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My favorite Fassbinder feature (released in 1973 but not shown in the U.S. for years because of problems involving the rights to the Cornell Woolrich source novel) is a horrific black comedy—a devastating view of bourgeois marriage rendered in a delirious baroque style. Vacationing in Rome, a virgin librarian in her 30s (Margit Carstensen) meets a macho architect (Peeping Tom's Karlheinz Böhm) and winds up marrying him. It's a match made in heaven between a masochist and a sadist, with the husband's contempt and absurdly escalating demands received by the fragile heroine as her proper due. Suspenseful and scary, excruciating and indigestible, this is provocation with genuine bite—though the manner often suggests a parody of a 50s Douglas Sirk melodrama. In German with subtitles. 116 min.

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