Who the hell knew, Rainer Werner Fassbinder made THE MATRIX a good 26 years earlier. In 1973 this 3 1/2 hour 16 mm epic appeared as a two-parter on German television. Now it's doing a limited run, including playing at the Roxie (tonight's the last showing, but I hear it's also coming to the PFA, but the schedule isn't online yet) and it's still brilliant today.
When Dr. Henry Vollmer, head of the Simulacron project (which is essentially virtual reality, although the term is never used) dies under mysterious circumstances, his second in command Fred Stiller takes over. And Stiller starts experiencing odd circumstances. Most odd is that Guenther Lause, head of security, disappears during a party. It makes the front page news, and then systematically everyone starts forgetting the Lause ever existed. Even more mysterious, when Stiller goes into the Simulacron to talk to Einstein (the "contact unit"--the only one who knows the Simulacron isn't real, he catches a glimpse of none other than Lause). I won't give anymore away. It's a wild sci-fi adventure from the time when sci-fi was about ideas instead of special effects. And it's just very, very cool.
Besides the story, the shot cinematography and set design is amazing. Intricately composed, with plenty of 70's mod style, and features clashing non-parallel lines and mirrors. So many reflections that Fassbinder uses to create intricately impossible spaces (e.g., we see one character and the reflection of the other, so both are looking directly at the camera), and (spoiler alert!) an intense sense of artificiality. So brilliant!
Running Time: 212 minutes
My Total Minutes: 246,214