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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Western > Foreign > German > Telefilm > Whity (Fassbinder)

The Fassbinder Collection I (Fantoma)


                                    Picture:     Sound:      Extras:     Film:

Whity                              C+            C-             C+         B

Pioneers In Ingolstadt       C             C+             C          C+



Though he left us tragically, Rainer Werner Fassbinder left a legacy of radical cinema that continues to endure.  Though the effectiveness of his films vary, they are all originals and we now continue his films on DVD with Fantoma’s set of two of his seven films from 1970: Whity and Pioneers In Ingolstadt.  They have been gathered together in a set dubbed The Fassbinder Collection I.


Whity is the name of a black slave in Fassbinder’s still-bold take on the Spaghetti Western, even shot in one of Sergio Leone’s own locations.  Whity is actually the illegitimate son of a wealthy, deranged landowner who does not consider him of any worth but slavery, because “half-breeds” are still considered full-breed of color in the power structure.  Combine this with the explicit racism, homosexuality, cross-dressing and cast of other deranged character, and Fassbinder allows this to cross over into horror very quickly.  Unlike most films in the cycle, this is one of the boldest and best that does not try to cash in on the huge box office success of The Dollars Trilogy.  It even gets creepier when Fassbinder plays with the idea of skin color throughout.


Pioneers In Ingolstadt is a German telefilm based on the ironically titles play by Marieluise Fleisser about soldiers building a bridge and the prostitutes who become involved with them.  Instead of a “hooker with a heart of gold” cliché or the usual melodrama, we get realistic hookers trying to survive and surviving depending on how well they can deal with reality.  The soldiers have their own issues, but it becomes a stratum of character study that helped put Fassbinder on the map in a new way and sealed his association with working through the work of Douglas Sirk.


Like some of the Mike Leigh TV works we have covered elsewhere on the site, it is obvious the talent was not bound to stay in the television medium for long.  Both films are worth seeing, but Whity is one of the best of several Fassbinder films this critic has seen so far.  A director still not full rediscovered yet due to his still-potent boldness, The Fassbinder Collection I is as good a place as any to start seeing his work.


Whity offers an anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image that was shot by the great Michael Ballhaus, in which the look and world of the Spaghetti Westerns Sergio Leone helped to create (and many others tried to imitate) is remarkably recaptured before it is subverted.  The 1.33 X 1 image on Ingolstadt has color issues and is lucky to survive as well as it does, since TV archives are in often worse shape than those of feature films.  Dietrich Lohmann, who had already shot several films for Fassbinder, shot Ingolstadt.  As is typical for telefilms of the era, it is more cinematic that you would get today from almost any country or network, globalization notwithstanding.


Whity has Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono that is on the small side, though it is clean, yet it is also a little too compressed.  We have heard worse Dolby 1.0 with fuller sound, because of outright muffling, but that is the nature of this 1.0: it is like playing Russian Roulette where the person is more likely to loose.  It does not help that the audio on all such films (i.e., Spaghetti Westerns) were usually poor to begin with.  Ingolstadt fares a bit better with it Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, but it also shows its age.  Extras include a very good audio commentary by actor/producer Ulli Lommel and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus on Whity and a filmography on Pioneers.  Both have smart essays on pullouts in each DVD case by Chuck Stephens worth your time.  Fantoma put this set out along with some other key titles of Fassbinder, which you will also find on this site.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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