Saturday, May 8, 2010

Review: Love is Colder than Death (1969)

Sometimes a director's first work will be so good that they will never be able to top it, and they just spend the rest of their careers doing diminishing permutations of the same film (Orson Welles, Mel Brooks). Sometimes a director's first film will be a fully formed work, that fits in nicely within the context of their career, being neither the best nor the worst film they will ever make (the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Billy Wilder). Sometimes a film maker's first film will be seriously flawed in many respects, but will point the way to their eventual excellence (Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen). And sometimes a film maker's first film will be so terrible, so baffling, infuriating, annoying, tedious, pretentious and stupid, that it is actually difficult to see how they ever became good filmmakers. I can only really think of three that fit into this last category - those are Jim Jarmusch's godawful Permanent Vacation, Terry Gilliam's dreary and incomprehesible Jabberwocky (yes, he had co-directed the excellent Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but this was his first solo effort, and it was goddawful), and now I can add Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Love is Colder than Death to the list.

Don't get me wrong - I like quite a few of Fassbinder's films - he is a talented director. But what Fassbinder is good at is middle-class women being esoterically opressed by male ideas of sex or marriage. What he is bad at, apparently, is gangsters. I mean, this film makes no sense! Never mind the fact that there are shots that go for about three minutes of just a car driving, or people in a shopping centre, or people ambling down a road, and that these shots serve no real thematic, atmospheric, tonal or plot purposes (I suppose you could say they set the 'tone' as 'really fucking boring', but I don't think that was what Fassbinder was going for). Never mind that the soundtrack sometimes sounds like someone pissing electricity directly into your ear. Never mind the fact that the film spends some of its time attempting to explore gender politics, but has no fucking clue what it's trying to say about them, and so just leaves the audience irritated and baffled.

Actually - no. Do mind all those things. Mind them all a lot, because they do add up to making this movie terrible.

But none of them are the main problem with the film. None of them are as bad as the fact that the film just makes no sense! It's infuriating how little sense any part of this film makes. And this isn't like my complaint against Made in USA's incomprehensible plot, or anything - in that film you just never know what is going on. In Love is Colder than Death you do know what's going on most of the time, it's just that it makes no fucking sense. I mean, they're gangsters, right? Okay, but the first 'gangster' thing we see them do is steal sunglasses. Yes, that's right! I mean, fuck. I've heard of petty criminals, but that is fucking bananas! And then, after they've acted like some goddamn thirteen year olds who've been dared by their friends, they... randomly shoot some people, with completely blank expressions on their faces. Yep. They go from sunglass-nappers to cold-blooded murderers in about three minutes of screen time. Okay, the first murder sort of makes sense, but why the hell did they kill the waitress? Or the cop? And then, when chubby-face-whose-name-I-don't-care-about-and-refuse-to-look-up is arrested by the cops, the cops don't even fucking mention the dead policeman! I mean, what the hell? And how did he get arrested, anyway? It just went from them shooting the cop to him in gaol, without any goddamn explanation! And, my god, is that cobbler a shitty gun-runner. I mean, what the hell? If you're going to be illegally selling guns, you've gotta assume that you're selling them to criminals, right? So why the fuck doesn't he have ANY goddamn protection? What is wrong with him? How did he survive to middle age? And WHY did Joanne ring the police? I mean, I guess I can sort of understand it thematically - a sort of all women are evil type thing, but it makes NO SENSE for her character to have done that. It makes particularly little sense, since after she calls the cops, she goes back over to the group who she is pretty sure is about to be arrested and/or shot! What? Why? That makes no fucking sense!

I hated this movie so fucking much. The historical interest of the film in no way made up for the utter awfulness.

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