Martha | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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My favorite feature by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1973; 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. This special screening costs $10, but the movie is worth almost any two other Fassbinder works combined. Fine Arts, Wednesday, May 7, 7:30. --Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photo.

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