“I DON’T THROW BOMBS. I make films”—or so Rainer Werner Fassbinder proclaimed on posters for The Third Generation, his 1979 spoof on terrorism. Well, tell it to the Kulturminister. And to the rest of the gala crowd that turned up at Berlin’s Admiralspalast last February for the premiere of the restored version of an even more audacious film: Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), the director’s fifteen-and-a-half-hour made-for-TV epic. If Fassbinder’s proclamation deliberately reads two ways, it underscores his place in the history of postwar German filmmaking—at once its most consummate craftsman and most terrible enfant. In the fourteen years before his death in 1982, he made more than forty films, and indeed these works were the strategic bombing campaign of the New German Cinema, as lush and ravishing as they were provocative and aggressively topical. A different atmosphere prevailed at the
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