Thoughts on Peter von Kant by Francois Ozon, an homage to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Dear Shaded Viewers,

One cannot live on fashion alone and after mens and couture in close succession…Marco de Rivera and I decided to go to the cinema and see Peter von Kant. We both loved it. When I was in film school I was obsessed with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Loving fashion and cinema, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant was the perfect film for me. I thought the costumes were like Cecil B De Mille on acid. I remember in the early 90’s making a friend of mine, Gabrielle who had just come back from Morocco, come with me to watch, for me for the umpteenth time,  The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,  the film was in german with french sub-titles and takes place in one apartment. She could not stand it.

I cannot even count the number of times I’ve watched The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and I never tire of it. It is about a fashion designer, her assistant, seemingly the victim and the love interest played by Hanna Shygulla. Funnily enough one of my first jobs, 31 years ago when I moved to Paris, was doing the costumes for an Amos Gitae film and dressing Hanna Shygulla, the lead in the film Golem l’esprit d’exile. In the original film by Fassbinder Shygulla played the love interest, in Peter von Kant she plays the mother of the filmmaker, von Kant. Instead of a lesbian film it is a homosexual film. The director Peter von Kant falls in love with the character Amir played by Khalil Ben Gharbia. At one point, when von Kant asks Sidone played by Isabelle Adjani, if she had slept with Amir her reply was something like who hasn’t? Meanwhile you have the assistant Karl played by Stefan Crepon, if he was any thinner he would not exist,  witness  all and says nothing. The typewriter is his voice the same as in the original. I don’t want to tell you the whole story but it is about manipulation, victims, class issues and no happy ending. I suggest you first see Peter von Kant and then…if you have not already seen it, please watch the original by Fassbinder. I don’t think you need to do it in the reverse order.

The video above is an excellent analysis of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Germany 1972, Rainer Werner Fassbinder) by Professor Jane Shattuc.



Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.