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Ali: Fear Eats the Soul


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Fassbinder comes up in various threads here, but this film has no specified thread. I'd like to hear from those who have seen it. I have the opportunity to see the film at the Virginia Film Festival and am weighing whether it's worth making the drive to see on the big screen, or if it's one that plays just as well on video. My film reference books aren't as helpful as I'd hoped they might be when it comes to this film. (No, I haven't seen the Sirk film on which this film is based.)

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ali isn't a film that would typically be described as "cinematic" in the same way as something like, say, 2001 or Lawrence of Arabia. For one, it's shot in the classic, 4:3 aspect ratio (although I think it's occasionally projected at 1.66:1). However, much of the power of the film -- and it's a masterpiece, for sure -- is generated by Fassbinder's compositions and super-saturated colors, so it would definitely benefit from a good theatrical screening. I wrote a bit about this at Long Pauses.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As I posted over in the Nazarin thread, it looks like all systems are "Go" for me to see this film Oct. 31. Darren, if you have any suggestions for other Fassbinder films I might see before heading down to the festival, let me know. I did note your comparison at your blog to Colossal Youth, so thanks for that.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Fassbinder is still on my to-do list, so I don't have other personal recommendations, I'm afraid. However, in the comments of the post I linked to, others offered up quite a few suggestions. The Marriage of Maria Braun, The Merchant of Four Seasons, and Effie Briest are the titles that came up most often. Watching Sirk's All The Heaven Allows would be useful, too.

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It has been a while since I have seen Ali, but I think this was one of his least affected films in terms of production as it isn't as dense or lush as his other films. I really like the WW II trilogy (Maria, Lola, and Veronika), which is exquisitely shot and staged. His penchant for the control one has in theater direction leaks into most of his films. Love is Colder Than Death is well worth tracking down if you are into either noir or Godard.

I have the same difficulty with Fassbinder that I do with Ozon. I want to have a better connection to their films, but as they are mainly preoccupied by issues of sex and power, I don't have a similar frame of reference to work with. Ali is almost a thematic non-sequitor for Fassbinder, where all of his ideas about angst and alienation play out in terms of immigration. I envy your chance to see it on the big screen.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 2 weeks later...
An update on my plans.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 5 years later...

I just saw this as part of the 1974 project. I haven't seen All That Heaven Allows, or any other Fassbinder films.

 

First impressions: the acting seemed very stiff and formal at all times, making it all sort of emotionally distant, and I'm not sure how this benefited the film except for stylistically matching the cinematography. However, I do see some benefit in the film being shot in such static compositions, often with a minimum of movement inside the frame. For one thing, it gives the rare tracking shots more power and meaning. This jumped out at me during the scene at the cafe with all those yellow tables, when Emmi expresses the hope that people will someday accept her and Ali, and all of a sudden - for the first time - the world starts moving.

 

Also, the ending was very good. All during the last act, I was wondering whether we would get a tragic or happy ending, and doubtful that either one could work. What we do get works beautifully.

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