Made up of less than 100 shots, with two takes lasting over five minutes, this hit-and-run Sam Fuller production of 1959 strands an achingly sincere boob of an American soldier amid the physical and human wreckage of postwar Germany in one of this newly rediscovered director's most offbeat, and most obscure, movies. A bullet wound to his butt leaves G.I. James Best at the mercy of fräulein Susan Cummings in the last days of World War II. She turns out to be as duplicitous as Marlene Dietrich singing "Black Market" in Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair in this parable of a nation's redemption.
Taking as it does a tabloid, pulp-fiction approach to the issue of war guilt in postwar Germany, Verboten! bridges the gulf between such neorealist efforts as Rossellini's Germany Year Zero (1948), on the one hand, and postmodern re-creations like Lars von Trier's Zentropa (1992) on the other. Verboten! is also striking for the way it freely intercuts domestic melodrama and newsreel footage in a way quite similar to Alain Resnais' contemporaneous Hiroshima Mon Amour (also 1959). In both films nonfiction footage of the aftermath of war is juxtaposed with claustrophobic scenes of bickering lovers. As ever, however, Fuller is ultimately unique, poised as he is here precisely between Resnais and Ed Wood, with hints of William S. Burroughs, Red Grooms, and a flea circus thrown in.
Verboten! screens Saturday, June 6, at 7:10 p.m. (with The Steel Helmet at 5:30 and 9 p.m.) at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant (at College) in Berkeley. Tickets are $6, $1.50 more for the second show; call (510) 642-1124.