Die Bitteren Tršnen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant) (1972)
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Critic Reviews for Die Bitteren Tršnen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant)
The set and costume design and the hothouse atmosphere represent so much high-camp gloss; but once again this careful stylisation enables Fassbinder to balance between parody of an emotional stance and intense commitment to it.
Even those who love pain will be frustrated by The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's most harshly stylized and perhaps most significant film.
Fassbinder's acute understanding of human desire and pain ensures a strange, haunting tension throughout.
Like so many films these days, this one turns out to be more interesting when you get away and think about it.
Audience Reviews for Die Bitteren Tršnen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant)
A very sharp, thought-provoking and also superbly directed story conceived within a perfect 4-act-and-an-epilogue structure and having only a room as stage to depict the degrading vices of relationships, like manipulation, self-humiliation and power games.
It's incredible how Fassbinder was able to expertly use one single set and frame it in all ways possible to please his deliciously black humour in order to tell this masochistic story of an obsessive fashion designer and her women.
"The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant" may be dull, but it's a tribute to director R.W. Fassbinder's mise en scene that it's not even duller. With just six actresses exchanging stilted dialogue on a single set for over two hours, this is not a movie for popcorn-munchers.
The opening credits are layered over a shot of two cats dawdling on a dim stairway. From there, the camera rolls into a bedroom. And stays there. Until the film is over. Luckily, the room has quite a few arresting features, including a 17th-century mural reproduced on the wall, an eerie assortment of nude mannequins and white, fluffy carpet that looks like dog hair. And then there are the costumes. The title character shifts through several wild dresses, robes and wigs (one revealing, pearls-draped outfit almost defies description), and the supporting players are decked in purple, metallic gold, lemon-yellow and more. Fur and feather trim: everywhere.
Petra Von Kant (Margit Carstensen) is a successful fashion designer and the soggy epitome of a mean drunk. She lives with another designer named Marlene (Irm Hermann). Marlene waits on Petra like a servant, never says a word (her eyes speak volumes) and seems to be on the losing end of a dominant/submissive relationship gone stale. Petra's cousin, mother and daughter serve as secondary foils, but her most crucial nemesis is Karin (the effortlessly sexy Hanna Schygulla), a young, fickle model who becomes Petra's lover during the course of the film. Clearly, Marlene is not pleased.
The story does not advance much further than this -- the remaining plot developments barely require two sentences to describe. And in case the lesbian theme excites you, be forewarned that your fantasies will go ungratified. Instead, the action mostly dwells on the self-loathing Petra firing abuse at her visitors and phone-callers. Carstensen carries the film on her bony shoulders and does give a remarkable performance, but the tensions between her and her coterie won't be enough to keep most viewers engaged.
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