Picks and Pans Review: Despair

UPDATED 04/09/1979 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 04/09/1979 at 01:00 AM EST

Acclaimed German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder has succeeded in his first work in English in making a schizophrenic movie about schizophrenia. Dirk Bogarde, in a bravura performance, plays a Russian émigré running a chocolate factory in pre-Hitler Germany. He discovers his wife's affair with her cousin, and he has a sneaking suspicion that he's going mad. But right around the time he arranges to have the man killed, the movie tries to enter his head—and loses its own. Only when the cops come after him do we get back on track and appreciate what the director has been trying to show us—a crack-up from the inside and out. British playwright Tom Stoppard adapted the screenplay from Vladimir Nabokov's novel of the same name. The result is a marvel of literate, elegant dialogue and, if nothing else, Fassbinder deserves credit himself for not being afraid to take chances. (Not rated)

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