What Are You Watching?: Remembering the genius of Michael Ballhaus

What Are You Watching? is a weekly space for The A.V Club‘s film critics and readers to share their thoughts, observations, and opinions on movies new and old.

My crush on Michael Ballhaus‘ camerawork started with the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. I love their fucked-up aesthetics: the funky typefaces and hairdos; the ugly German housing; the warbled theme songs; the mirror-window obsession; the severe, theatrical blocking; the physiognomies of his makeshift family of regular actors, who all look a little off in memorable ways, their faces painted over with too much make-up. Ballhaus was one of three Fassbinder cinematographers, the others being Dietrich Lohmann and Xavier Schwarzenberger. Really, the two didn’t have a lot in common. Fassbinder was a wunderkind—all of 25 and already on his 10th feature when he met Ballhaus—with a miserable postwar upbringing, two facts that seemed to have inspired both …

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