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Here’s why you should watch Satan’s Brew (Fassbinder, 1976)

One of director’s Fassbinder’s film from 1976, is goes beyond the absurdist comedy format in nature and although I have yet to see all his films this might be his best one. The film captures the sentiment of Europe in the mid- 1970s, as punk rock, anarchist culture was at its’ peak, while the new romantics period and the conservative front were laying down its’ cultural foundation. Fassbender uses the 4×3 to his advantage creating frames within frames, and intentional camera direction and movement to keep up with the pace of this surprisingly dense story of a film about a struggling poet, going around ripping people off, as part of a larger art piece.

Satan’s Brew translates well into 2016, as Fassbinder is able to make comments about what defines the artist. Walter Kantz (played by Kurt Raab) is arrogant, sexist, and melodramatic as a poet. He is too rapidly indulging in himself to care to recognize that his wife is ill, his brother is mentally unstable, and the world has forgotten about him as his only admirers are old women that enjoy the attention he gives them regardless of how degrading it is.

It is rather amazing to see how little of that image of an artist has changed. But in creating this character what is Fassbinder pointing out in the artist? Especially in a comedy format. Is he showing that artist are to be tolerated in society but not never to be taken seriously? Near the end of the film after Walter arrives at the hospital to find out his wife is dead, he goes into hysterics, only to be dropped off in front of an altar of the Virgin Mary and get up to apologize as he assumed, that is how he is supposed to act in front of the doctor after hearing terrible news. The doctor acts unsurprised by this act and continues about his day, thanking Walter for the entertainment. This scene would indicate that Fassbinder is showing that art is not to be taken seriously by society (and in his case movies) in the same vein as sculpture or poetry (which throughout the movie everyone, once they find out he is poet, treat with higher regards). The film in some ways could also be a comment on Picasso near the end of his career, but that in itself would open a study into Fassbinder/Picasso, and some very radical reading into the text of both.

Still I digress from the main point, in that, as true in as it was pointed out in Satan’s Brew in 1976 could be said the same in 2016 as a society continues to look at movie as a source of entertainment rather than as a higher art form. Satan’s Brew is an enjoyable film one should definitely get around to watching.

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