Fassbinder's breakthrough film is a curious beast. At times it seems like a cross between Bresson's colour films (Une Femme douce and Quatre nuits d'un rêveur had been released by the time it was shot) and the melodramas of Douglas Sirk. The combination of formalist minimalism and melodramatic excess is sometimes effective, such as in a number of sequences whose dreamlike qualities make sense both thematically and diegetically. But at other times one wonders if the two approaches don't risk cancelling each other out. Can stiff acting always be explained away as stylisation, or improbable plotting as ironic detachment?