The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

"Bad"

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant Review


Why is Petra crying? Probably because she had to sit through this piece of nonsense that poses as a movie, a complete misfire courtesy of Rainer Fassbinder.

Wildly overrated by film snobs and Fassbinder freaks, this adaptation of his play is a stone-cold bore and a waste of two hours. Our titular crybaby Petra (Margit Carstensen) is a wildly successful fashion designer, the kind who has the luxury of doing nothing but lolling around her apartment in improbably lingerie and impossible wigs. When she falls in love with one of her models (Hanna Shygulla, the wondrous star of Fassbinder's Marriage of Maria Braun), they embark on an exploitative love affair in Petra's apartment (with the model treated as the victim), where the entire film is shot. (In fact, it is shot with very few takes, just long and lazy sequences where we follow the characters from bed to table and back again. This is meant to make us identify with the cold and distant characters, but it comes off as gimmicky instead.)

That analogy extends to the movie as well, with Fassbinder somehow confusing cinema for performance art. Unbelievably corny lines about female empowerment and how cruel women can be to their own kind (ostensibly the themes here) come at us, rapid-fire. Alternately, Petra's secretary has no lines, and spends most of the movie typing off in a corner, possibly the most annoying use of sound I've encountered in a film. By the time the movie picks up enough steam to get good (in a final few minutes typical of Fassbinder's nihilistic approach to endings), we're too busy rolling our eyes (or more likely, have nodded off to sleep).

Described on the DVD cover as "One of Fassbinder's most controversial films," consider that code for "One of Fassbinder's least-liked films." Turning a play into a movie is often fraught with problems, the most glaring of which is when a director tries to present the film as if it's bound by the same limitations of the stage. But even Vanya on 42nd Street took a stage-bound production and made it magical. Of course, Uncle Vanya doesn't exactly reek like Petra von Kant.

The aforementioned DVD includes two Fassbinder short films and a monotone commentary track from a Fassbinder historian. Why the film has been remastered into Dolby 5.1 Digital (when the only sound effects are dialogue and typing) is utterly beyond me.

Aka Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 124 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 5th October 1972

Distributed by: Wellspring Media Inc.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Petra von Kant, as Karin Thimm, as Sidonie von Grasenabb, as Gabriele von Kant, as Valerie von Kant, as Marlene

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