Fox and His Friends



Faustrecht der Freiheit : (West) Germany 1975 : Rainer Werner Fassbinder : 123 mins

Franz Biberkopf (Fassbinder), a.k.a. Fox, loses his job as a Munich fairground  ‘talking head ’ attraction when his MC and lover Klaus (Harry Baer) is sent to prison. He picks up suave antique-dealer Max (Karl-Heinz Boehm) in a public toilet and, after winning a small fortune on the national lottery, is adopted by Max ’s circle of well-heeled gay friends. These include the snooty Eugen (Peter Chatel), whose initial disgust towards the ill-mannered Fox instantly fades when he spots a chance to save his family ’s ailing bookbinding business. The pair become lovers, Eugen leeching more and more of Fox ’s winnings into the family firm  – with tragic consequences for the hapless  ‘lottery queen ’ …

Fox is a characteristically bitter and caustic slice of socio-economic melodrama from Fassbinder, but isn ’t the ideal starting-point for newcomers to his insanely prolific output. Though never as turgid as, say, Merchant of Four Seasons, it ’s still one of his longer films, feeling closer to three hours than two. This is one of his blunt but persistent and effective attacks on the stratified, deadening society of West Germany in the mid-70s  – a well-off but somewhat scuzzy and seedy environment of vile fashions and gaudy décor.

As with most (but not all) of his films, Fassbinder is a writer first and a director second  – he ’s more interested in character and dialogue than in exploring the possibilities of the cinematic medium. But he includes one dazzling show-off scene near the end, when Fox finally starts to realise the mess he ’s in and breaks up with Eugen. With this sequence, Fassbinder lets us know he as capable of visual flair as anyone  – he ’s just too busy and angry to bother.

5th June 2002
(seen 2nd June, Cineside Newcastle)

For a longer analysis of this review click here

by Neil Young
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