I recently participated in a project hosted by Eddie on Film, who I know from my old job as a film reviewer/blogger. He wanted to come up with a democratically chosen list of the best non-English language films, and sought nominations from a group of online and offline critics. I was one of them (thanks, Eddie!).
I am a huge fan of German cinema, Rainer Werner Fassbinder in particular, and while I adore Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, which did make the list, I think The Marriage of Maria Braun needs to be on there, too. Ali is a great film about people, sentimentality, and what passes for love (and is a masterful retelling of Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows), but Maria Braun is an acute dissection of postwar Germany (part of Fassbinder’s BRD trilogy) that transcends social commentary to touch on the biggest issues of power, patriotism, and identity.
In other words, Ali is a good “starter” Fassbinder–Maria Braun takes a bit more of an effort. And The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which shows up on the “also-rans” list as well, is Fassbinder with a vengeance–not for the faint of heart.