“The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant” (1972)

3Some of the films listed here are obvious precursors to “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” but “The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant” obviously shares DNA with the recently released “The Duke Of Burgundy” (which is discussed down the list). Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and based on his own heavily autobiographical play (a veiled version of the triangular relationship between the director, his lover Günther Kaufmann and his assistant/composer Peer Raben), ‘Bitter Tears’ follows the titular fashion designer (Margit Cartensen) as she falls deeply in love with the beautiful Karin (Hanna Schygulla) while tormenting her devoted assistant Marlene (Irm Hermann). A unashamedly melodramatic nod to Fassbinder’s beloved Douglas Sirk and “All About Eve” (that film’s director Joseph Mankiewicz gets a name check at one point), the film doesn’t have that much in the way of whips and chains but is more effective than most at depicting the raw, brutal power dynamics of a sub/dom relationship, thanks in part to claustrophobic staging from the director and future Scorsese DP Michael Ballhaus. Not to mention Cartensen’s fearless turn and Hermann show-stealing, virtually silent performance.

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