A revelatory if leisurely look at a fascinating period in recent German film history, Laurens Straub’s “Reverse Angle” charts the rise and fall of legendary 1970s pic production-distribution co-operative Filmverlag der Autoren, whose members included influential helmers Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders. Archive footage of the latter and pic-specific interviews with the first two will attract fans of these pillars of the New German Cinema movement to arthouse engagements; hardcore cinephiles who recognize pic’s other players will embrace item at fests and in ancillary.
Collective began to coalesce in 1960s Munich, and all fondly remember the local pub where writer-helmer Peter Handke was unapproachable and Wenders played the Kinks to death on the jukebox.
Interviewees discuss the co-op’s development, 1971-77 heyday and beyond in relaxed closeup. New Yorker Films honcho Dan Talbot remembers buying Filmverlag releases for U.S. distribution “like they were rugs”; Hans W. Geissendoerfer is perplexed to this day that his career didn’t take off in the ways of the triumvirate; and Herzog sums up the spirit of the enterprise thusly: “The entirety of what I am is my films.”
Interspersed throughout is priceless amateur footage: Fassbinder relaxes and later works with muse Hanna Schygulla, while Wenders shows off groovy 1970s threads during an elaborate Cannes fest photo op for “Kings of the Road.”
Individual film clips tend to pull auds out of the narrative moment and create a frustrating urge to immediately rewatch the excerpted films in their entirety. That said, the 20 pics sampled are a treat for fans, from Peter Fleischmann’s 1967 scenester documentary “Herbst der Gammler” to Geissendoerfer’s 1982 period drama “The Magic Mountain.” Sequences from such touchstones as “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul,” “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick” and “Stroszek” are also included.
Tech package is refreshingly evocative of that identifiable look unique to New German Cinema. Some official documentation lists the title as “Reverse Shot,” but it’s the more evocative “Angle” that appears in subtitle on print caught. Straub worked on pic for the last two years of his life before succumbing to cancer in April 2007; “the entirety of what I am is my films,” indeed.