“So much tenderness,” as Rainer Werner Fassbinder gazes unflinchingly into the abyss (of a country and of a cinema). The references have been well-noted: characters named Murnau, Fuller; a club called “Lola Montez”; high-contrast B&W photography that seems to regress into history as the film proceeds (from 70s self-aware to 40s noir to 30s melodrama, finally resolved and reconciled in an eras-spanning tableaux mort). Less remarked on is the sense that The American Soldier is itself a desiccated object, an effective corpse that nonetheless contains signs of life, even if only mere twitches. The catch is that once a beating heart is espied herein, it must be annihilated, all the better to maintain official, sanctioned histories (devoid of soul and spirit) over more multifaceted realities. As Billy Wilder turned a crumbling Berlin into a slapstick, satirical playground in One, Two, Three, so Fassbinder offers up The American Soldier’s Munich as a monochrome city of sadness, peopled by a stoic rogues gallery (most of them screaming in silence) and presided over by Karl Scheydt’s fedora-clad angel of death, Ricky.