Sunday, September 7, 2014

#509: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

1974, TSPDT Rank #122

This film, situated right in the middle of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's extremely short but equally prolific career, is almost an exact remake of Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows - only with the Hollywood varnish stripped off and the plotline's ante upped considerably. Fassbinder transports the story to 1970s West Germany, trades operatic plot turns for harsh, subdued moments of reality, and replaces the attractive leads of Sirk's film with a cast of battered, beaten, and world-weary characters. And while the story still involves the love between an older woman and a younger man, Fassbinder also adds race into the equation - along with several references to Hitler along the way. All of this adds up to create a considerably more uncomfortable film than All That Heaven Allows was, while still playing on the audience's emotions in such an effective and subtle manner that it's no wonder that the film also ranks higher on the TSPDT list than All That Heaven Allows. The story of romance between an elderly German cleaning lady and a much younger Moroccan immigrant could definitely not have been achieved as powerfully by any other director of the time, or any other time for that matter. Fassbinder not only pays homage to his melodramatic influences with this film, but subverts them to create a unique and spellbinding effect - much like Sirk himself did with the Hollywood conventions of his day. A truly impressive film from a legendary figure in cinema history.

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