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A Tale of Deceit, Power, and Victimization: Fassbinder at his Best!
gradyharp6 August 2006
Rainer Werner Fassbinder has long been honored as the 'bad boy' in European cinema, a writer/director/actor who repeatedly has taken chances and because of his brutal honesty has succeeded in making a stream of important films. FOX AND HIS FRIENDS dates back to 1975 and remains one of Fassbinder's most successful films. As with all of his films, Fassbinder deals with the homosexual subculture in Germany but his main message goes far beyond the characters he creates: the examination of how people manipulate people for personal gain and the destruction that produces is a recurring problem and one that this film certainly explores.

'Fox' - a nickname of Franz Bieberkopf - (acted with consummate skill by Fassbinder himself) is a lower class gay carny kid whose lover is arrested, leaving the carnival to collapse and leaving Fox without support. Enter handsome Max (Karlheinz Böhm), a wealthy antiques dealer, who picks up Fox, helps him buy the requisite 'lottery ticket' on which Fox bases his hopes for financial survival (!) via manipulative means, and takes him home, introducing Fox to his gay friends who regard Fox as scum but show obvious physical attraction to his rawness. Surprisingly Fox wins the lottery and suddenly has 500,000 DMs and with his new money, Max's friends abruptly see a target for obtaining that money. One of the friends named Eugen (Peter Chatel) takes Fox in as a lover and talks him into investing in Eugen's family business of bookbinding. Eugen's father Wolf (Adrian Hoven) and mother (Ulla Jacobsson) tolerate their son's life with a low class wretch, ridiculing his manners and lack of culture and education, but willingly take his money to salvage their business.

With a lover and a business and a role model to make him suave, Fox dons fancy clothes, banters with his old friends in a tawdry club, and makes the pretenses that at last he is secure and happy. But in time Fox is blamed for problems at the business and when his funds have been depleted on expensive vacations and apartments by the smarmy self-centered Eugen, Fox realizes that now without money he has no 'fancy friends', no lover, no security and his life becomes unbearable: the ending to the film is a tragedy beyond description.

Some would say the film is mannered in ways that depict stereotypes of the gay world (effeminate men, transvestites, opportunists, hustlers, etc), but Fassbinder is completely honest in his attempt to recreate a subculture of a specific time in Germany. And the characters are well written and well acted allowing us to look at Fassbinder's greater picture of depravity between social class antipathies. In many ways this is a difficult film to watch, but Fassbinder wisely places the main character whom he enacts in a place where his foibles and lack of higher class knowledge can be at once very humorous as well as pitiable. FOX AND HIS FRIENDS has some minor flaws but it has already become a classic in gay cinema repertoire. In German with English subtitles. Grady Harp
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Fassbinder's finest performance?
Lexo-21 May 1999
Fox and his Friends caused some controversy when it was first made - it was thought that this story of a gay sideshow worker who wins the lottery, only to be exploited to the hilt by his upper-class lover, was potentially homophobic. Fassbinder himself commented that the story could have been about a heterosexual relationship, but it wouldn't have been as clear.

Fassbinder himself plays Fox - the burly ugly duckling of German cinema miraculously slimmed down, looking almost handsome. Fox's street skills and good humour are undercut by his naivety, as his repellently snobbish boyfriend systematically scams him out of the thousands of marks he's won on the lottery. The story proceeds with ruthless inevitability, as Fox becomes more and more demoralised. Yet the film contains some of Fassbinder's sharpest comedy, particularly in a brilliantly embarrassing dinner party scene. RWF is excellent in the title role; amazing to think that the guy who wrote and directed the film (among so many others) could play a good-natured dimwit with such conviction.
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desperateliving22 October 2004
I'm continually blown away with Fassbinder. And it's all the more affecting because, like all great artists, he challenges your conceptions and forces you to have a new experience. We have to fight our way through his movie, critiquing everything we see. Fox is sure he will win the lottery. Today will be the day. And, he does. Like the ending of "Ordet," this is a cliché embraced, but why? Fassbinder is far too intelligent and original a talent to be conventional without a reason. (In fact, in a regular movie Fox's lottery win would be a thrilling set-piece, sitting in front of a TV screen in a living room, with some dying family member in a hospital bed awaiting money for treatment. Here, we don't even see the win.) Of course the lottery win is a set-up for the way money affects a relationship, especially in gay culture.

Basically, Fassbinder is truth. There's a much more honest depiction of factory work here than in, say, von Trier's later films, where he dotes on the "common" man (just as often, woman) as if a simpleton that we should feel sorry for (I doubt they feel sorry for themselves; von Trier just obliges us to feel that way on their behalf). The mistakes made here are by the controllers of the factory -- it's Fox's scheming lover's father who gets the business bankrupt, and it's Fox, after he lends his lover money to get them out of debt, who screws up the printing. But Fox isn't humiliated by his mistake, whereas a blind, helpless Bjork in "Dancer in the Dark" is made to be a pitiable object. (To be fair, both Fassbinder and von Trier have a tendency to wallow in the miserable.)

Fassbinder focuses his film mainly on the class barrier -- Fox's lover makes insulting comments to him regarding proper manners -- but he's also giving us a kind of gay relationship film noir -- we see ex-lovers kissing (in a ceiling mirror!) behind current lovers' backs, and money corruption plays a large part in the film. (Fox's lover is excellent in his role; he never plays a character who's sole purpose for living is to plot in a corner about how he'll be evil today.) And Fassbinder's view of society as something that destroys people is very noirish (Fox isn't completely in the dark; he does understand he's being used as it's happening). But to be sure, Fassbinder is also detailing the upper-class homosexual in a very critical way; but I think he could have done much more exposing the shallowness of gay culture. (He mainly treats Fox's lover and his ex-/secret lover with peeking-through-keyhole disdain, no doubt partly from Fox's perspective, but I find that somewhat childish and not terribly interesting. It's the view of someone who's been screwed over and feels depressed about it, not someone intent on exposing why people are corrupt, and how.) You don't know quite how to feel about this; in a way Fassbinder is very brave -- he casts himself in an incredibly unromantic role. And at the same time it's interesting because, while Fassbinder doesn't seem too pleased with the superficial manner of the gays whose eyes immediately fixate on money and looks, his own film features an abundance of male nudity early on, of young, very attractive boys that Fox himself is quite attracted to.

On a more technical aspect, there are plenty of interesting shots, of reflections, or obscurities, or of the backs of heads or bodies; one particularly stand-out scene is the one where Fox and his lover are vacationing in Morocco and cruise for a man, and when in a taxi with him the camera observes the festival around them while we listen to their discussion. (The man they pick up is Ali from "Fear Eats the Soul," and many of Fassbinder's stable appear in the film. The fact that it's Ali playing a Moroccan -- albeit, one that's ostensibly gay, so it may not in fact be Ali -- gives the film a self-referential bent, though it's never gimmicky; rather, a continuous web of obsessions; there is a comment on racism inputted in this scene, as well.) The ending of the film is a bit too cruel and heavy-handed, though the pessimist in me appreciates it, the part of me that believes society is a pitiless social system out to wreck anything with a pureness of soul. 9/10
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One of my favorites
Itchload7 December 2002
Fassbinder is an acquired taste in every sense of the word. It took me awhile to be able to fully digest and appreciate his films, and even then it can be difficult.

Fox and His Friends is one of his "accessible" movies, but Fassbinder at his most accessible would probably highly alienate most movie goers.

I've seen this movie 3 times. The first time I thought "that was a good Fassbinder". The second time, I thought the same. The third time, I realized it was brilliant. It might be because I recently bought the amazing dvd, which has an excellent transfer. Fassbinder made his films quickly, very quickly, so a faded old videotape sometimes seems to reflect that. However, when seeing the crisp DVD I realized just how great the camera work was and how well-planned out the movie was.

This would make a good starting point for entering the world of Fassbinder I would think, it has it all: well-framed shots, black humor, and an extremely depressing ending. Depending on how much you can relate to this sort of thing, I would recommend checking it out.

p.s. The last scene was later homaged in My Own Private Idaho (another great movie) and Fassbinder gives a really good performance in the lead.
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One of Fassbinder's Best
harry-7623 March 1999
"Faustrecht der Freiheit" occupies a valued place in my video collection. I find myself returning to it again and again, thoroughly enjoying Fassbinder's talent, which run throughout the film. Perceptive, witty and challenging, this drama provides astute observations on societal motivations, political aspirations and, above all, human nature.
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A masterpiece and Fassbinder's best
handmade_blade4 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
From the opening strains of lilting carnival music, set against a colorful fairground swarming with people, there's no doubt about Fassbinder's goal in this film: To show the insanity and the depravity of the world in all its hectic disgrace. This extended metaphor smoothly gives way to the story, as Klaus, Fox's manager and boyfriend, is arrested, we meet Fox's drunken sister, Fox meets Max, Fox wins the lottery and Fox makes his notorious friends. All these events happen in rapid succession, but when the plot slows down a little Fox has a new lover: Eugen, a slick, highbrow conman. Fox doesn't realize it at the time, but when he utters the words "There's no one that can't be had" Eugen agrees completely, albeit in silence. Eugen proceeds to take Fox on a ride, milking him for money to save his father's failing company, a posh apartment and the furniture for it, fancy clothes, a vacation to Morocco and a car. Fox loses everything and kills himself, but that's to be expected in a Fassbinder film.

The irony in the U.S. title, Fox and His Friends is two-fold. His old friends, the ones who hang out in the bar he frequents, the ones who are down to earth and genuine, are the same ones he no longer has any use for. His new friends, the ones who are well cultured, the ones who make fun of him behind his back and criticize him to his face, the ones who fleece him for every penny he has, are the ones he can't get himself away from. The lives of Fox's friends from both sides get tangled together as they all watch Fox sink lower and lower and do nothing to help him. Fox and His Friends is a good enough title for this film, but the original title Faustrecht der Freiheit (Fist Fight of Freedom in English) is much more telling. Fox wants to be happy, and happiness is freedom, but he is far too vulnerable and trusting to attain either in the world he's living in. A world where no one is trustworthy and, worse than that, everyone is amoral and selfish. The characters in this movie are all involved a metaphorical fist fight where only the strong survive, where only those who are willing to connive, cheat, trick and steal are going to come out on top.

Just like in life, no one in this film is entirely sympathetic, once you get to know them. Fox is the most likable character, but even he has questionable morals. This aspect of the film is highlighted in Fox and Eugen's first conversation where Fox declares that there are three types of people in the world: Those who are clean, those who wash and those who stink no matter how much they wash themselves. He goes on to say that the latter is okay because some people like a little stink. This declaration of humanity sums up what Fassbinder is trying to say in this film and many more. The statement is matched by the visual fragmentation of the characters, who, rarely shown in the whole, are instead fragmented by stray objects, windowpanes or mirrors. The scenes of the fair, the boutiques, the bars and Morocco are all lies as Fassbinder lays these colorful settings under truth after truth about the drab and mundane world in which we live. In the end, Max and Karl, representing the best of each of Fox's groups of friends, find Fox dead from doctor prescribed sleeping pills in a subway station and decide to leave him there because they don't want to get involved.

At first it seems that Fassbinder has nothing good to say about human nature. That people are bad and Fox, the world weary victim, is an exception to the rule. But if Fox is an exception, couldn't there be other exceptions too? Surely Fox isn't one of a kind. After all, he's not a very exceptional person. Ultimately the message here is bittersweet, that one can be happy, but they have to fight for it with their life. Fox takes it one step further and sacrifices his life for happiness. Or rather, because of his lack of it in life.
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The main point of Fox and his Friends seems to be that money corrupts the chances of meaningful human interaction; and the movie has a lot more going for it, there's a deep aesthetic richness, quality of textual reference, and it has the pulse of relationships.

Franz aka Fox is a circus entertainer who wins the lottery and is then fleeced by those whose love he aspires to.

I found myself admiring Fassbinder and Ballhaus' homages to Sternberg, taking the slatted light of Mogador (Morocco - 1930) and pouring colour in, so that the Moroccan street looks like late Bridget Riley. Following on from Welt am draht two years earlier another of Dietrich's iconic moments under Sternberg's gaze is referenced (Dishonored in Welt am draht, Shanghai Express here), pallid mockeries full of weltschmerz (weltschmerz heaped on weltschmerz), a sense that life might be better.

It's quite easy to get carried away with the design, to see the movie as a parade of yellow dresses and peach-coloured flowers. There's a relentless gay aesthetic, for example Eugen, the dandy entrepreneur who grifts fox, has a poster for The Prince of Homburg in his flat, the ambisexual play by high-strung Heinrich von Kleist, whose search for the ideal, seems to govern Eugen's private life. Eugen is an unpleasant man, there's a brilliant shot of him looking through a spyhole, keeping his distance from his waiting lover, coolly observing.

Franz has panic attacks in the movie, a good touch I thought, that's what unrequited love does to you. Aesthetically the best of Fassbinder's movies that I've seen. Gods of the Plague touches it out in terms of successful content.
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Fasssbinder at his best
anemoni28 August 2001
A powerful and harrowing melodrama and one of Fassbinder's most accessible movies,this is a must-see for all those interested in intelligent filmmaking.The tragic story of Fox is masterfully and poignantly handled by Fassbinder, while never slipping into sloppy sentimentality.At the same time the film explores sexual and political issues that are still very much relevant.
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Fassbinder is excellent.
Quirky-30 May 2003
The ironically titled Fox and His Friends, Fassbinder's rather excellent study of a none-too-bright circus worker who wins a small fortune in the lottery, is a touching film that features a great performance from Fassbinder himself in the title role. A reflection on the class system and homosexual relationships of 1970's Germany, Fox and His Friends is unsentimental and guileless most of the time. Fox (Fassbinder) is one of the main attractions of a circus like festival, with his lover being arrested for tax fraud. Fox somehow knows he'll win the lottery, so when he picks up a wealthy man at the local 'pick-up toilets', Fox makes sure he reaches the store in time to lodge his ticket. Cut to Fox celebrating his 500 000 marks win, he's drinking in his usual tavern with the effete bar staff and clientele. Fox then somehow becomes involved with a somewhat arrogant and pretentious man, already in a relationship, who takes the naïve Fox for a ride, spending his money in selfish and extravagant ways. Fassbinder's melodrama is droll and poignant, with a tragically ironic ending. Oh, and you have to give extra marks to a director who inserts lengthy nude scenes of themselves in their films.
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Another Memorable Fassbinder's film
Galina_movie_fan1 September 2007
In "Fox and His Friends" (1975) which Rainer Werner Fassbinder wrote and directed, he played a main character, Franz Bieberkopf alias "Fox", a lower class, uneducated circus worker who loses his job when his lover, the circus owner is arrested and sent to prison for tax fraud. Fox believes in his luck and strikes it rich by winning 500,000 marks in the lottery and very soon attracts the attention of an elegant, posh, and sophisticated Eugen who knows very well how to make Fox pay for his expensive habits and how to make him invest a lot of money in his father business that is not very successful to say the least. What fascinated me the most - how convincingly Fassbinder - one man production company who came up with the idea, wrote the screenplay and directed the movie- played seemingly tough but as it turned, confused and vulnerable Fox. Another interesting aspect of the movie is the way Fassbinder describes the gay community in Germany of the early 70s. He does not make any excuses and he does not make his characters complete villains or innocent victims. The story he tells could've happened in any community.
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Sth between pessimism and realism...
pangipingu24 June 2020
A detailed portrayal of the bitter destiny of those with high hopes ending up taken advantage of.
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How to get exploited by your rich lover.
Mithras-426 August 1999
One of Fassbinder´s most sad, dramatic films. Very 70´s and interesting. The gay theme must have been very provocative in these times. But if you want to watch another, even more gay film by him, watch his final movie "Querelle" (after the novel "Querelle de Brest" by Jean Genet). For me this one is a ´9´.
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Boy wins lottery, boy loses himself
Rogue-322 September 2003
This is the first Fassbinder film I've seen, thanks to Francois Ozon, whose adaptation of Fassbinder's play Water Drops on Burning Rocks turned me on to him. After seeing Fox and His Friends, which stars Fassbinder, I most definitely want more. The story here is familiar - 'loser' gets to win big time and discovers how quickly people are willing - and able - to exploit him. It's the way the piece is written and performed that elevates it above predictability; there is a certain tongue-in-cheek quality to the proceedings that make it thoroughly captivating, through to the bitter end.
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the Golden Rule, set among male lovers in mis 70s Germany
Quinoa19842 July 2009
In an interview with RW Fassbinder, he mentioned that it was important to him that this be the first movie featuring homosexuals where that wasn't the problem, or rather that wasn't some kind of big focus- they're gay, big deal, get over it, lets go on with the rest of the story. And his intentions were realized since it's not about homosexuals, per-say, but about class. In the film Fox (Fassbinder himself in part of the title role) is a carnival worker- Fox and the Severed Head the act is, and in a clever turn Fassbinder never shows us his own character's trick, perhaps as an allusion to disappointment in the film for Fox- and loses his job, only to miraculously win the lottery and meet a man (Peter Chatel) who is a little more well-spoken and well-raised, from a richer background than Fox's working-class roots. But Fox falls in love, and soon they get an apartment, as well as Fox becoming a business partner for his new lover's father's business.

There is some melodrama, to be sure, but it's only somewhat about romance between two men, or about men who want to pick up other men for sex (there are a couple of very interesting scenes of this, such as when Fox and Eugen are on vacation and bicker with one another as to what to do with a Moroccan; Salem from Fear Eats the Soul in a great bit part). But it's more about money, about status and the crushing sense of self-worth that comes in a society based on a value system - even in the "lower" class, like the guys at the bar and the bar owner, who have their own sense of worth in their community, one that is not totally at ease with Fox after a while. Often Fassbinder has dealt with the element of the outsider in society, and here one can find no better example: Fox is awkward, doesn't always say the smart things, is not "book" smart to get by with intellectuals nor does he have the butch capacity of those like the traveling-through American soldiers.

And yet at the same time Fox is, as well as the way Fassbinder brilliantly plays him, a good person at heart, not meaning to really hurt anyone, but just f***ing up a lot of the time, like when he puts through 40,000 pamphlets the wrong way through a copy machine at his work. Indeed I can't think of anyone else in Fassbinder's circle of actors who could've done it better: he's someone we sympathize with, even when he messes up royally or does the wrong thing at a family dinner or when his sister, a classic blue-collar woman, gets drunk and embarrasses those around her. He is, at least, more human than the out-for-his-own Eugen (and, likewise, Chatel portrays this coldness very effectively, like when we see his eyes darting around and lying right behind Fox). It takes a little time in the middle for things to get really interesting with the plot, in seeing Fox rising little by little to his quasi-ascension to a plastic happiness, as it were. But once Fassbinder gets there to the meaty parts of the drama, it's hard to resist its pleasures.

And, also, there's some funny moments too, and as Fassbinder is such a likable guy on screen (ironic considering his reputation) there ends up being a few sardonic moments of humor, little jabs here and there about sex or that very obvious scene where Eugen is caught with having Fox in his apartment with another man coming by in the morning... and the twist, late in the film, when this situation becomes reversed. Fox and His Friends is not a masterpiece, but it is essential viewing in the Fassbinder cannon, for the way he goes about telling this story, how he avoids making it *about* gay people (just as he avoided making it simply about race in Fear Eats the Soul), and he himself proves himself a very good actor here in his own right.
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Bleak and abrasive 70's masterpiece.
ThreeSadTigers29 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Fox and his Friends - also known as Fox and First-Right to Freedom - is one of the key-works in the cinema of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The film, like many of the director's other great works, focuses on a torturous relationship - this time between a working class youth and the older son of a wealthy factory worker - and how their differences in class and upbringing can begin a tragic chain of events that lead, ultimately, to personal despair. As a film, Fox and his Friends works best as an unflinching exposé of the class-system, and offers a new variation on one of Fassbinder's key motifs; the idea of human suffering and the causes of such.

Like the characters in past Fassbinder films, like The Merchant of Four Seasons and Fear Eats the Soul, Fox is led to his downfall, but also embraces it. As a character, he is blinded by love; and although we know that he regrets his actions the moment he has taken them, he proceeds regardless... convinced that he's doing the right thing for the person he loves. Fassbinder also makes light of the idea of how money changes people. Not just those that have come into money, but those 'surrounding' people who have come into money. At the beginning of the film, Fox tries desperately to collect enough money for his weekly lottery ticket... begging friends and family for loose change and convinced that this week he's going to win. In these first few scenes, Fassbinder has painted Fox as a lovable loser; so, when we find out later that the character has indeed won the grand jackpot of 500,000 German marks, we, as an audience, are ultimately as shocked as the upper-class gay sophisticates that Fox has subsequently fallen in with.

It is here that Fassbinder begins to expose the dark heart of his story, as these characters descend on the course and immature Fox and begin to force their own ideals and ideologies on him... even going so far as to belittle him in front of his old friends who still hang out in the same dimly-lit, low-rent cabaret club as before. This is innocent enough, but when Fox takes up with Eugene, one of the key-characters in the upper-class gay milieu, Fassbinder pushes the melodrama to the next emotional level... destroying everything that Fox had always wanted and had finally achieved, leaving him as penniless, loveless and hopeless as he was when we first met him. Fassbinder doesn't sugarcoat his message here; with 'Fox' standing as one of the most depressing and hopeless films ever made (perhaps rivalled only by the director's own later film, In a Year with 13 Moons).

The mood of the film throughout is caustic and claustrophobic, with the director and his cinematographer Michael Ballhaus using tight, fragmented composition to separate the characters constantly. There's also a great deal of mirror symbolism, with Fassbinder getting at the notion of personal reflection and the idea of seeing beyond the façade (...whether the façade you put up to hide true feelings for others, or the façade that others present to you, etc). The use of colour and overall production design seems more drab and uninviting too; all adding to the general mood of oppression and spiralling despair so central to the script. With this film, Fassbinder seems to have an important message to convey about the class system, and how the working class will always be seen as inferior to those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, even if they eventually attain to the same social and financial level as them!! It is, on the one hand, a relationship drama, but is a relationship drama entirely tied to the idea of class exploitation. One shouldn't let the use of homosexuality deter them from watching the film, as this is really secondary to the ideas discussed above (and yes, the film does feature some mild love scenes and frontal male nudity... but it's hardly Sebatianne or Taxi Zum Klo!!), with Fassbinder much more concerned with the idea of abuse in the face of love.

The central performance by Fassbinder here is a real revelation, as he manages to make Fox seem real and sympathetic... never the tragic or pathetic figure that he could have become in the hands of certain other filmmakers. He begins the film confident, arrogant and to some extent happy with the life he has been leading... but ends up a broken shell, with no money, no friends and no hope. I won't go in to too much detail surrounding the ending, though, needless to say, it's like the last kick to the guts when you're already at you're lowest point; with the director taking his melodrama beyond the required level of despair and into something much more heart wrenching. It obviously won't be to everyone's taste, with the idea of spiralling desperation and depression sure to put a lot of people off... but it's no less a powerful film, one of the many masterpieces that Fassbinder directed before his untimely death in 1982.
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One of Fassbinder's best!
kubapieczarski25 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In Fox and his Friends, Fassbinder weaves a brilliant and cynical tale of love poisoned by class. Casting himself in the titular role, Fassbinder creates an unlikely working-class hero in Fox, a man who enjoys the basic pleasures of life. When he strikes rich with a lottery ticket, his working class lifestyle is uprooted and elevated to the ranks of the "cultured" upper class bourgeoisie when Fox falls in for the pompous conman Eugen. What we know and Fox doesn't is that Eugen is using Fox in order to bail out his father's failing business, manipulating him to "lend" his newfound fortunes, something Fox happily does. The film unravels like a great tragedy whose ending we can foresee but can't forestall. The camera work is brilliant as always (the scene in morroco with the shafts of light is sublime), and the disparate dynamics of class are expertly portrayed, especially palpable in all the dining scenes. Fassbinder does a remarkable job playing the charismatic Fox, plays him with deep humanity and almost childlike purity, thus creating a perfect foil for the snooty morally bankrupt upper class cast of fops, who are anything but Fox's friends, as they manipulate him out of his fortunes. As dark as it is, there's also a lot of comedy here, as the absurdity of life's cruelty is almost cartoonishly embellished (the $ bill that flies off and is stolen by thugs, fox oblivious to the meanness and greed that forms the backdrop of his world). The film culminates in the ultimate robbery, that of Fox's life. And as he lies dead in an empty train station, Fassbinder reveals one final tragedy as two buzzard-like children find and strip him of everything he has, including his iconic emblazoned "Fox" denim jacket. This world is so cruel that even in death, it conspires to rob him. It's a deeply bitter and often funny tale, an indictment of the upper class and an inimitable work of genius from the wonderful wunderkind.
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Unfortunately I have to say this is a BAD Fassbinder film
d_m_s4 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Thus far I have seen 4 Fassbinder films: Fear Eats the Soul, Effi Briest, Muther Kusters, and Fox

After seeing Fear Eats the Soul I jumped to the conclusion Fassbinder was a genius and started to work my way through more of his films. It is with regret however, that I have to say I have been continually unimpressed.

Fassbinder is an interesting director and I enjoyed much of how Fox was directed. What ruined it for me was the uniformly terrible acting and the most repetitive, banal and juvenile screenplay!

El Hedi ben Salem's performance is so poor I actually sniggered at one point during the film. While Fassbinder is interesting to watch (maybe just as a curiosity), he gives a terrible performance in this film, acting like he is in a completely different movie.

Regardless of the acting though, it is the screenplay that ruins this film. No character development, exposition through dialogue and the overall point is just way too heavy handed. Yes I get it, Fox is being used for his money. But it goes on and on, forever reiterating the point. Fox is the dumbest character on earth!

Well I can't slate such a well respected film maker such as Fassbinder without good reason so I am obliged to detail some of the flaws that made this film so disappointing to me:

One annoyance with this film is that a lot of things happen off screen. For example, Fox wins the lottery but it isn't clear when, so for a while I wasn't sure if he'd won the lottery before the film started or during it.

A second example of this is when Fox is telling his boyfriend that he is really ill, verging on a breakdown and this has caused him to suffer black outs and chest pains. The thing is, we never got to see any of this. When did it happen?? A quality writer would show a character slowly disintegrating over time. Fassbinder just does it in one scene via dialogue. At no point do we feel he is suffering a breakdown or anything of a sort!

Character development is non-existent in this film. When we are introduced to Fox he is shown to be a mysterious, rebellious character. But then he falls in love with a man he's just met and turns in to wimpy, clingy dork in the next scene, without ANY transitional period.

It really is as quick as that. They meet in one scene, then are in love the next. And Fox has a complete personality change between the two scenes. To me, that is just bad writing. The characters just chopped and changed to suit what ever was needed to be stated in the heavy-handed storyline.

There were other problems. Like, for example, Fox loans money to his partner's business and is paid back in monthly installments. Seems pretty clear, right? Well...then Fox starts working at the company like a regular employee. I assumed he was just helping out because he had a financial interest in the business. Then near the end, Fox's boyfriend tells him he doesn't have to work there and that he can come & go as he pleases. Fox says "I don't understand" and his partner says "I've always told you that". Well, I didn't understand either because at no point was it made clear to the audience that Fox thought he was a regular employee, and at no point had his boyfriend told him he could come & go as he pleased. So I wondered...why had that random piece of information been placed there so late in the film? Well, a couple of scenes later I got my answer, when Fox and his boyfriend have split up and Fox comes to get his loan back. His ex boyfriend then tells Fox that they already paid him back every month over 2 years.

So for all this time Fox had apparently thought that the money he was getting each month was his wages?? Which means he thought he was an employee when he wasn't?? Is this really believable????

It was during these scenes that I found out the story had been going on for 2 years. My God, there was no indication of this what-so-ever, I thought it had been taking place over a number of weeks, maybe months at the most!

Since there is no proper character development and the scenes are so repetitive, I could not empathise or feel connected to any character, so I didn't care at all for Fox, whom obviously we were meant to care deeply about as he is portrayed in such an OTT sympathetic manner.

After the film finished my first thought was "what was the point of that?" It was kinda silly, kinda childish and had characters with no depth.

I have to say that if the screenplay for Fox was critiqued properly it would be ripped to shreds!
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Fassbinder's most personal perhaps Warning: Spoilers
"Faustrecht der Freiheit" or "Fox and His Friends" is a West German German-language film from 1975, so this one had its 40th anniversary last year. The writer and director is German filmmaking infant terrible Rainer Werner Fassbinder and he was roughly at the age of 30 when he made this 120-minute film back in the 1970s. And I already wrote that I think it may be Fassbinder's most personal film. There seem a lot of parallels to the filmmaker's real life in here and it shows that he put all his heart in it, for example that he was not even scared of full frontal nudity to make Biberkopf/Fox look authentic. This one here came out 5 years before Fassbinder made his successful mini-series "Berlin Alexanderplatz", which is of course also known for its main character Franz Biberkopf, so the name in here is certainly no coincidence. But the thing that hits closest to home is of course the ending because (apart from the location) we see exactly the way the real Fassbinder died. Unfortunately, despite this emotional impact, I never managed to create a lot of interest in the story. I guess this may have to do with me not being the greatest Fassbinder fan, but also with the script, which never seemed really interesting or even edge-of-seat level to me. Fassbinder is nonetheless fun to watch and I still believe he is at least as good of an actor as of a filmmaker, if not better. So with another lead actor than RMF (who lost some weight for his role here), this may have dragged even more. Nonetheless, my verdict overall is thumbs-down. I do not recommend the watch. I guess Fassbinder is just superior with female main characters.
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Film Review - Fox and His Friends (1975) 8.0/10
lasttimeisaw23 June 2020
"Like its peer, William Friedkin's THE BOYS IN THE BAND (1970), FOX AND HIS FRIENDS eschews the more topical if to today's eyes, more banal issue of "coming-out" fixation, Fox and his gay friends have no baggage of being gay, and any symptom of homophobia is bottled up to the absolute minimum, instead, Fassbinder normalizes his sexual orientation like a flown-alone yellow flag, the story would have no significant difference had the central relationship been altered to a heterosexual one, the impact is hefty anyway, only under a queer context, it adds more personal empathy towards Fassbinder and his Fox, his most vivid screen image as an actor, and it is quite staggering to see Fassbinder the actor pull off a rather sympathetic embodiment of a fleshed-out character, an cursed fool exploited to the hilt."

read the full review on my blog: cinema omnivore, thanks
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Foxy Fassbinder
truemythmedia24 June 2019
This film is certainly not what I expected, but I'm happy to say I still enjoyed it. Fassbinder has a way of crafting stories around characters that feel more tactile than many dramas I see today. He's got a way of making trenchant observations on human behavior that is simultaneously acutely fascinating and mildly disturbing. While I can't say I enjoyed this film nearly as much as I enjoyed "Eight Hours Don't Make a Day", I can say that Fassbinder once again has proven that he knows how to craft a world and characters that feel real enough to touch, and that's enough to make me want to check out more of his films. For our full review of Fox and His Friends and hundreds of other reviews, articles, and podcast episodes visit us at True Myth Media!
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Fox And His Friends: When Punks Take Matters In Their Own Hands
joefhaddad-680-747115 January 2017
Before watching any Fassbinder movie, one should be aware of the fact that this is an artist who used to direct up to six feature films a year. And in Fox And His Friends, boy does it show, everywhere and all the time and in the director's trademark superb low-key f**k you fashion. Does it matter that much to you? If it does, then you might not be watching this film for the right reasons.

A year before Fox, the combo writer-director-cinematographer-editor-actor Rainer Werner Fassbinder portrayed the mishaps of a forbidden and most non-glamorous love affair between an old cleaning lady and a young – Arab – homosexual in the dangerously gorgeous film Ali. In Fox, RW Fassbinder stars himself as a young, big-mouthed, bad-mannered and proud-to-be gay man (that looks exactly like a hybrid between the middle boy in the Von Trapp family and Tintin) and chronicles his endeavors as he falls in love with a guy out of stupidity while the latter falls in love with him for his newfound money. Everything you don't want to mix in a feature film. Yet it works.

You don't "have fun" while watching Fox And His Friends, but you don't struggle that much through it either (at least not the way some people would struggle through, say, Querelle, or a middle-age Goddard). Pace does plunge from time to time but it ends up being an irrelevant issue. Fassbinder knows very well that the audience measures its excitement and boredom on a Hollywood-established scale and he makes it perfectly clear that he doesn't care. He's not trying to annoy you. He's too busy voicing issues that would never get a chance in a corporate-funded film, so he simply couldn't care less.

And speaking of corporate, it feels very satisfying to watch Fassbinder unfold his utter disgust of corporations, as you sit through the perfect recipe of a Hollywood suicide: lighting is terrible, editing is all over the place, nobody was paid to record live sound and don't get me started on dubbing, the narrative proves that the author trimmed holes in his script like squares in a backyard, 95% of the characters are gay, lovers, or gay lovers, the director/main actor walks around naked in half of the film while he congratulates himself on having very questionable hygiene, actors never bother to deliver more than one dimension, the cinematographer sticks to the classic 4/3 academic ratio in a generation where ultra-widescreen formats rule and the film finally performs Hara Kiri in the most non-pretty non-happy ending ever.

A rather intriguing aspect of watching Fox And His Friends in the 21st Century is that it triggers AIDS-related goose bumps as the eponymous character is tested for a mysterious illness, despite the film being released years before the AIDS epidemic broke in the West. When Fox was produced in 1975, AIDS didn't even exist as an unidentified enemy, but homosexuality was a very degrading thing to be, and perhaps this film acts as a voice to this unspoken terror. There wasn't AIDS yet, but there was sexual terrorism. Fox even goes beyond sexual fear and labels and encapsulates the problematic of social identification altogether (the working-class sister who's afraid to confront the world of socialites because of her manners and her drinking problem, the lover who judges Fox's intelligence based on his musical tastes and, later, who forces him to dress, listen and behave like him because he's in denial of social cleavage, the Maitre D who'd rather send white male stewards for prostitution instead of local Moroccan men…). Fassbinder ultimately dresses his film to kill, which reminds you that punks are and will remain a community that refuses to conform, and this ideology is indispensable for a working group of people like Fassbinder and his crew as it allows them to be liberated from any commitment to please, sell or attract and lets them underline such topics as the fear of belonging to a category, be it social, sexual or aesthetic. This anti-masterpiece stinks of artistic merit.

Not even for the sake of academic documentation, but rather for the sake of tolerance, payback to minorities, respect of the punk community, social and sexual awareness and, hell, freedom of speech, I think that every single person in the world should watch at least one Fassbinder film at some point in their life.
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Stampede of the Herd
zipperaugo13 May 2012
Man has mastered the art of wielding Power. Show him an inch and he will become your slave, give him an inch and he will become your master. And you watch while he takes the whole nine yards around your hearth & eventually your gravestone as well. Fox and his Friends resonates many themes from Ali: Fear eats the Soul, Fassbinder's soothing, Melancholic masterwork. In 'Ali' the protagonists Emi and Eli literally dance into each other's arms whereas in Fox Eugen and Fox clash and spar with unabashed animal magnetism. Franz Bieberkopf a.k.a Fox is a variety show entertainer named The Speaking Head. He is an "abnormal on an Itinerant stage," as one line introduces us to him. His lover is arrested, the show is packed off and so is Fox, who is too polite and cowardly to remonstrate the Manager's unfairness. A latter line alludes to Fox being picked up from a "pubic urinal." 'Fox and Friends' is unapologetic and brutal in its portrayal of Sexual Politics and Power Equations. That it bases its premise on homosexuality is a moot point. What the mood of the film conveys or what the acting styles convey is a hopeless, recursive, silent Machinery laughing away at genuine peoples efforts to wriggle out. Fox's luck changes after an escapade he engineers. His singular belief in winning a lottery drives him to the deed though he is initially mugged after he legally borrows an amount. Fox is picked up by an aristocratic gent named Max. This brief scene is memorable for the three lightning edit cuts and freeze frames that show a rendezvous being established through codes and signals.

Fox is introduced to Max's friends and is promptly attracted to and simultaneously repulsed by Eugen Thiess, a vain and ambitious bourgeois upstart. These are probably Fox's most liberating moments; when his street gab and penny tricks help him parry Eugen's sarcasm. But these defenses are soon exhausted when Fox's limitations loom large. He is ugly, poor, unschooled and "unskilled," as Eugen later points out. He is a homosexual from the streets. He will find no sympathy in a society that compels one to find power and to use it. His "proletariat potency," he knows is transient and viewed as a natural disposition to "boozing, scoffing and screwing." Eugen is an opportunistic entrepreneur who is quick to move in on Fox's vulnerability to acquire all the trappings that will win him society's approval.

The editing here has amaelstrom like effect; events unspooling at a breathless pace, sharply contrasting the layers being peeled off Max's slight persona. Eugentactfully manipulates Fox as he climbs the social ladder, rescuing a family business and acquiring tasteful 'possessions.' Fox is useful for as long as he has the prize money. Eugen's family is respectful to Fox when in need but quickly change colors when tides change. Fassbinder casts himself as Franz and his interpretation of the role is pitch perfect. Peter Chatel is suitably stoic as Eugen, the scheming lover. I could sense an icy chillness each time Karlheinz Bohm appeared on screen. It was no small surprise when my rusty memory discovered that my only introduction to his work was in Michael Powell's icy, voyeuristic 'Peeping Tom.' Bohm as Max the antiques dealer infuses a chilling, menacing air to his character. Intermittent and lurking, he lands up at important intervals in Fox's journey. Michael Ballhaus' (also a Kubrick and Scorsese regular) camera-work has a languid dexterity that together with Fassbinder's frames create moments of lingering pathos. Filters and geometrical motifs accentuate the fractured personalities and hollowness of meaningless lives. The contributions of other characters lend a dramatic weight to the final act of betrayal – the stampede of the Herd. Two performances merit special mention; Hans Zander as the snide barman Springer and Peter Kern as the lecherous florist 'Fatty' Schmidt. The subject matter of the film created a huge controversy upon release. Fassbinder was accused of being homophobic despite being openly homosexual. There are some nude male frontal scenes that have never been depicted so openly since. Some frames depict young boys as Adonis like props, objectified for sexual predators or as mute adornments in depraved Saturnalia. In one telling scene Fox blocks out the reflection of a nude boy to prevent Eugen from looking on. In a polarized world Fox is easy meat, even for the weakest of predators. His body is the only commodity he can sell and as Eugen explains " Fox is not the kind of guy money can make rich."

With 'Ali,' Fassbinder floored me. With 'Fox' he has me hooked for life. My personal rating- 7.8/10
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A Skillful and Moving Piece of Blatant Ruthlessness
jzappa2 December 2008
Fox and His Friends, one of Fassbinder's favorites among his work, and my first experience seeing a film by the astonishingly prolific Rainer Werner Fassbinder, carries most of its appeal in the sensitive art of coalescing the out of the ordinary and the commonplace. In the world of Fox and His Friends, gay men vastly outnumber the straight people much in the same way most mainstream films have an inverted social perspective.

Fassbinder himself takes the plum lead, a naive young working-class hustler who wins the lottery and in next to no time find himself, and his lottery spoils, adopted by Munich's gay social circle. He is one of only two directors of whom I know who have cast themselves in roles that incidentally bare their dangling genitals, as if the preceding crotch shot is not rousing enough. (The other is Guy Maddin.)

This West German drama gives the impression of being about a relationship between Fassbinder's cool, masculine young punk and the outwardly amiable bourgeois son of a factory owner, but it slowly begins to head for a two-way street of class consciousness.The factory owner, we find out, is about to go out of business. The son hopes to save the company. One way out might be to fleece the effortlessly buttered up lottery winner out of his wealth, possibly using love as an excuse.

Fassbinder is terrific in his apparently complete creative control with scenes in which dialogue beyond words, subtext is unthinkable, and direct actions are impossible. This knack blossoms in the film's most thought-provoking scenes, counting a skillfully multifaceted dinner scene. The factory owner's son brings Fassbinder home to meet his parents, and it becomes distressingly evident that the only real reason sexuality is not an issue with them is because money is, though this is not implied through their actions, but their son's.

This moving piece of blatant ruthlessness, which excludes all life not within the particular intentions of its co-writer-producer-director-star, moves in and out of the now timeworn gay demiworld that has been John Rechy's atmospheric mainstay: Its bars with retro rock and roll on the jukebox and queens for barflies, its revelries, its maneuverings. And this melodrama's indications progressively grow to be sadly unmistakable, that Fox is the prey of the capitalist social order that so swiftly made him well-off, duped by "friendships" for which he doesn't even understand that he's picking up the tab.
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OK, a few good characters but a bit boring
tresdodge17 October 2004
A homosexual fair ground performer Franz Fox wins the lottery and is soon seduced by an upper class man Eugen who appears to be after only one thing, Franz's money.

Not a bad film, just a bit long and at times rather dreary. There is not much of a story to it but there are numerous interesting characters along the way that Fox encounters.

The hideous character of Eugen is played rather well by Peter Chatel, a snob who looks down his nose at the working class Fox. In addition, Max (played by Karlheinz Bohm of 'Peeping Tom' fame),plays the older man who seems to care for Fox to some extent.

Rainer Fassbinder plays Fox very well and one cannot help feeling sorry for Fox who has fallen for a sneaky and deceitful man.

An OK film, a little trippy at times but not recommended particularly highly by this viewer.
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Gay dudes can be cruel.
Ben_Cheshire15 May 2015
So, this felt completely foreign: being taken into a writer/director's own personal world for the first time. Four gay men play some kind of musical chairs with their relationships, when one of them wins the lottery, things get complicated.

I've got to admit, I had no idea what was going on for most of this. I think I must have left the room at exactly the wrong moment, because I seemed to find out about the lottery win way later than I was supposed to. The characters are fascinating. They look at each other look food, ready to gobble them up. The characters who Fox meets are cold and distant, being nasty to him only seems to bring him closer. Fassbinder is effective in the main role, and the whole proceedings are engaging, even if like me you happened to miss the scene where the lottery win happens. Watch for it, though, its important.
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