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The Merchant of Four Seasons (1972)

Händler der vier Jahreszeiten (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 10 February 1972 (France)
Hans Epp is a self-destructive man who lives a dissatisfied life. He tries to find meaning as a fruit vendor, but a heart attack impedes his ability to work, which turns his dissatisfaction into despair.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Hans Hirschmüller ... Hans Epp / Husband
Irm Hermann ... Irmgard Epp / Wife
Hanna Schygulla ... Anna Epp / Hans's single sister
Klaus Löwitsch ... Harry Radek / 2nd salesman
Karl Scheydt ... Anzell / Irmgard's lover
Andrea Schober ... Renate Epp / Hans's daughter
Gusti Kreissl Gusti Kreissl ... Mother Epp
Ingrid Caven ... Hans's great love
Kurt Raab ... Kurt / Heide's husband
Heide Simon Heide Simon ... Heide / Hans's married sister
Peter Chatel ... Dr. Harlach
Elga Sorbas ... Marile / The whore
Lilo Pempeit Lilo Pempeit ... Customer
Walter Sedlmayr Walter Sedlmayr ... Fruit cart salesman (as Walther Sedlmayer)
El Hedi ben Salem ... The Arab (as Salem El Heïdi)
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Storyline

Fruit vendor Hans (Hans Hirschmüller) cannot please his family. His mother harps on his failures. His wife is openly discontent. He must peddle produce to his beloved ex-girlfriend, and he is mocked by his customers for being shorter and fatter than his wife. He is withdrawn, crushed, and humiliated. He can not meet the high standards of his mother, he has to give up his job as a police officer when he gets involved with a prostitute in the office. He turns to drinking and violence, but his rage causes his wife and daughter to leave him. While desperately begging for their return, he suffers a debilitating heart attack. His family comes back, but Hans is unable to work and must hire help for his fruit stand. Hans' first employee is his wife's ex-lover, whom he fires for embezzling. He then hires a friend and hero from his legionnaire days, Harry (Klaus Löwitsch), out of pity. Harry is hardworking, diligent, and clever. He turns Hans' business around and enlivens his home life. Harry's... Written by lament

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

West Germany

Language:

German | Arabic

Release Date:

10 February 1972 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Merchant of Four Seasons See more »

Filming Locations:

Munich, Bavaria, Germany

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Box Office

Budget:

DEM325,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,623, 16 February 2003

Gross USA:

$8,144

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$8,144
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Tango Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Quotes

[repeated line]
Hans Epp: Fresh pears!
See more »

Connections

References Written on the Wind (1956) See more »

Soundtracks

Buona Notte
(uncredited)
Written by Rocco Granata & Jules Verard
Performed by Rocco Granata
See more »

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User Reviews

 
stay with the film and it may engross you, somehow
17 June 2009 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

The Merchant of Four Seasons isn't what I would call a happy movie, at all, or even one that impressed me to the point of praising it to the sky (there are other Fassbinder flicks for that, like Veronika Voss and the underrated Satan's Brew). But it's certainly no less than a fascinating experiment in taking a look at those in a society that you and me and others we know might possibly know, or not really want to know. I imagine in the early 70s in Germany a generation, coming out of WW2, had a stigma to live with but tried their best just to get by. This is a stigma that floats all over this film, and in many instances in Fassbinder's work in general, but especially because with Four Seasons he takes his eye on the middle class, and a particular married couple- the distanced, depressed, angry Hans the fruit seller and his long-suffered wife- that is nothing short than trying for realism in the guise of melodrama. If Cassavetes were a crazy German he might make this film, maybe even as just a lark.

The story sounds simple enough, where Hans' drinking gets out of control, he beats his wife (this scene is one of the toughest to take, maybe in just any movie, the way Fassbinder's camera lingers without a cut as his wife is left helpless and their daughter trying to stop him in his frenzy) and then she's ready to leave him. As he stands in the room, her family holding him back, she makes the call for divorce and he gets a heart attack right there. He recovers, his business suddenly starts booming again with some help from some good (or not so good) employees - and yet this only continues his longing, for another woman, and his despair in general.

And yet it's in this simplicity that Fassbinder tries, and succeeds for the most part, in attaining a mood of dread, of a tense vibe in a kitchen or in the bedroom or out on the street that you can cut with a knife and bleed out. The weakest part of this all may be the acting... at least that was my initial impression. Hans, played by Hirschmuller, can be a stilted presence, with only the slightest movements in his face and eyes, and for a while it doesn't look like he's much of a good actor. The actress playing his wife, Irm Hermann, and her sister (Fassbinder Hanna Schygulla) fare better, but only cause they're given more to do conventionally, like cry or look concerned. It takes some time to adjust to what is, essentially, a void in his guy Hans, of something from his own psychological self-torment or self-pity that pervades himself and those around him who just want to get on with some sense of normalcy, especially once Hans gets successful.

Not everything clicks together in The Merchant of Four Seasons, but enough did to make me recommend it to those looking for a different slice-of-life than you might be used to with more modern American movies. Fassbinder's world here is a combat between the melodrama he loves in cinema and the harsh, crushing sense of humanism that he feels personally and puts into characters that, for better or worse, we somehow identify with. Are the Epps a family you know of? Or could you even be them? Who's to say. It's a methodical study of tragic emptiness in the human spirit, and its goals are all attained.


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