22 October 2008 | bernardrmartin
Inconsistent (morally), perfunctory (in some of the staging), brilliant (in most if not all of the acting), inconclusive, anachronistic... but enough of Cervantes, Shakespeare, Brecht and Dickens... Yes it does rank with them. The film makes the book seem almost hesitant, tentative; Doeblin's debt to Joyce all too obvious. But the film has an almost 'punk' bloody-mindedness about it, like a fanzine. Strong-flavoured sauce splashed over chips. And although 'epic' ( in the Brechtian sense, not the Cecil B de Mille) it has shape like a Mahler symphony has shape - not a simple arc but a scratty, jumbly progress through a crowd that gets you there ... As for central character Franz - played as Der Dumme Michel rather than the devious weasel of the book - he's the one to whom learning is so often offered but who is so incapable of embracing it. Fassbinder makes us care to try to understand the person whom we would move away from so rapidly in the Kneipe. This is simply one of the (many) cultural pinnacles of the 20th Century. Thanks to Channel 4 for introducing it to us 20-odd years ago and thanks to Second Sight who has published it on DVD. Buy it! Make time and enjoy it!