Criterion provides a number of excellent supplements for the film on this 2-disc set. The first disc is devoted to the film and also features the film’s theatrical trailer. The second disc presents the remaining supplements.
The supplements on the second disc start with an introduction by director Todd Haynes that runs about 23-minutes. The director of Far From Heaven (which, like Ali, is also inspired by Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows) talks about the film, Fassbinder, and, of course, the obvious Sirk influence, not only on this film but Fassbinder’s work as a whole, as well as Haynes’ own (he actually discovered both directors at around the same time.) This also allows the Haynes to make comparisons between Fassbinder’s and Sirk’s respective films. It’s an interesting examination of the two filmmakers’ films dealing with similar subjects, and the obvious influence that Sirk was on Fassbinder.
Following this is a short film called Angst isst Seele auf. From the first person perspective of a black man it portrays a racist attack by a group of skinheads while he's on his way to the theater for his performance as Ali in a stage version of Fear Eats the Soul, which also has Brigitte Mira. It's based on a true account that the director himself, Shahbaz Noshir, faced. It's fairly brutal but is nicely done, the first-person telling never feeling like a gimmick. The film runs a little over 12-minutes.
You'll next find a roughly 32-minute BBC documentary called Signs of Vigorous Life: New German Cinema. It looks at the German new wave, including directors Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Fassbinder and others. Though it can be a little dry it still offers a solid introduction to the German New Wave and the films that were produced during the period.
An interesting little feature is an excerpt from one of Fassbinder's earlier films called The American Soldier, a film made well before Ali. The scene chosen has Margarethe von Trotta tells the story (to two people making love in bed) of an elderly woman who falls in love with a young Arab man. While the names and situations are somewhat different, the basic story for Ali is there in its entirety, showing that Fassbinder had probably been at least somewhat working on this film in his head early on. While not integral to enjoying the film anymore it’s an interesting inclusion. (As a note, you can find the complete film in Criterion’s Early Fassbinder Eclipse set.)
The disc then closes with two interviews, both lasting 25 and 22-minutes each respectively. You'll find one with a very Brigitte Mira, who discusses working on this film, with Fassbinder on other projects, other adaptations including the stage play, and so on. You will also find one with editor The Eymesz, who talks about Fassbinder’s early films, the development of their style, and working on Fear Eats the Soul. Both are packed with information about the director, making both excellent additions.
Criterion also includes a great booklet with a couple of essays, including one by Chris Fujiwara and another on Fassbinder by Michael Toteberg. They're both great reads and I must also say I really like the layout of the book.
The fact it’s a 2-disc set probably gives the illusion of this being a stacked edition but disappointingly the film and the supplements could have probably all fit on one dual-layer disc. Still, they’re a strong set of supplements and they’re all worth going through. 7/10