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Wellspring presents
Katzelmacher (1968)

"I will take no part in anything of this sort."
- Paul (Rudolf Waldemar Brem)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: November 26, 2002

Stars: Hanna Schygulla, Hans Hirschmüller, Lilith Ungerer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Other Stars: Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Elga Sorbas, Harry Baer
Director: Reiner Werner Fassbinder

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:34s
Release Date: September 24, 2002
UPC: 720917533124
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C+B-C+ D

DVD Review

Katzelmacher is a dreary, depressing, and somewhat exhausting film. Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder opens a door on the lives of some most unhappy people, or people who might think they're happy, but are quite otherwise. Fassbinder's strangely in-depth and thoroughly artistic looks at life is not for everyone, but he does, on occasion, show glimpses into a distinct thought pattern; one that's either possessed of genius or just incredibly pretentious and self-serving. You be the judge. Originally designed for the stage (which is plainly obvious after only a few minutes of screen time), Katzelmacher is a look at a group of friends who really don't do a whole lot together. They sit around engaging in minimalist discussion and occasionally fighting with each other. They re-define the term 'aimless' with their complete lack of direction or activity.

When they encounter a Greek immigrant, Jorgo (played by director Fassbinder himself), who muscles in on their turf and tries to befriend them, their lives are totally thrown into upheaval. The group is suddenly united in a common cause: prejudice. They hate Jorgo with a passion that seems to come out of nowhere, and despite the fact that they all barely got along to begin with. Jorgo is technically the outsider, but then, the exclusive club he's bungled into is hardly that impressive in the first place. The end result is a bleak, 88-minute look at the nasty heart of a close-knit group of people who hate everything, including themselves. The ultimate question is whether or not you will find this entertaining. It is indeed a skillfully crafted look at these extremely dark-hearted people, but on the same token it is relentless and that might be what drives most audience members away.

For me, personally, the film works, but it is still a tedious one to watch. How long can we watch a group of people do nothing while their lives disintegrate? As a result, Katzelmacher is a mixed bag. It's obvious that talent and style were behind its creation, but its message is driven home with such ruthless power that it's clear before we're barely 10 minutes into it. There isn't enough activity to sustain the constant barrage of dead space. It's 'artsy,' but perhaps too much so. As a stage play, this would very well work as a method of drawing people into the story further. As a movie, though, there are some parts that leave much to be desired.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Katzelmacher is fairly old and not filmed on the most durable of stocks, so it's obviously got some source problems. However, the transfer minimizes potential artifacts and other problems quite well. While it is a little blurry and sometimes distorted, this is all due to the source negative. You still get a good black & white image that manages to impress stylistically while still being technically acceptable for a film of this age and condition.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack is comprised solely of German dialogue. It is understandable and never gets too distorted to function, but obviously there is little that will make your sound system jump for joy. It's very rough and raw, but gets the job done with no issues.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc contains a filmography for Reiner Werner Fassbinder as well as weblinks to Wellspring's website and one for the RWF Foundation. Presentation is minimal, but fitting and functional.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Katzelmacher achieves precisely what it wants to, which is to portray a group of incredibly pointless people and their ability to bond under the banner of shared prejudice. The approach, though, can get tiring to endure. This is a piece of art perhaps best experienced in small doses.


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