a small selection of his better known films (Fear Eats the Soul, Effi Brest, The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and his most commercially successful film The Marriage of Maria Braun), a poster exhibition and free drop-in documentary screenings; an almost complete retrospective of the films of Stanley Kubrick breaks ground at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse.
These two remarkable filmmakers never met, yet despite being traumatised by once having to witness the sang froid that arose when François Ozon (Fassbinder’s natural successor) and Peter Greenaway (the Kubrick of the public purse) met, god, I wish they had. These two very different directors could have learned so much from each other. Imagine if they had swapped place for a day, a month, a year. Kubrick holing himself up in some dingy house in Berlin with his favourite actors amongst the half ripped temazepam packets and mounds of dexamphetamine, and being forced to churn out a film in a couple of days. No researchers holding folders containing examples of 17th century quill pens and certainly no model space ships. Or imagine Fassbinder, with his bad skin, cigarette permanently in hand and penchant for verbal abuse storming around Shepperton Studios envoking the spirit of his hero Jean-Marie Straub as he dismantled the lives of the superficially contented crew of the SS Discovery with a dissection of their banal social conventions. I would like to see that film and would also like to see the one Kubrick would make in his Berlin squat. Maybe it would hark back to this expatriate American’s sparse and beautiful New York photography of the 1940s. Maybe it would bring out Kubrick’s talent for Carry On style facetiousness occasionally glimpsed (most noticeably in the speeded up motion copulation to the William Tell Overture in A Clockwork Orange).
Fassbinder and Kubrick did, after all, share an obsession with syntax and stylisation, even if they emerged from very different traditions. More crucially it can be argued that Kubrick and Fassbinder despised the very humanity that powered their greatest films (Fassbinder was vitriol personified and Kubrick annihilated it in Dr Strangelove and moved off into outer space in 2001).
The truth is that had Fassbinder lived past his 37 years, he would have taken everyone to the woodshed and schooled them. Just look at what he did when he shifted genre. His rarely seen 1971 western Whity pours sauerkraut over Leone’s spaghetti with unforgettable effect. In 1975 Fassbinder even interpreted A Clockwork Orange in his own inverted trenchant manner with Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven. These are the films I wish they were showing in Glasgow; he was Brecht, Godard and Artaud to Kubrick’s lumpfisted parabolist. We will not see his like again.
Fassbinder, GFT, Glasgow, until Sun 29 Mar. Kubrick: A Retrospective from Fri 6 Mar–Sun 5 Apr.