World on a Wire

Rated NR 205 minutes

Though it sometimes seems repetitive or predictable, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 205-minute exploitation of SF and hard-boiled-detective cliches (1973) is so affecting it could induce a sense of existential crisis. It's based on a novel by Daniel Galouye, and its tale of an artificial-intelligence expert (Klaus Lowitsch) investigating the death of a colleague with whom he developed some cutting-edge technology makes the subsequent Blade Runner seem redundant. The cinematography (by Michael Ballhaus), production design, sound effects, and music are eerie, convincing, yet campy; their combination demonstrates a control of tone that's nothing short of miraculous. Numerous minor characters' perspectives swirl in and out of a consciousness attributed, almost by default, to the main character who must deal with the deepest, darkest questions about the nature of identity and existence.

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