Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day ★★★★½

After several painful weeks of exhausting all my resources trying to locate this enormously slippery title from Fassbinder's filmography, I finally caved in (because I'm a canon obsessive completionist) and purchased the limited edition Blu-Ray UK boxset from Arrow. I know, I know, Criterion is releasing an all new 2K digital restoration on October 9. I'm sure it will be gorgeous. I'm also an impatient nut who runs a tight ship and has a schedule to keep, so delays made me stupidly anxious. Needless to say, the effort to secure this gem was worth every penny (and every ounce of energy too). 

EIGHT HOURS DON'T MAKE A DAY is a sprawling, 8-hour epic television series rooted in Hollywood melodrama and textured by West German working-class family life. Warm, funny, and deftly empathetic, the series does such a great job at blending the personal and the political, showing how politics affect people but also how people affect politics. The connection between the two feels intimately grounded. Fassbinder deeply gets blue-collar folk and, like a good Marxist critic, wants to place their material yearning directly into the hands of the viewer. His skepticism for capitalism is very much at the fore, which sees people fractured off into servant-master roles that leads them to fight back. The possibilities for real social change, he argues, are only out of reach to those who sleep on their own power. Social change is fought and won by ordinary people during the little moments of everyday life — in kitchens, buses, bars, beds, etc. Each moment is celebrated as a struggle against those in positions of power and privilege. 

Fassbinder honors the ups and downs of the proletariat, brings us intimately into their homes, factories, and relationships, never once disapproving or condescending of their banal working reality. He loves these characters. He even oddly forgoes his usual trademark of letting them fester with resentment and self-loathing, allowing them instead to work for better lives. The tone is remarkably optimistic for a Fassbinder film, though it never comes across sentimental. Each frame is imbued with warm, lively imagery, creating a tight-knit solidarity with its characters who seek to improve their economic lot. 

The miracle of the film is how vivid and detailed these characters are. The women, the elderly, the factory blue-collars—they’re all so real and relatable. I felt like I’d spent an entire lifetime with them. Their stories started long before I ever began eavesdropping on them, and will continue on long without me after I turn off the TV. Just a charming, underrepresented segment of society that Fassbinder lends a sympathetic voice to, and their voices are truly inspiring. Overall a really well-made, generous, humane piece of filmmaking about the joys and struggles of a working-class family that Fassbinder fans will not want to miss.

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