He burned out on a cocktail of sleeping pills and cocaine aged 37, but by that point German New Wave visionary Rainer Werner Fassbinder had achieved more than most filmmakers would in two lifetimes. Powered by fierce creative energy, workaholic determination and a heroic amount of drugs and booze, the gay wunderkind made a staggering 43 films in total. In these two essential boxsets, released 25 years after his death, we get 17 of his very best.
Some are stylised melodramas, ironically retooled from Douglas Sirk’s back catalogue to tackle terrorism, race, class and sexuality. Others are political noirs, startling visions of post-war Germany and psychosexual social studies. All are brutal, tender and wise. Ali: Fear Eats The Soul reimagines All That Heaven Allows with an old widow and her Arab lover for keen satire and poignant meta-melodrama. The Marriage Of Maria Braun stars his leading diva Hanna Schygulla and cuts into the ‘50s German ‘economic miracle’. The Merchant Of Four Seasons is another masterpiece – a deadpan of petit-bourgeois destruction with a stunning pay-off.
And there’s more, much more. Both boxsets (Vol 1 covers 1969-72; Vol 2 spans 1973-82) come stacked with great docs, boasting hours of material. Together, they’re the most impressive retro boxsets of the year.