Kamikaze ’89 (1982)
Directed by Wolf Gremm
“He’s always in the Police Disco when I need him.” Resplendent in head-to-toe leopard print, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (in his last on-screen appearance) is Jansen, the ruthlessly intuitive ace inspector of Police Unit 16, charged with chasing down a bomb threat in the glassy high-rise headquartering the media monolith whose third annual “Laughing Competition,” featuring cackling, caged contestants, Running Man smoke machines and Rocky Horror makeup, evoking a sort of Weimar Dave Und Buster’s, is approaching a 99.9% audience share in a near-future (West) Germany where drunkenness, suicide and graffiti are illegal—the modern Republic as green utopia where all social problems are willfully disavowed. (Rouge-cheeked psych-ward nurses in exploitation-film costumes salute the police with a thumbs-up.) The bomb threat seems to have come from inside the building—could one of its employees be the mythical underground figure “Krysmopompas,” whose name is shouted to Jansen by motorbike-riding “politicos” as he cruises the city, sweating and smoking and ignoring the pixelating voices calling in on his video-phone? Is there really such a person as Krysmopompas at all? And what’s on the skyscraper’s 31st floor?
Fassbinder’s casual cruelty to second-in-command Günther Kaufmann (“avoid unnecessary explanations”) adds a caustic trace of his own filmography to Kamikaze ‘89’s mix, as does the lighting, alternating newsreel-natural with lurid gels, from his regular DP Xaver Schwarzenberger. But Gremm, adapting (with seeming haste) a drawing-room mystery-cum-dystopian allegory from socialist Swedish crime novelist Per Wahlöö, is most invested in the production design, which is jaw-dropping for the full 100-odd minutes. Its Pop Art and plastic erotics take on a slick of the sinister from the glandular throb of Tangerine Dream’s score, preparing you for the film’s final revelation about the real truth of the 31st floor—a real doozy, a surprisingly unfanciful rendering of corporate capital holding culture in a vise it can barely be bothered to twist. Mark Asch (June 3-9 at BAM, showtimes daily)