Even though (or perhaps because) some of its 205 minutes seem repetitive or predictable, this 1973 exploitation of SF and hardboiled-detective cliches is so deeply affecting it could induce an existential crisis in the viewer. Written by Fritz Müller-Scherz and director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and based on a novel by Daniel Galouye, this tale of an artificial-intelligence expert investigating the death of a colleague with whom he developed some cutting-edge technology makes Blade Runner seem redundant. The cinematography by Michael Ballhaus (The Age of Innocence), production design, use of sound effects, and music are eerie and convincing yet camp; 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, Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch), who must deal with the deepest, darkest questions about the nature of identity and existence. It's astonishing that the painfully obvious themes can also be so painfully provocative. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, May 17, 7:30 (part one) and 9:20 (part two), 312-443-3737. --Lisa Alspector
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photo.