Chinese Roulette

Director: Rainer-Werner Fassbinder

W. Germany-France| 1976. English subtitles. Colour. 86 mins.

A businessman and his wife are tricked by their handicapped daughter into arriving simultaneously at their country house with their respective lovers. The daughter herself also arrives, accompanied by her nurse. The ensuing social embarrassments climax in a game of ‘Chinese roulette’, a truth game that reveals more than the participants bargained for. Fassbinder’s perspective in Chinese Roulette is that of the child, the disabled daughter who blames her bourgeois parents for her predicament and is out for revenge. At first sight the film is reminiscent of one of Claude Chabrol’s stylish marital tragedies. But even Chabrol’s work doesn’t possess the fantastically exact, calculated camerawork that Fassbinder and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus achieve here. The film is filled with reflected and distorted images, with the camera forever circling around the characters. It is almost as if Fassbinder wanted the camera itself to be the centre of attention in this visually dazzling piece of cinematic legerdemain.

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