Back to Das Future

by Steve Dollar

World on a Wire

Nothing would be greater cause for joy than to think that the 1970s-style sci-fi film is enjoying a second orbit. Writers in major daily newspapers and across the Twitterverse are talking about Solaris again (even if it's for the wrong reasons). Duncan Jones, whose 2009 Moon was a smartly devised homage to the era, scored big with his recent Source Code—which resonated more for its existential quandaries than any pyrotechnic flash. Two recent Sundance favorites, Another Earth and The Sound of My Voice, play off of fantastic premises with limited technical mojo, letting the script drive the imagination.

Even if that doesn't add up to a zeitgeist moment, it doesn't hurt that an actual film of the era and genre gets its never-intended American theatrical debut next week: World on a Wire, the 1973 production made by Rainer Werner Fassbinder for German television. At three-and-a-half hours, it was broadcast in two parts, and featured a full array of the director's familiar actors. Before his death in 1982, Fassbinder made 42 features in a 14-year spree that saw him escalate from the Warholian funk of Beware of a Holy Whore to international acclaim for the historical allegories of The Marriage of Maria Braun and Lola. Amid all that activity, which included the epic televised miniseries Berlin Alexanderplatz, there were lost items that became obscure and grail-like. At the top of the list is World on a Wire, which had been shown only once in the United States—in 1997—before a 2010 revival at the Museum of Modern Art, which screened a new 35mm print, struck from sources that included the orginal 16mm film and a 2k digital transfer overseen by the cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus. Janus Films is distributing the film, much in the fashion that it introduced House and Dillinger Is Dead to American audiences.


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