DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FOX AND HIS FRIENDS (Faustrecht der Freiheit) (director/writer: Rainer Werner Fassbinder; screenwriter: Christian Hohoff; cinematographer: Michael Ballhaus; editor: Thea Eymesz; music: Peer Raben; cast: Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Franz Bieberkopf alias 'Fox'), Peter Chatel (Eugen Thiess), Adrian Hoven (Wolf Thiess, Eugen's father), Christiane Maybach (Hedwig Bieberkopf), Hans Zander (Barman Springer), Kurt Raab (Wodka-Peter), Rudolf Lenz (Attorney Dr. Siebenkäss), Karl Scheydt (Klaus), Peter Kern (Florist 'Fatty' Schmidt), Karl-Heinz Staudenmeyer (Krapp), Harry Bär (Philip), Karlheinz Böhm (Max), Barbara Valentin (Max's wife), Ingrid Caven (Singer in bar), Lilo Pempeit (Neighbour), Irm Hermann (Mlle. Cherie de Paris), El Hedi ben Salem (Salem the Moroccan); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rainer Werner Fassbinder; New Yorker Films; 1975-Germany-in German with English subtitles)

 
"One of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's brilliant melodramas from the 1970s."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's brilliant melodramas from the 1970s. Fassbinder plays an ugly, surly, crude, guileless, dimwitted blue-collar working stiff named Franz Bieberkopf, who performs in Munich in a traveling circus sideshow as Fox the Talking Head. When the owner, Klaus (Karl Scheydt), is arrested for cheating on his taxes, the show closes. The next thing you know is that the broke Franz wins five hundred thousand marks in the lottery and finds himself in the company of a close-knit group of effete bourgeois poofs. They see him as an easy sucker and scheme to take away his money. The opportunistic Eugen (Peter Chatel) becomes Fox's lover, leaving his cultured handsome boutique owner boyfriend Philip (Harry Bär) with plans to return to him after he takes all of Fox's money. Using Fox's money they move into an expensive flat together and buy 84,000 marks worth of antique furniture from one of their group members, Max (Karlheinz Böhm). He's involved in a sham marriage with a beleaguered woman (Barbara Valentin), dragging her along to his friends' social affairs. Fox buys from Philip an expensive wardrobe for each, and they go on holiday together to Morocco with again Fox footing the bill. Eugen arranges for Fox to give his father a 100,000 mark loan to save his dying bookbinding business and then cunningly manipulates it so he can legally inherit the flat. Fox goes along with the deceptions thinking he has found love and is being introduced into a better world. Even though he doesn't share their taste for fancy food, opera, books and culture he refuses to believe he's being used despite being warned by his vulgar boozy sister (Christiane Maybach) that the poofs are taking him for a ride. After around six months, they clean the fool out and the exploited lower-class Fox is thrown out of his flat and completely destroyed psychologically. To escape his misery he takes too many Valiums. By the end of his trip, Fox realized he would have been better off not trying to be middle-class and should have settled for being in his own milieu. But that didn't sink in until it was too late and he hit rock bottom.

The film offers a keen social analysis of the different classes, racism (in the Marrakesh Hilton the Arab Salem is not allowed to visit the German tourists for a threesome because they can only work there but not be guests), the horrors of consumerism, the materialistic uppity gay bourgeois scene and how cruel people can be to others when they are vulnerable. Money is a ticket into a better class, but if the person is not educated to the values of that class we can see how he will no longer be accepted when his money is no longer there. Fassbinder gives a memorable performance as the brash proletariat who gets tamed by the effetes and loses all sense of his worth in his descent.

REVIEWED ON 5/10/2006        GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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