Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday's Overlooked Film: Martha, by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

I meant originally to do this post on Tuesday and link it to Todd Mason's blog meme about Overlooked Films, but I simply didn't have enough time on my hands. Seems like there's a continual shortage of it, while I try to make a living.

Martha (1974) was an almost forgotten film before it was resurrected in 1994. There had been some controversy about the copyrights, since the made-for-TV film is based on Cornell Woolrich's novel (the title of which I actually don't know) and they probably forgot to pay the due sum to Woolrich's estate. Lucky the film is still available, as it is a gem. It's neo-noir in its purest form, universe where you can't escape from and you don't probably even want to. It's a tale of a possibly sadomasochistic love-hate relationship between a husband (played by sleazy, but respectable Karlheinz Boehm, who was very good in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom 14 years earlier) and a wife. The wife (played by not very beautiful Margit Carstensen, who fits her role perfectly) lets the man humiliate her in every possible moment and dictate her lifestyle. This is vivisection of bourgeoisie life.

Martha could've been directed by Helmut Newton, since the emphasis is on fetish: all the tight skirts and high heels and black stockings... and the scene in which Boehm lets his wife burn in the sun and then attacks her with a vehemence is strangely and cruelly erotic. This is noir at its cruellest and coollest, filmed in bright daylight.

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