The City Tramp (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1966, West Germany)

Made in 1966, The City Tramp is the first surviving short film by German enfant terrible Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The film was made even before Fassbinder's theater work, during a transitionary period when he was developing his creative style in Munich. The film opens with a full tram car passing by, and the show of urban apartment complexes along a busy highway. A title card introduces us to our protagonist, played by Christoph Roser - then-lover of Fassbinder. We are introduced to Roser drinking from a wine bottle on a bench. He has a smoke, washes his face in a fountain, and wanders through the streets.

Things take change when our protagonist finds a gun on the street, which he begins carrying with him. He settles in a park while a classical waltz plays over the action, and eats an apple. It becomes clear that a couple of men and a woman are observing the tramp, who leaves the gun at the park and walks off. The woman picks up the gun and gives it back to our protagonist. In a wide space, we see him fantasize about committing suicide, although in this realm of fantasy, the reality of the situation is not clear. 

He continues his wandering, still with the gun, and R.W. Fassbinder makes an appearance briefly. He ends up on a park bench and the two men from earlier steal the gun from him, tossing it back and forth as if the tramp is a dog. He collapses on the grass in despair. Fassbinder's first work bears the stamp of the French New Wave, which he was very influenced by. We feel less of the influence of Bertolt Brecht, however, another figure who was very influential on Fassbinder's early feature work. This film is worth seeking out by Fassbinder completists.



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