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January 29, 2004|By Michael Sragow

10 from Fassbinder

Maryland Institute College of Art and the Maryland Film Festival kick off their 10-film Rainer Werner Fassbinder Retrospective tonight with the late bad-boy wunderkind's 1978 international hit The Marriage of Maria Braun.

Married to Hermann Braun, a soldier, for "half a day and a whole night" in 1943, Maria decides that she'll remain his wife no matter how long she must wait for his return from the Russian front, then from prison, and later from the United States - and no matter what she must do to survive when he's not around. She becomes the lover (and the killer) of a black American GI, then the mistress and personal adviser of a French-German industrialist.

Fassbinder suggests that postwar Germany is in the same spot as Maria, requiring strong national leadership as badly as she needs her husband. Even those of us who don't buy Fassbinder's blend of melodrama, social satire and sex comedy can admire Hanna Schygulla's performance in the title role.

"She wants everything in the realms of feeling to be total," Schygulla once said of Maria; she's all business, all devotion, or all lust in quick turns. Because of the urgency Schygulla brings to the part, you may root for her even when Fassbinder doesn't want you to.

"The Marriage of Maria Braun" screens today at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at MICA's Hall at Brown Center, 1301 Mount Royal Ave. Individual tickets are $10 ($8 for students and seniors); series tickets are $25; MICA students, faculty and staff get in free. For more information, go to

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