Gods of the Plague (1970)

I presume this film is why the whole “gangster films” set got an R rating in Australia, i.e. for the brief but rather startling look at the contents of a hardcore porn magazine… the local DVD includes a long interview with the film’s star Harry Baer, who says something about the stasis of Fassbinder’s first couple of films being due to the sheer weight of the soundproofing blimp on the camera, meaning it was just easier to put the thing down in one place and film from a fixed position. By the time of his third film, though, young Rainer apparently more money to work with (though the film still cost less than US$50,000) and so Gods increases its visual range vastly by comparison with the last film, even extending to a couple of aerial shots. Even the interiors and so forth are a lot livelier somehow; there’s not so much of the void-like starkness, and the whole thing fee;s less cramped. And generally it’s more recognisable as a “crime film”, with lighting influences and the like clearly coming from American film noir, though it shouldn’t be mistaken for a regular one; Fassbinder keeps the slow pace from the first film, so the conventional thrills are not exactly to be had. And what of Baer? He plays the same character as Fassbinder himself in the last film, just like Hanna Schygulla reprises hers… or do they? The precise nature of the “trilogy” starts getting complicated here, cos Baer’s performance and physicality as Franz  are so different from that of Fassbinder, it doesn’t have the same repressed thug swagger, it’s more, I don’t know, beat or something. Are these the same people as in the previous film, or different ones? I’m not sure there is a definitive answer to that (I gather the third film will complicate the issue further). At least, taken by itself, Gods seemed a bit more easily accessible than the first one. Time to go and see how I fare with number three…

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