Born on May 31, 1946 in the Bavarian town of Bad Wörishofen, the iconic Rainer Werner Fassbinder spent his short lifetime rejecting the bourgeois lifestyle he was born into. After boldly declaring his homosexuality at the age of 15, he devoted his life to a career in cinema. Fassbinder attended Rudolf Steiner Schools in Augsburg and Munich (the controversial teaching establishments Dario Argento would use as the setting for his famous cult shocker Suspiria), before dropping out in order to cultivate a singular radical aesthetic in the theater. After studying at the Fridl-Leonhard Studio in Munich, Fassbinder joined the Action Theater in 1967, where he met many of his closest friends and fiercest collaborators. Inspired by Brecht’s innovative theories on distancing and alienation, Fassbinder (like his great muse Douglas Sirk) wanted to encourage his audience to transform its theatrical catharsis into social action outside the theater. Howard Hawks, John Huston, Jean-Luc Godard and Raoul Walsh’s influence is evident in his earlier works, while his post-Merchant of Four Seasons output bears the unmistakable humanism of Sirk’s famous melodramas. The bad-boy of the German New Wave cast himself in various roles both behind and in front of the camera and the quantity of films he made in 14 years was unbelievable (well over 40, counting shorts and TV productions). That he was so consistently on top of his game is a testament to his position as one of cinema’s greatest visionaries. Fassbinder was always running, and on June 10, 1982 his life was cut short when, at the age of 37, he died after taking an overdose of cocaine and sleeping pills.
1960s: Love Is Colder Than Death
1970s: Gods of the Plague, Pioneers in Ingolstadt, Whity, Beware of a Holy Whore, The Merchant of Four Seasons, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Martha, Fox and His Friends, Fear of Fear, Chinese Roulette, The Stationmaster’s Wife, and In a Year of 13 Moons
1980s: Berlin Alexanderplatz