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The Crack Magazine

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Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors by Ian Penman

I know almost nothing about the film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and what I do know seems to have come to me via some kind of osmosis - maybe just possessing copies of City Limits and Time Out during their heyday was enough to give me the odd fading image of Hanna Schygulla in The Marriage of Maria Braun or Effi Briest or Berlin Alexanderplatz. I seem to remember Fassbinder as this drunken, whacked out, holy mess. Film director? Apparently so. Ian Penman approaches all this in the way I guess you’d imagine, having “No desire to be some kind of amiable, reasonable, encyclopaedic curator of the archive.” Seizing the chance to present him in the only way possible, “Completely unbalanced and self-indulgent. Dissolute, unconventional, ablaze. Utterly partial. Fuck the dialectic! Way out on a limb.” He does this with a sparky, fractured, beautifully unconventional abandon. However sparky, fractured and unconventional it may be, please be comforted by the fact that this is still a distinctly Penman production, especially for anyone with a passing knowledge of Vital Signs, It Get Me Home This Curving Track or any of his other work, and shows his absolute mastery of critical narrative, deep context and whip-smart one and two liners, “The return of repressive tolerance? Things that were once considered unspeakable and hard to credit are now not only cosily mainstream, they are even on the curriculum.” Fassbinder? Maybe not yet, but if he was, this would be the set text. In the meantime, a set text for fans of Fassbinder, Penman or a certain kind of post-war European culture, and, therefore, totally recommended.

Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors – Ian Penman - publ. Fitzcarraldo Editions - £12.99

Steven Long

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