Fassbinder: As He Appears to Us

by Zach Karpinellison

e: zach.karpinellison@gmail.com

This podcast is of a seminar presented by Dr Zach Karpinellison at UNSW Sydney for SSSN on 17th April 2018. Zach’s paper is followed by a question and answer session facilitated by Dr Michelle Langford and involving the audience present on the day.

ZACH KARPINELLISON is completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Film Studies at UNSW and working as a projectionist at Golden Age Cinema & Bar. In 2016 he was a guest speaker at the Sydney Film Festival on the ‘Refugees on Film – Cinema without Borders’ panel, and is a current member of the festival’s Film Advisory Panel. He has also worked on the 2017 Persian Film Festival supervising marketing and social media.

This paper argues that Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s appearances in his own films are an important and meaningful part of his filmmaking practice. Fassbinder’s appearances can be organised into three consecutive stages, which I have termed insertion, assertion, and direction. Each of these stages will be explored in this paper to show how they allow Fassbinder to enact a form of creative control. In this way, Fassbinder extends the figure of director by incorporating into the position, the role of author and performer. In this extended capacity Fassbinder exerts a greater control over the moral and political reception of his work. Having presented this analytical framework for understanding his appearances, I then examine his unique involvement in his own films through the lens of critical work and theory about authorship, auteurs and performance. I argue that Fassbinder’s appearances have important implications for the study of authorship and demand a re-examination of the fragile distinctions drawn between the terms director, performer and author. Further, a consideration of Fassbinder’s specific cultural value in the context of the New German Cinema opens other lines of inquiry about his value.

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