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SHADOW OF ANGELS (SCHATTEN DER ENGEL) (director/writer: Daniel Schmid; screenwriter: Rainer Werner Fassbinder/from the play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; cinematographer: Renato Berta; editor: Ila von Hasperg; music: Gottfried Hüngsberg/Peer Raben; cast: Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Raoul), Ingrid Caven (Lily Brest), Klaus Löwitsch (Rich Jew/Broker), Annemarie Düringer (Luise Müller), Adrian Hoven (Mr. Müller), Boy Gobert (Chief of Police), Irm Hermann (Emma), Jean-Claude Dreyfuss (Dwarf); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Fengler; Artco Films; 1976-West Germany/Switzerland/Mauritania-in German with English subtitles)
“It offers viewers a contrast to the usual Hollywood melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dreary suicidal themed film that nevertheless packs a powerful punch in its topsy turvy impressions of the world. It was based on a play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who also has a leading role in the drama as the depressed pimp Raoul. It’s helmed by the Swiss-born Daniel Schmid (“The Written Face”). The controversial play suggests being anti-Semitic (which it may or may not be), as a businessman (Klaus Löwitsch) is caustically referred to as the Rich Jew.

Though beautiful and perceptive, Lily Brest (Ingrid Caven) is a saddened streetwalker with few johns and gets the ire of the other whores for not hating men. The fragile whore who just performed a mercy killing on her kitten reacts poorly to the cold as she walks the streets for her lazy gambler pimp, Raoul. He’s someone she desperately loves despite knowing that he uses and occasionally beats her. When she returns without any cash, Raoul gives her two hours to get her ass back on the streets and earn some bread or come home to a beating (which he equates to showing that he loves her). Lily lucks out and gets as a client the Rich Jew, a real-estate broker who buys old houses and demolishes them to put up expensive new ones. He claims he can make money even from his own farts. The whore proves to be a good listener to his long spiels and comes home with a bag full of money, which doesn’t please her pimp. Raoul jealously learns her client has a big cock and made love to her, and ditches her for a male lover. The Rich Jew marries her, and her cabaret singer transvestite fascist father (Adrian Hoven), seen in a dress he wears in his act, states “he married you to raise you up and then to humiliate you.” Lili’s wheelchair-bound mother (Annemarie Düringer) hates her because she can walk, and offers her cold vibes. It leads to hubby honoring Lili’s request to take her life, and the Rich Jew’s parasitic lovelorn crony, known as the dwarf (Jean-Claude Dreyfuss), acts like Judas and reports the suicide as a murder to the bought off police. This results in his being thrown out the window in the police station and declared a suicide, and Raoul brought into the station house and arrested for Lili’s murder.

It’s stagebound and highly stylized in its dramatics, and proves to be a virtual quote machine with such beauts as “He who loves loses all rights,” “When you have money madness is not far behind,” and “What person knows anything about themselves?” It pushes things to the edge, as it creates an hermetic world where truth and lies do not matter as much as realizing life is suffering and it’s only the contemptuous fool who has dulled and dumbed it down to think he’s happy. It somehow suggests there’s little difference from love offered by a pimp, the State (which will always reflect some form of fascism no matter how it changes) or a businessman, and that it’s better to check out of the world than accept love from any of those parties. It offers viewers a contrast to the usual Hollywood melodrama.

REVIEWED ON 12/21/2005 GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”