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Criterion box sets always provide cinephilic fun, but is this standard-def compilation of nascent works from the German master worth $70....?
Criterion / 453 Minutes / 1969-1970 / Unrated / Street Date: August 27, 2013
When Criterion announced their November titles last week, it seemed as though a move away from standard-definition discs might be in their future. It’s unclear what a shift to Blu might mean for their Eclipse line, but by making every release a DVD/BD combo, one can’t help but hope the studio might relegate Digital Vinyl Discs to LaserDisc capacity.
I bring this up because as wonderful as it is to have Eclipse Series 39: Early Fassbinder on the market, it’s an antiquated dinosaur of an edition. Time continues to be surprisingly kind to Rainer Werner – even these five inessential titles of his are fascinating as facets of his numbingly prolific pantheon – but finding a reason to invest $70 in a box set like this one becomes more and more difficult the more one thinks about it.
Again, first and foremost, there are no classics here. Love Is Colder Than Death (1969), Katzelmacher (1969), Gods of the Plague (1969), The American Soldier (1970), and Beware of a Holy Whore (1970) are placemarkers on the road to Fassbinder’s most impressive early-phase classics (it’s a fair argument to call 1974’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul his first masterpiece), but none of them stand tall. And if you have a Hulu Plus account, all but Katzelmacher are available to watch via that service (at the time of this review being posted, at least).