“Fox and His Friends” – Chris Luedtke

I don’t think I’d be too out of league to say that Rainer Werner Fassbinder is one of the more intriguing directors to ever grace this green earth. Fassbinder has gone on to do some of the most interesting films, regardless of whether they are good or not. Satan’s Brew, for example, is actually quite a detestable film that is extremely hard to ingest. But even on an absurd level, one cannot deny that it is its own piece and has never been, nor could ever be, recreated. Fox and His Friends breaks from Fassbinder’s mold only slightly. It may be a very different piece concerning the director’s history, but it’s still ultimately his own.

Fox and His Friends follows the life of Franz “Fox” Bieberkopf (Fassbinder himself), a luckless carnival worker who suddenly has a twist of fate and wins the lottery shortly after his job is…outsourced. With his newly found wealth comes some new clothes, furnishings, and, of course friends. Among these friends is Eugen Thiess (Peter Chatel), a young businessman whom Fox falls in love with. As the two move in together, Fox is thrown further into a world where he feels undermined, undercut, ridiculed and used, while his wealth is ceaselessly schemed from under his nose.

We might as well give the Bastard of the Year award to Eugen. You know all those chick flicks with that horrible lover who does nothing but undercut the main character? Well, multiply that person by a thousand, and you have Eugen — a selfish, snobby, prissy prick of a man. Peter Chatel casts such a shadow over Fassbinder’s character that half the time you forget that Fassbinder is even in the cast at all. It’s not even that Fassbinder is a bad actor, it’s simply that Chatel shines as the bastard lover. But however much of a villain Eugen may be, we also can’t forget that Fox is openly uneducated, sloppy, and true to himself — this being the most important quality of them all. While Fox is often being undercut by Eugen, he still calls him out on it, telling us that he has more feelings than he does a brain. The complexity of the characters is to be admired here; Fassbinder did a wonderful job with their realism, but sadly, this is about where the real greatness of the film ends.

The plot isn’t anything to marvel at. Your jaw won’t drop by the end of the film, stunned by what you just saw. Chances are if you think it’s going to happen, then it probably will. Sometimes we see a few curveballs, but most of those involve just some responses between Fox and Eugen. Only one or twice did my eyebrows raise at what had just happened. The rest is all predictable, which is sad to see in many ways. Alas, we must also take into consideration that this was released back in 1975 and was probably an original piece for its time. Unfortunately, the formula has been revamped over and over again. Fox and His Friends might as well be called Fox’s Wealth and His Bastard Lover, with a homosexual twist.

I wish I had more to say about this film, but it left me with a fairly unmoved feeling from when I first popped it in. I’m not blown away, the plot description on the back of the box did the movie justice, and it didn’t go any further than it could have with plot. Still, the depth of the characters is what’s important here. There is some cool camera symbolism going on that I won’t spoil, because it’s a nice little surprise at some parts and definitely points to where the movie is going to head. It’s nothing compared to symbolism of La Notte, though. Fox and His Friends is a good film; I just wish it was better than that.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Chris Luedtke

Leave a Reply