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Chinese Roulette (1976)

Anna Karina , Margit Carstensen , Rainer Werner Fassbinder  |  NR |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Anna Karina, Margit Carstensen, Brigitte Mira, Ulli Lommel, Alexander Allerson
  • Directors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Writers: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Producers: Barbet Schroeder, Jean-François Stévenin, Michael Fengler
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: German (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: June 10, 2003
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008V2UH
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,262 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Chinese Roulette" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New transfer from restored print

Editorial Reviews

An elegantly baroque exercise from the middle of his brief and brilliant career, Chinese Roulette finds Rainer Werner Fassbinder exploring the sinister side of a weekend in the country. At an isolated mansion, a husband and wife bump into each other--with their lovers in tow. Their lame daughter shows up with her mute nanny, adding to the tension, and the festivities culminate in a spiteful truth-telling game. Fassbinder choreographs the claustrophobic action as though it were Last Year at Marienbad filmed as soap opera parody, with glittering contributions from cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and RWF's longtime composer, Peer Raben. It's fun to watch, although the decadent sense of a snake chasing its tail ultimately makes this one feel like minor-league Fassbinder. Along with stock-company regulars Margit Carstensen and Brigitte Mira, the cast includes a pair of former Godard heroines (still looking stunning), Anna Karina and Macha Meril. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Chinese Roulette (1976) is a hypnotically stylish, witty and puzzling Gothic thriller. Its several intertwined mysteries - some of plot, all of character - make it diabolically involving. Yet while its ambiguities are a strength, some nag more than they resonate. The DVD transfer is vivid.
After focusing on films about individual characters in the previous three years (Effi Briest, Fox and His Friends, Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven), Fassbinder here creates a striking ensemble piece. Although each actor gives a finely-etched performance (including Fassbinder regulars Margit Carstensen, Ulli Lommel, and Brigitte Mira; plus two actresses associated with his idol Jean-Luc Godard: Macha Meril and Anna Karina), the screenplay is another matter. Several of the characters' names seem heavily symbolic, with some kind of tension between names with a biblical resonance (Christ, Angela, Gabriel), and others with a Greco-Roman bent (Ariane/Ariadne gave Theseus the thread to find his way out of the minotaur's labyrinth), Irene in Greek means peace. The implications behind each of those names can be forced into a reading of the film as a whole: Gabriel "announcing" a new world order (in his loopy "philosophy"); Ariane, in the final moments, helping lead Gerhard out of a sexual "labyrinth," etc. But after three viewings, the film feels top-heavy with symbols, yet they never come together as clues to reading the film, either straightforwardly or ironically. And the film's final image of a ghostly throng (their banner looks vaguely Nazi) marching outside the Christs' chateau does not meaningfully help clarify, or complexify, anything. The screenplay feels half-baked, although in other films Fassbinder is usually dead-on in his writing - including his use of subtle layers of meaning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars equally frustrating and interesting - 4.5 stars December 10, 2007
The great and one of a kind director Rainer Werner Fassbinder made several films.. many of which rank among the best films of the last century (I say this in full expectation of dissagreement).. And one of the peculiarities of his work is that it went through so many changes (almost like looking at the works of a painter like Picasso) and yet is marked by a certain stamp a certain integrity that will surely place him in a line of directors like Lang, Hitchcock, Sirk, and Godard - a line of directors who were uncompromising in their own way and who changed and challenged cinema in a way we can only admire in this day and age as we wait for the next predocessor.. (we have a few who approach this greatness today.. Lynch and Almodovar certainly come to mind)
With this introduction I think I am now prepared to tackle the rather problomatic yet highly relevant film Chinese Roulette...
Like a few other Fassbinder films it proves to be difficult and enigmatic in its form.. it also is one of Fassbinder's films that one wishes he could have spent a little more time on.. Fassbinder was a workaholic and was known for his fast pace direction.. he was known for making films in a mater of weeks and under the budget which was set for him... And while most of the film seems so well thought out and arranged and indeed ingenious - the final scenes betray the motion of the first 2/3 of the film.. The open ending was probably the quick solution to a difficult decision on how to close such a monster of an intelligent idea..
So I cannot dismiss the film because of its great moments - especially the enchanting camera work... and indeed it is one of his films which i often think about.. one which is unforgettable - and if that is the standard then yes it is a masterpiece.. and maybe my frustration at the ending is simply my own expectation and should be ignored.. puzzling and unrelenting...
A must see movie..
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One cult movie and one of the top of Fassbinder! August 26, 2004
This film literally broke the walls once more . Since the multidimensional and enormous creativity of Rainer Werner Fassbinder was unextinguible in that glorious decade , plenty of extraordinary and innovative proposals.
Fassbinder explores the emotional universe of a smart girl who decides to make a surprise for her parents. They decided to divorce and actually have each one of them the respective lover . So the plan is very simple . She decides by herself to invite each one of them with the respective couple without knowing the fact the other will assist too to this weird invitation .
So can you imagine what can this clever fact origine in the surprise and the hidden feelings of both ex that forceful are very close of the boiling point of rage and hate?.
She has planned everything till the last detail . The dialogue is deeply disturbing , intriguing and challenging .
This imaginative and powerful script will lead us to a open ending which it will let opened the door to discuss with your beloved friends you invite to watch it .
One of the supreme and most awful films of the greatest german director of the Post War.
With the early death of that superb master (36) you will understand why Fassbinder told a friend who was requesting about his workholicism and the advise for him to rest (imagine what it meant to make thirty six films in just only seventeen years) this anticipated answer : I will sleep when I will be dead!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Cinematography July 23, 2012
that shows the limits of what is possible filming small interiors. Extreme close ups, panning, dollying, and zooming are combined in very subtle ways that always draw attention to the characters' emotions rather than distract from them. Shot composition is also interesting, often capturing several layers of objects and people. The story involves rich peoples' affairs being exposed.
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