Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The American Soldier|
Actors: Marius Aicher, Hark Bohm, Marquard Bohm, Ingrid Caven, Gustl Datz
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's tribute to American gangster films is an exercise in pure pulp fantasy. Ricky (Karl Scheydt) is a German hit man who returns home after a stint in America and is hired by renegade police detectiv... more »
Intriguing early Fassbinder film
J. Clark | metro New York City | 01/07/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The American Soldier (1970), Fassbinder's revisionist homage to gangster movies and film noir, is alternately playful and deeply disturbing. The DVD, from Wellspring, is of very good quality; although bizarrely the cover shows Marius Aicher, who co-stars as the leader of the corrupt detectives, NOT Karl Scheydt who plays Ricky, the titular "American Soldier."The film tells the story of Ricky, a professional killer, who returns to his German hometown from America, where he fought for the US in Viet Nam. Three detectives covertly hire Ricky to kill the people behind a crime wave which, humiliatingly, the police have been unable to stop. Although it seemed glacially paced on a first viewing, in subsequent days I found myself thinking about its haunting images many times. At times, it feels almost like a ghost story, with phantoms drifting through a literally shadowy world. Fassbinder and his frequent cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann bring an effectively creepy look to the film, shot on a limited budget in stark, high-contrast black and white.The American Soldier follows Fassbinder's two earlier thrillers, Love is Colder Than Death (1969; his first picture) and Gods of the Plague (1970), but it is foremost an homage to the American gangster movies which always fascinated him. There are traces of his early passion for Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou), whose ironic style he adopts in staging the murders, with victims crumpling as if they were children playacting at death. But visually and dramatically, it focuses on the classics of film noir. Ricky brings to mind the amoral, unstoppable antiheroes of Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street (1953) and especially Robert Aldrich's stunning Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Perhaps the most intriguing element is Ricky's and his unnamed brother's (Kurt Raab, who specialized in playing Fassbinder's most offbeat characters) relationship with their enigmatic mother (Eva Ingeborg Scholz). Her half-smiles suggest volumes of dark family mysteries, and recall the twisted oedipal streak in Raoul Walsh's White Heat (1949).But too often The American Soldier seems to beg for "footnoting" - putting it in the context of the many extraordinary films which it quotes or revamps - rather than presenting an immediate experience. Of course, Fassbinder often wants to distance the viewer from his films, forcing us - as do Brecht and Godard - to confront the picture's, and hence our own, social and psychological assumptions. But in this film, Fassbinder's sources and his strikingly original vision do not come together as effectively as in his best work.The film's climax is an unforgettable exception, but I do not want to spoil its considerable shock value. All I will say is that connecting it with the earlier, sometimes even playful, tone gave the film enormous, and deeply disturbing, emotional resonance. This is one of Fassbinder's most intriguing early works, and it points the way to his even greater films in the years ahead."
A Great Introduction to Fassbinder
J. Clark | 07/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very funny film. From the dark but humorous beginning to the endless ["So Much Tenderness"] ending (you have to see the movie). For late-night viewings only, I would think."