Film Activism: Kamikaze ’89 on Kickstarter

Yesterday, I was pleased to learn  about (and back) this Kickstarter for an American re-release for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final starring role in a cult film called Kamikaze ’89 (1982). This is a re-release both theatrically and on DVD/Blu-ray.

At this time, we’ve organized the North American theatrical premiere on June 3, at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NY. Where it screens next is, partly, up to you – although we can’t guarantee bringing the film to every town, with your support we can reach theater operators all over the map. Any funds raised in excess of the initial $20,000 will go towards expanding the film’s theatrical impact, or investing into future stages of the release cycle, like making the best possible DVD and Blu-ray package. This film is truly an unsung classic and we can’t wait to bring it back to the public eye with your support.

Here’s the campaign blurb:

Kamikaze ’89 was the final acting role of its star (and master filmmaker) Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Directed by his friend Wolf Gremm, the film is not often cited among Fassbinder’s important achievements. That’s due for a change. Set in a dystopian, futuristic Germany (actually only 7 years after its 1982 production date), Kamikaze ’89 is perhaps Fassbinder’s crowning achievement as an actor. The film also marks his last collaboration with longtime muse Brigitte Mira, and co-stars Franco Nero, of Django fame as well as Fassbinder’s final project as a writer/director, Querelle. It is also the only film in which he wears a leopard-print suit in every scene, which we think is reason enough to consider it more than a mere “footnote to film history,” as Vincent Canby said in his original New York Times review. Finally, you’ll love the electronic score by Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream, who as a band defined the sounds of many cult classic films, from William Friedkin’s Sorcerer to Michael Mann’s Thief to Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark.

They’re seeking $20,000 (this is NOT a flexible funding project). Here’s their statement on the funds:

In order to bring this film the attention it deserves, we’re planning a nationwide (and Canada!) theatrical re-release. Although Film Movement has a long track record dating back to 2002, this will be our first large-scale theatrical re-release under the Film Movement Classics banner. We know from handling new releases over the past 13 years that putting a film into movie theaters and on Blu-ray is expensive. We figure $20,000 is the minimum we need to raise to get it out there for the theatrical release alone. If we can raise an additional $10,000, we’ll put it towards the creation of a brand new 35mm print, made with the utmost care from the new 4K digital master. The true cost for this is actually significantly higher – closer to $35,000 to do it right – but if we meet this goal, we will have the generous assistance of Ziegler Film, Kamikaze’s original production company, in covering the balance for this vital asset. Finally, if this campaign is a hit, we’ll be able to invest further in new restorations and releases; you’re not just backing this film, you’re backing our mission to celebrate classic cult and arthouse cinema.

For more about the rewards and to back the project visit its page.

Blu-ray Review: Francesco (1989)


For the 1995 commemoration of the 100th year of cinema the Pontifical Council for Social Communications created three lists of  “Some Important Films.” Francesco was among those included on the list titled “Religion.” Clearly that makes sense but it well could have gone on the “Art” list.

Francesco (1989)

Francesco (1989, Film Movement Classics)

This is the second film I had the privilege to see thanks to Film Movement’s new line of repertory releases referred to simply as Film Movement Classics. Perhaps more so than The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe Francesco shows the worth of repertory lines that bring overlooked gems to the fore anew. There really cannot be enough outlets such as these available.

Francesco tells a story of the life of St. Francis of Assisi but this is no rote cradle-to-grave tale but rather remains a fairly focused account of his spiritual awakening, the inception of his brotherhood, and the personal and theistic struggles he faces after having been granted permission from Pope Innocent III to formalize his order.

Yet there is a simple austerity in Francis’ ways, a kind and gentle nature, one that embraces and accepts all humanity and strives only to approximate himself to divinity and nature that makes this a tale that’s universally accessible, and not merely one for the devoutly religious. Aside from this necessary focus another of the film’s strengths is not falling into any divisive tactics and tells of the conflicts Francis faced with a respectable semblance of distance.

Francesco (Film Movement, 1989)

This ability to portray a man of God who preaches in a film that doesn’t preach to its audience is most admirable. Furthermore, Cavani’s cinematic stylings in this tale make this an engaging experience in purely aesthetic terms. The production design is rightly award-winning, the score from Vangelis, as per usual is a standout, and fits in an anachronistic way that should make Moroder jealous, and features a sensitive, soft-spoken and brilliant performance by Mickey Rourke in an unlikely and inspired bit of casting.

Also, noteworthy about this release is that it could be seen as definitive cut of the film. Not only has this film been unavailable in the US for many years but it is a new 133-minute version. This is a significant improvement on the original US release (104 minutes); and is reportedly a more disciplined, effective version than the 150-minute Italian release.

Francesco is a film I had not even heard of, much less seen, and one I was glad to have a gander at. I’m also thankful this is the first full version of St. Francis’ life I took in. While any one can identify with his naturalist tendencies and love of birds, this earnest devout portrayal; a man fighting peaceably for a belief in conducting oneself, he firmly believes can inspire all and I can see why he continues to have such a following.

Bonus Materials

Francesco (1989, Film Movement)

The bonus materials on this disc are a bit lacking compared to Film Movement Classic’s prior release, but there is still some good to be found.

The essays included are welcome. One is from the filmmaker Liliana Cavani on the unusual tale that to her to create her works on Francis, this one especially; and a take from critic Aaron Hillis, which fills in more background information.

Also included is a truncated press conference from Cannes, which almost would’ve been better off being omitted. It’s four minutes long, incomplete, and pack with overly-‘80s Rourke and the kinds of questions you would expect a Hollywood star like Rourke to get there.


Francesco (1989, Film Movement)

Francesco is a wonderfully re-presented title that should delight viewers for secular and holy reasons alike.