Whity (1971)

January 10th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Werner Reiner Fassbinder | Cast: Ron Randell, Hanna Schygulla, Katrin Schaake, Harry Baer | 85′ Germany, Drama

Never released commercially, Whity remains one of Fassbinder’s least seen films, and when spoken of it is usually with mild incredulity since the thing is reportedly a western. Naturally it’s a western the like of which English-speaking audiences have never seen before (or at any rate since Red Garters), but one that would look less eccentric to a German audience used to the popular Karl May adaptations of the sixties in which men are men and women are German. Although there are nods towards Sergio Leone – notably with Peer Raben’s score – it plainly owes more to Gillo Pontecorvo’s Queimada! (1969) and to the ‘slavery’ genre of the seventies that began with Herbert Biberman’s ‘Slaves’ in 1969 and reached its apotheosis with Mandingo.

Sumptuously designed by Kurt Raab and fluidly shot in widescreen and Eastmancolor by the late Michael Ballhaus, visually it anticipates the saturated colours of Fassbinder’s final extravaganzas like Lili Marleen and Querelle, with the cast resembling waxworks. It effectively does for westerns what Der Amerikanische Soldat┬ádid for gangster movies, but is far less fun; although Fassbinder’s own appearance as a macho, whip-wielding cowboy is as funny as anything to be found in Carry On Cowboy. @Richard Chatten

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