A Fassbinder Melodrama in Chicago

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

This Sunday, Chicago’s Doc Films will continue its season-long retrospective of New German Cinema icon Rainer Werner Fassbinder with a 35 mm screening of his 1972 masterpiece The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Featuring an all-female cast of frequent collaborators, the film charts the emotional turmoil of Petra, an alcoholic, reclusive fashion designer (Margit Carstensen) who has fallen madly in love with a beautiful ingénue (Hanna Schygulla) and has a disturbingly codependent relationship with her maid (Irm Hermann). Fassbinder confines the action to Petra’s opulently decorated apartment, setting the stage for a potent study in romantic obsession that bears the influence of Douglas Sirk’s extravagant Hollywood melodramas. In the below clip, excerpted from a supplemental feature on our edition, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus talks about what it was like to work with the notoriously fast-paced director on this psychosexual drama.

Michael Ballhaus on Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

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