Peter von Kant movie review and movie summary (2022)

Ozon plays with this notion throughout “Peter von Kant.” An early scene in Fassbinder’s film, where the heroine is visited by her cousin Sidonie (Katrin Schaake), is reshot so that Peter is visited by a female cousin of the same name, but she is played by Isabelle Adjani, who wears a wig that faintly evokes one featured prominently in Fassbinder’s film. Amir appears to be a composite of two important men in Fassbinder’s love life. One is El Hedi Ben Salem, a Moroccan Berber who had a tumultuous and often violent relationship with the director and appeared in three of his films, including “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.” The other is Armin Meier (note the first name, as well as how the full name sounds when you quickly say both words together), an orphaned ex-butcher whose relationship with Fassbinder was the partial inspiration for an episode of “Germany in the Autumn.”

That “Petra von Kant” was itself a tactically opaque reworking of Fassbinder’s own experiences (as it was and is the case with all playwrights to some degree) creates an ouroboros effect in the mind of the Fassbinder-conscious viewer. The project seems to be devouring and digesting its inspiration as it rolls along, possibly in an attempt to bring us back to where “Petra von Kant” came from – but then again, who can tell when the director will hold his cards so close to the middle – 70s vintage, probably velor and tan vest? What’s deposited in the viewer’s lap as the final credits roll is a question mark, which is exactly how Ozon seems to prefer it—and that’s not a bad thing.

The actors are admirably committed – especially Gharbia, who never telegraphs many hidden layers that Amir will eventually reveal to us; and Ménochet, who captures a bit of Fassbinder’s high-strung energy without trying to imitate. He is a more convincing Fassbinder-as-dramatic-construction than Oliver Masucci in Oskar Röhler’s “Enfant Terrible“(which strangely also indulged in armchair psychoanalysis of Fassbinder without taking the literal minded,”Bohemian Rhapsody“and-so-he-did-this approach).

That almost no one makes films like this at the moment is an argument for seeking out “Peter von Kant” – although viewers should consider themselves warned that they’ll probably get more out of it if they take it seriously, and that such concern is probably the furthest thing from Ozon’s mind.

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