The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant


What an unusual movie, not least because all of it takes place in a single room. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) is a German film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who also wrote the play. (I read that Michael Fassbender gets asked all the time if he's related to Rainer, and even though their names are spelled differently, Fassbender used to say, with the hope of landing acting gigs, that Fassbinder was indeed a distant relative.)


Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen), a renowned fashion designer, meets Karin Thimm (Hanna Schygulla) and becomes infatuated and then in love and in lust with the young woman, who after a while seems to be using Petra for her money and refuge from a failing marriage. Meanwhile, Petra treats her assistant, Marlene (Irm Hermann), somewhat like a slave, forcing her to dance cheek to cheek and do Petra's design work as well as a hodgepodge of menial tasks. Then there are Petra's mother and daughter and cousin (an all-women cast apart from Dyonysus and the gang on the wall) each making brief appearances. Way more prominent are the several naked mannequins, and even more so is Nicolas Poussin's Midas and Bacchus, with this painting's red-mantled god's tallywhacker pointing, shot after shot, at these two self-serving souls. Bits are funny and others absurd. And all in all it's a film that won't fade from memory anytime soon.



From left to right: Hanna Schygulla, tallywhacker, Margit Carstensen

7 views