Two classic Fassbinders showing Movies: Next week, the Orpheum will screen 'The Merchant of Four Seasons' and 'The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.'


November 27, 1998|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

George Figgs, owner of the Orpheum in Fells Point, will be making up for lost time when he shows two films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder next week.

Because a retrospective of movies by the German director, who died in 1982, went on tour last year, Figgs was unable to book any of them here. Starting Monday, he will show "The Merchant of Four Seasons" (1971) and "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" (1972), both considered to be definitive examples of Fassbinder's style. That style combined the melodrama of director Douglas Sirk ("Written on the Wind," "All That Heaven Allows"), whom Fassbinder admired, with the affectless, cooly restrained formal approach that he perfected while doing experimental theater in the early 1960s.

"The films focus on squalor and despair, from a calm, thoughtful perch," explained Figgs. In "Bitter Tears," an older woman falls in love with a younger woman, the title character played by Fassbinder repertory player Hanna Schygulla. "Petra von Kant is him," Figgs said, referring to Fassbinder. "She's mean and spiteful and egomaniacal, and so was he. You're drawn to Petra von Kant because she's cunning, beautiful, emotionally generous, as he was."

Fassbinder led a hard-driving life, making more than 30 films in just 17 years and eventually driving himself to death from abusing alcohol and drugs. He also abused the people around him, including his repertory group of actors and artists, who were "slavishly devoted" to the director, according to Figgs.

"Merchant of Four Seasons," a rarely-seen Fassbinder film about a fruit peddler drinking his own life away, is another autobiographical statement, said Figgs. "With all his real-life negativity and bad behavior, what he portrayed on the screen was just how victimized people are by those overpowering forces."

"The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" and "The Merchant of Four Seasons" begin their weeklong engagement at the Orpheum on Monday.

Purely subversive

This just in: MicroCineFest will hold a screening of underground films tonight at the Lodge, 244 S. Highland Ave. If the offerings at the recent 2nd annual MicroCineFest were any indication, these off-center short films should not be missed by any fan of subversive, radical and no-budget independent filmmaking. The show starts at 9 p.m. Admission is $2.

Last chance to see 'Oz'

Families looking for a little post-turkey entertainment this weekend can't do any better than "The Wizard of Oz," which will wrap up its engagement at the Senator Theatre on Wednesday. As an added bonus, the Senator has an actual costume that was worn by one of the movie's original "Winkies," the Wicked Witch's palace guards. (This one actually came from the guy who said, "You killed her.") Also on display: signed photographs of Ray Bolger and Jack Haley, and some original scarecrow stuffing. The items are on loan from the collection of Randi Haman.

The four-week run of "The Wizard of Oz" has been "phenomenal," says Senator owner Tom Kiefaber, who intended originally to play the 1939 classic for just a week.

Instead, people came in droves to show their children and grandchildren -- and maybe just inner children -- the magic of Oz on the big screen.

The Senator, which is screening one of 50 dye-transfer prints -- which are made by laying dye directly on the negative, resulting in more saturated colors and a more variegated palette -- has had the highest grosses of any Maryland theater showing the movie.

Although Kiefaber has held "The Wizard of Oz" over before, Kiefaber promises that "this is it, folks."

On Wednesday, the Stanley Tucci comedy "The Impostors" will arrive, making the next five days your last chance to see the wonders of the Emerald City on the big screen.

Pub Date: 11/27/98

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