Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

The American Soldier

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on May 27, 2014 at 6:10 PM


Rainer Werner Fassbinder




IDEA:  A Vietnam war vet returns to his German hometown, where he is enlisted by three crooked cops to put hits on some unwanted civilians.

BLURB:  Fassbinder’s wonderfully strange gangster/noir pastiche imagines a world so morally bankrupt it’s doubled back on itself and become parody. Here, crooked cops and macho killers are exaggeratedly disaffected phonies, their mock-professional attitudes and chauvinistic posturing only transparently covering their spiritual vacancy. In the place of real emotions are banal displays of physical violence; in place of affection is macho aggressiveness and put-upon misogyny; and normative behavior has been all but snuffed out, substituted by perversity, followed and consolidated by deadening complacency. The love Fassbinder has for the genre tropes he exploits is palpable: what is so thrilling is how he manages to both revel in them and expose them as the ludicrous illusions they are. His understanding of the ways in which visual culture shapes ideology and identity is manifest here in his parade of seedy degenerates, all of whom seem to be acting out images they’ve been fed, and who become part and parcel of the narcotizing culture they so indifferently inhabit. The film’s ending, in which sex (or, the impression of it) is only allowed after death and is conferred by brother rather than lover, is an ingeniously executed scene that sums up the movie’s thesis, both morbid and absurd, of a social compass thrown deliriously out of whack.

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