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Satan's Brew (Satansbraten)

Director(s): Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Theatrical Release: 1976

Cast: Kurt Raab, Helen Vita, Margit Carstensen, Volker Spengler, Ingrid Caven, Ulli Lommel

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama, Gay+Lesbian+Transgendered, Dean's List

Countries: Germany (East/West)


Location in store:

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Running Time: 100m.

This fast-paced black comedy by wunderkind director Rainer Werner Fassbinder follows the frantic efforts of a starving and confused writer, Walter Kranz (Kurt Raab) to beg, borrow or steal enough money to survive on, and at the same time make some sense of his confusing life. Unable to write enough to keep his publisher's royalty advances coming, he seeks out a woman he imagines is a prostitute and interviews her for material. He is also inspired to utter some poetry, which his brassy, outspoken wife identifies as coming from the famous homosexuality-advocating mystical German poet, Stefan George. This inspires Walter to take a closer look at the "gay scene," and he quickly becomes a sort of celebrity there. - Clarke Fountain (allmovie.com)

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From his unique social melodramas to his existential journey tales and genre studies, the works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder are fueled by an unwavering tenderness. In Satan's Brew, Fassbinder manipulates this penchant for sentimentality with an outlandish saga centering on the identity crisis of Walter Kranz (Kurt Raab), an artistically brainless and socially fascist, yet touted anarcho-poet. With the farcical touch of a true satirist, Fassbinder realigns story elements and inverts relationship angles, playfully mutating the social mores that usually ground his films in storybook sincerity.

One of the first scenes features a symbolic love act involving a moneyed mistress snorting drugs, fellating the barrel of a gun, and writing Kranz a hefty check in exchange for orgasmic death. Driven by megalomaniacal desires for lavish living, Kranz continues on a perpetual paper chase as he begs his publisher for another advance, exploits a devotee for her modest life savings, and swindles his estranged parents out of their funeral money. The family dynamic, one of Fassbinder's fundamental obsessions, has been skewed to the point of lunacy in Satan's Brew. Walter Kranz lives with his slow-witted brother who covets flies, and an overbearing, undersexed taskmaster of a wife.

Fassbinder's hallucinatory satire of artistic idolatry abounds with nonsensical antics when Kranz welcomes a prostitute, a hapless detective, and an overzealous super-fan into his home. Forsaking his characteristic close-ups, the legendary German new wave director creates peopled panoramas saturated with nervy action. Throughout the film, scenes are set up in traditional Fassbinder fashion with weighty camera pans and tactful framing, only to unfurl into a schizophrenic slapstick charade with the utterance of a thematic mantra that articulates the story's nuances of human depravity. (Andrew McKeon - Dreaming Ant)
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