"A tragi-comic love story disguised as a lesbian slumber party in high camp drag" (Molly Haskell), The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is one of Fassbinder's most audacious and stylized films. Petra von Kant, a successful fashion designer who uses and abuses the love of her live-in secretary and slave Marlene, finds the sadomasochistic tables turned when she enters into a humiliating relationship with Karin, a beautiful young model. Adapted from the director's own theatre piece, the feverish film is set entirely within the hothouse confines of an absurdly extravagant apartment, decorated with white mannequins and an enormous Titian-like mural, and dominated by a brass bed. A prowling camera and stunning compositional groupings define and enclose the characters, while the odd dialogue and exaggerated acting heighten the sense of artificiality. The soundtrack combines Verdi and The Platters. The film has been variously described as "Fassbinder's version of Death in Venice" (Reinhard Baumgard), "an unloving look at male power struggles in lesbian disguise" (Jay Scott, Globe and Mail), and "one of the great love stories of modern cinema" (NFT/London). Colour, 35mm, in German with English subtitles. 124 mins.
"A fascinating but strange document of the trickle-down effects of power and an even stranger observation of the way women treat and sometimes enslave each other."Slant Magazine | full review