The spellbindingly grotesque life of the beastly, homosexual, drug-addicted German filmmaker who made 43 films before he...


LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH: The Life and Times of Rainer Werner Fassbinder

The spellbindingly grotesque life of the beastly, homosexual, drug-addicted German filmmaker who made 43 films before he died at age 37. Reading this is like keeping your hand on a rapidly cooling corpse that keeps jumping up with the idea for one more 21-day movie shoot. Compared with Fassbinder's twisted deeps, the dark side of Alfred Hitchcock glows like a June moon. It's hard to keep all of Fassbinder's homosexual film crew straight or to untangle his lovers, all of whom he dubbed with feminine names (Kitty, Emma Potato, Mutti--for Mother--and so on), though it must be admitted that the twice-married Fassbinder dished out his spontaneous rages (against ""traitors"") equally between the sexes. The lovers are so often called by their cuddlesome feminine names that the male actors, set designers and other crew members lose their male roles on the page. And nearly everyone is caught up in Fassbinder's relentless drive for fame, the supreme achievement he was shooting for being to win the three biggest European film awards, the Oscar and a Time cover. He radiated fame, sucked it up like a satyr. As his much-abused (by him) but equally vain mother said, Rainer had a very, very heavy childhood. It helped him early to arrive at the idea that people are compulsive pigs and that there's no point in prettying up the fact. At 15, he suddenly and guiltlessly declared himself a homosexual, before he'd had sex with anyone. Later, he enjoyed hiring his mother as an actress and tongue-lashing her on the set for his upbringing. At the height of his fame, he had a cataclysmic car accident, which his mother first came upon: she immediately began primping her hair for the arriving media. On the day after he died, she sat watching her own videotape of his last film, Querelle (the original version with all the sodomy intact). To be around him for any reason filled anyone with tension and apprehension--but he needed his ""family"" about him, his hireling lovers and actresses to sweep up tenderly and then vent his self-loathing upon. He died of a cerebral stroke, a last line of coke lying unsniffed at his bedside, a cigarette butt between his fingers. Genius at its full sun--but dead just as the second act was beginning.

Pub Date: March 31, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987