I’m delighted to see someone running Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lola (1981). Actually, I’m just delighted to see someone running any Fassbinder film. There was a time when Fassbinder was one of the most talked about filmmakers around—both he and his films were praised and damned with equal vigor. I admit I always found him overrated, but he certainly doesn’t deserve the relative obscurity to which he—much like Lena Wertmuller—seems headed. And Lola is certainly a good place to start, with its social satire on the corruption of late-1950s West German business, its evocation of Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930)—the film from which it got the name “Lola”—and its eye-catching garish neon color scheme.
In cinema terms, Fassbinder is hard to pigeon hole. At first, he seems like Josef von Sternberg, but he lacks Sternberg’s sense of personal myth. Then, he comes across like an angry Douglas Sirk, but there’s no real kitsch and no need to pretend to be making a serious soap opera. In other respects, Fassbinder comes across like the logical predecessor of Pedro Almodovar, but he’s a lot less humanistic than Almodovar—and a lot more prickly and cynical. Fassbinder—especially here—has something of the color sense—and the desire to push it to the extreme—found in the most intensely visual work of Stanley Donen, but … The “but” is the kicker in every comparison. Yes, he’s like these others, but he’s ultimately not really like anybody but Fassbinder. Try his work and see for yourself.