Lili Marleen | Chicago Reader

Lili Marleen

This 1981 big-budget, international coproduction, shot in English, was supposed to be a mass-market hit for Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It didn't work out that way—does it ever?—but dubbed hastily in German, it makes a mildly interesting entry in the Fassbinder canon. Hanna Schygulla is a cabaret singer whose recording of a World War I song, “Lili Marleen,” becomes a hit in Nazi Germany. She becomes a propaganda star of the new regime, which first embarrasses and then benefits her Swiss lover (Giancarlo Giannini) and his millionaire father (Mel Ferrer), the head of a Jewish anti-Nazi group. The meanings are banal and the pace is heavy, but Fassbinder's use of color—as throughout his late period—is superb.

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