Newest Reviews
Sun Shines Bright, The
Last Thing Mary Saw, The
Mon Oncle d'Amerique
Wild Strawberries
Runner, The
Don't Look Up
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Forever Purge, The
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Legend of La Llorona, The
Perdita Durango
Commando, The
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Boiling Point
Deadly Games
Voyeurs, The
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
In the Earth
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hotel Poseidon
No Time to Die
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Power of the Dog, The
Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary
Suicide Squad, The
One Night in Miami...
Newest Articles
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
  Merchant of Four Seasons, The The Whipping Boy Returns
Year: 1972
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Stars: Hans Hirschmilller, Irm Hermann, Hannah Schygulla, Klaus Lowistch, Karl Scheydt, Andrea Schober, Gusti Kreissl, Ingrid Caven, Kurt Raab, Heide Simon, Peter Chatel, Elga Sorbas, Lilo Pempeit, Walter Sedlmayr, El Hedi Ben Salem, Marian Seidowsky
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Hans Epp (Hans Hirschmiller) left the Foreign Legion and returned home to Germany to visit his mother (Gusti Kreissl), he was not exactly greeted with open arms. In fact, his mother told him she hoped he had died in the service, and that the friend he had left with all that time ago had returned instead. After struggling with a job as a policeman, he winds up as a fruit vendor selling pears from a barrow he pushes around the housing complexes, assisted by his wife Irma (Irm Hermann) who has given him a young daughter, but as far as love goes, she can be as cruel as his mother. Such is Hans's lot...

The Merchant of the Four Seasons, or Handler der vier Jahreszeiten if you spoke German, was the first hit for cult director and key exponent of the German New Wave of the nineteen-seventies Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He had been plugging away at the filmmaking lark since the late sixties with not much success outside of specialist areas, but in his endeavours to emulate his hero Douglas Sirk, a Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaker though originally from Germany like Fassbinder, he suddenly found an audience who in the increasingly fraught social landscape of his country were more receptive to being, well, depressed, really.

This was a tale of depression as suffered by Hans, and the circumstances that led to it were picked apart in forensic detail by a plot that left no stone unturned in eking out every reason why he felt like utter shit all day, every day. Nobody appreciates him, everyone does him down, and when he does meet somebody who likes him they will always find a way of breaking his heart, or at least they would had that heart not been torn out and stomped into the dirt by life some time before - everything we see here is merely adding insult to injury. And what insults they are, as even when Hans retaliates he fails miserably in his quest to attain self-esteem.

It is appropriate, then, that shortly after resorting to beating up his wife, as much out of frustration as he is drunk, when he tries to reconcile with her it is so stressful he collapses with a cardiac arrest. It's the film's idea of a punchline to a succession of bleak jokes that were never funny in the first place, and there is more to come as his new invalidity means he cannot work on the barrow anymore since that requires heavy lifting of the fruit boxes. But it does mean he can devote himself to what has turned into his main interest: drinking alcohol, and that he throws himself into with unseemly enthusiasm, only pausing to note how unfulfilled his existence is now he has been forced to slow down. There is but one goal he has in mind.

Which is to drink himself to death - one can only wonder at the German audience of the seventies if this was their idea of a great night out, but it arguably provided the springboard for Fassbinder's successes for the next ten years, at which point he died of a drugs overdose, not yet forty. You imagine had this not been a hit, it would not have affected his output any (he was incredibly prolific) nor the subject matter of his filmography, and he would have patiently waited for his oeuvre to click, which it did, domestically and internationally. But even as it chimed with his countrymen and women back then, ironically appreciating the perfect dejection of this has become a niche interest decades after his death as cinema has lost interest in the mass appeal of these kinds of stories. Yet you can still discern that steeliness and embrace of the disaffected in films to this day, you simply have to seek them out more. Ahead of his time? Perhaps, but very much of his time too.

[Click here to join the Arrow Player website - there's a free trial available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 307 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: