he deserves an Oscar.nThe movie is a minimasterpiece innwhich, for the first time in years, annAmerican film tries to balance contentnand form, substance and technique. Itnis shot in a style of sparse but meaningfulndialogue which successfully delineatesnand interconnects the characters,neven secondary ones, instead of carelesslynsplashing their images on thenscreen. Its very inner tension is an admirablenattempt to fuse bona fide melodramanwith a valid social issue. Ancompromise is finally reached and thenaudience gets a pulsation of a highpowerednaffectivity together with an insightninto the moral shades and subtletiesnof current social sloganeering. One’snfinal impression is of the lameness ofnfashionable rhetoric: Mrs. Kramer andnher case seem to have been constructednsolely of ERA lingo—full person, equalitynat the price of differentiation, newnroles in life, work and aspirations, samenessnin exchange for saneness. However,nwhen it comes to obtaining what shenunilaterally wants, covets and has decidednto get no matter what the cost,nshe resorts to the ancient and ultimatenargument—that there’s no parity betweennmotherhood and fatherhood, thatnthe former is better and must be privileged.nIn other words, everything fromnthe man, nothing to him—a timelessn(and overwhelmingly successful) postulatenwhich feminists claim to have nevernheard. And, though the movie ends on antwist that supposedly renders justicento Mr. Kramer and his plight (Mrs.nKramer gives up her demands, walksninto an elevator to vanish verticallynforever, leaving the two males to theirnrapport), a feeling remains—at leastnin this reviewer—that the final messagenis to leave people alone with their emotionsnand dismiss both knavish journalismnand social doctrinairism from theirnaffairs.nThe Marriage of Maria Braun is anrich, complex, visually mature moviendeeply flawed in a familiar, even silly.nway. Maria Braun is a lush Germannblonde in the Blue Angel tradition whonpulls herself up by her own bootstrapsnfrom post-World War II misery andndegradation. She manipulates her femininitynand men to her own advantage,nbut she does it with integrity, intelligencenand a particular sense of privatenvision which places her in the categorynof a fascinating human being—talented,nenterprising, sensitive and uncompromisinglynhonest. She perishes in a ludicrousnaccident, rather deus ex machina.nHer untimely, senseless death is unmotivatednby either sequence of events ornmorality, unless we blame it on hernnatural nervousness at the prospect ofnfinally going to bed with her own husband,nwhom, because of the vicissitudesnof life, she has betrayed with others tonhis peculiar advantage (it seems incoherent,nbut it is firmly rooted in thenfilm’s literary reality). Immediatelynthereafter, Mr. Fassbinder flashes onnthe screen the negatives of Adenauer,nErhard and Helmut Schmidt, Germannpostwar leaders, as if blaming them fornwhat happened. A perceptive lady whonwas with me in the theater remarkednthat Mr. Fassbinder is both a Marxistnand homosexual, which makes him dislikenboth women and the Wirtschaftswunder,nand makes him determined tonpoint out the inner corruption of thennew German reality and search for theninherent connection of capitalist politicsnwith feminine wiles and bitchiness.nTo me, all that was rather confusing,nthe more so as Mr. Fassbinder’s misogynynsurely helps him to render womanhoodnravishingly stylish. Despite hisnbiological rejection of the feminine, wenthus get one of cinematic literature’snfinest portraits of a woman. Fassbindernsees womanhood in all its complexitynand multiplicity; he may be an adversary,nbut his dual personality of the misogynist/artistncompels him to giventestimony to that specific greatness ofnwomanhood so maltreated by the feministnordinance manuals which are peddlednthese days as novels and movies.nThe message is indeed very befuddled.nnnGermany’s lot after its debacle was,nafter all, quite adequate for MarianBraun’s progress—by tenacity combinednwith incredibly hard work, enterprisenand strength of Teutonic character,nGermany found its way out of degradingnpoverty into an apotheosis of democraticncapitalism where the entire society nownenjoys the well-being of a high-qualityncivilization. These are admirable nationalncharacteristics which, perhaps,ndo not entirely redeem Germany’s sinnor erase its guilt, but which cannot bencondemned in art that pretends to sophistication.nThe social context of Mr.nFassbinder’s movie is therefore embarrassinglynpoor, his journalistically conceivednpolitical verdict smacks of cheapnagitprop —it’s unconvincing, evennfatuous.nWhat makes sense, even becomes angratifying contribution to current moviemaking,nis Mr. Fassbinder’s delicatentouch in delineating characters, endowingnthem with interest (or passion, ifnneed be) for one another. Maria Braunnhas, through the movie, a most captivatingnrapport with herself. It gives herna multidimensionality of which thenpresent Hollywood film boutique cannotneven dream, and plenty of affection fromnthose who watch her from the darknessnof the movie house. She appeals to bothncommon sense and moral instincts. Andnneither “psychoanalysis” nor “couch”nare mentioned even once in the entirenAmerican Gigolo, its trivial artificennotwithstanding, can serve as a usefulncase study of what has happened to romancenin the modern arts. One quicklynacquires a palpable sensation that everyoneninvolved with its production, asnwell as the belabored protagonists, arenpanting for the lyricism of romance.nHowever, modernity has its own dues:nthus, instead of, say: “Princess, closenyour eyes, I wish to tell you my heart…”nthe love dialogue between two personsnwho have just met and will soon benunable to breathe without one another.n_ _ _ _ _ _ ^ ^nMarch April 1980n