Eight Hours Don't Make a Day ★★★★½

A socialist soap opera, weaving its idealism so deftly into its family drama and comedy that even the most intimate moments reflect a larger political viewpoint. It's a bracingly funny work, from Fassbinder's hilarious camerawork, all snap-zooms onto facial reactions or shots that pan to reveal heretofore unnoticed listeners, to the light-hearted sarcasm lobbed by the characters. There are mean, spiteful characters in this—the vile Harald, the pissy Rüdiger, the series of unsmiling faces on any kind of authority figure—but even they have moments of unexpected humanity, as when the violent and possessive Harald meekly agrees to let his abused wife and child go, or how some of the factory management can, in spite of themselves, respect the organizing workers. But the show is always stolen by its two central couples: Jochen and Marion, and Grandma and Gregor. Jochen and his grandmother are both idealistic to a fault, and each is tempered, if still constantly supported, by their more grounded partner, and watching both put forward their various schemes to improve things around them is a delight. It's a shame the full miniseries was never completed, though apparently the final three episodes would have been more pessimistic than the relatively upbeat tone of the existing episodes. Even incomplete, this is one of Fassbinder's most spellbinding, different works.