Last night I watched Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) for the first time in six or seven years. Along with Ali, I think I’ve seen only Fox and His Friends, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, and Whity, so I’m relatively unfamiliar with Fassbinder and have never had much of a sense of his style. What struck me last night was how avant-garde, formally, Ali is. In fact, the film I was reminded of most often was Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth. Both find their dramatic and emotional impact in impeccably composed images. Obviously, Fassbinder’s film has a much more traditional narrative than Costa’s, but the flat, staged performances given by his actors undermines any comfortable sort of identification we might have forged with their characters otherwise. It’s like Fassbinder has reduced melodrama to its first principles then blown them up into full-color, super-saturation, not unlike the images of the film itself.

Until I finish working through all of those Godard films, I won’t have time to really dig into Fassbinder as I’d like, but can anyone recommend a handful of his films that I should check out? Are the camera work and formal devices employed in Ali typical?