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Rainer Werner Fassbinder
A wealthy couple, with a daughter Angela, a young teen who walks with crutches, tells each other they are off for the weekend on business (he to Oslo, she to Milan). Actually, both are meeting their lovers, and both go to the family's county home, Traunitz castle. Surprising each other, there's sophisticated laughter; they decide to continue as planned. Dinner, however, is interrupted by the arrival of Angela and her mute attendant, also named Traunitz. The next day, the child initiates a game of "Chinese roulette," in which one team tries to guess which of them the other team is thinking of by asking questions. The game has an edge of cruelty and the results are explosive. Written by
Chinese Roulette is about a marriage. An upper class couple split up for the weekend, each has told lies to the other regarding their destination, however both end up at the same destination with lovers in tow, the schloss in the countryside. This has been carefully machinated by their young disabled daughter who has known of the affairs of her parents for many years.
The scene where Herr Christ and lover walk in on Madame Christ and lover is pretty good, there's initial shock, then they manage to dissociate from their roles and have a good chuckle about it together. Thus begins the weekend.
The daughter arrives and insists on a game of Chinese Roulette, this is an interesting little game. You get two teams of four people, the first team picks a person from the other in a secret conclave. The second team then has to guess who is the person in their team who has been chosen by asking nine questions, of the form, "if this person was a magazine, which magazine would they be?". Anyway the game gets pretty cruel if you want to play it that way, "Which would be the most fitting method of execution for the person in question" for example. You could find titillation in the game by praising someone without them knowing who you are referring to or dark joy in deeply insulting them.
The daughter has arranged it all to grind the adults down. I suppose if there is one message of the film it's that if you breed adders you shouldn't be surprised if they grow up and eat you. The couple have clearly not provided for their daughter (other than materially speaking
she has whatever she wants, chocolates dolls, pretty dresses &c).
The game is an exercise in cruelty, a couple of the answers being pretty good. However there is a lot of insecurity, everyone is wondering if the person who is being described as an apple with a worm inside it is them, furthermore the person answering the question is often blatantly prejudiced and is not understanding the person they are speaking about.
There are some pretty bizarre things going on, the butler-type Gabriel writes unsound doggerel and reads it aloud to the couples (previously only one couple at a time). There are references to a character we never see, strange complicities, unexplained relationships.
One thing you can say though is that the movie is shot brilliantly, there are some wonderful circular shots (trademark of Scorsese and Fassbinder regular collaborator Michael Ballhaus) where the camera orbits the characters, lots of shots of people reflected off glass or cut in two by doorways, some exquisite framing. Perhaps the most exquisite movie I've seen in visual terms. The score too is of a very high calibre.
I take it as a pretty mystical film, one scene that is great is the daughter sat in her bed talking to Gabriel, the camera is at floor level just behind a row of the dolls which she has arranged as a kind of adoring audience for her. You feel like one of the dolls really, it's quite strange. Certainly Fassbinder is railing against certain bourgeois modes here. The characters are isolated by their feelings of self-worth, their deceptions, their victim status, and their sharp tongues, there's no love anywhere. In every relationship in the movie I felt as if it were one possessing the other, as if a trinket.
It's nastiness all around, almost an exercise in misanthropy, another reviewer referred to it as an exercise in deception as a survival tactic. I recently titled a review of mine, "A manual on how to live", well this really is "A manual on how not to live". It's as disparaging to victims as to victimisers. One of Fassbinder's other movies was called Satan's Brew and I really think this one could have been as well .
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