World on a Wire ★★★★½

I'd been meaning to revisit this one (and maybe watch some other Fassbinder joints, since this remains the only one I've seen so far) for some time, and with one of its chief architects passing away recently, I'd figured the time had finally come.

I don't think I'd ever revered this film as much as others had — between two mammoths of early '70s sci–fi, my favorite would surely have been Solaris, all raw nerves and circuits of hypersexual energy under an almost beatific surface — and a large part of that I would attribute to my paying only tangential attention to the actual directing involved, focusing more on the long swaths of verbal exposition and treating the mightily impressive camerawork as a mere bonus rather than, well, the whole fucking point; but as I sat and watched how things unraveled and watched myself remember everything (most vividly, how creepy and tense the whole affair is), my alignment was beginning to change. By the time Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" blissfully strummed its way into the first end credits, I could already feel the inevitable: Germany's #1 enfant terrible had me deep in the pockets of his leather jacket.

Welt am Draht feels, in many ways, more like a Soviet film than Solaris. It's gloriously stuffy, both figuratively (favoring industrial reality, most readily embodied by rows of identical apartment complexes with brief splashes of modernist architecture, for the most part eschewing lofty futuristic design) and literally, as the film is boxed inside a square frame that belies its thematic and formal ambitions. Similarly, RWF handles the scenario's existential dread in a more humorous, genuinely funny way, which gives it a satirical edge that cuts against the heavier ideas; the insidiousness of a supercomputer that can predict, based on a virtual miniature, behavioral models in the future lies not in its potential to maximize profits (by predicting consumer preferences) but in allowing Capitalism to stay afloat by hiding behind a myriad of layers, its true motives constantly changing and forever out of grasp.

Also, this is just a really fucking entertaining movie, a pop–cultural hodgepodge — of Hollywood genres, of high and low, of somber and hilarious, of drama and romance — not unlike The Matrix. No, wrong; it's better.

Victor liked this review