Fassbinder himself plays Franz Biberkopf, a poor gay man who performs in a traveling circus as Fox the Talking Head. One day he lucks into winning half a million in a lottery. This attracts the attention of a group of elegant homosexuals, including Eugen (Peter Chatel), who becomes Fox’s lover.
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The character, sat conquered in a car seat, listening to Leonard Cohen sing Bird on the Wire, might be the defining moment of Fassbinder's bleakest film (a barely heard cry of anguish over the clamour and contempt of the world as Fassbinder saw it), but it is the sense of absolute disdain levelled at the audience for collaborating, as spectators, passive in his downfall, that makes the film so difficult to forget.
You definitely get more a sense of who Fassbinder is in this one. He is the alpha male who quickly assesses the situation and gets control. This one's about class distinctions. His lover gains a sense of control by making fun of his lack of sophistication.
Oft' noted that from THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS on, Fassbinder's body of work is essentially one of-a-piece extrapolation. It has thus always been hard for me to pick an absolute favourite. Revisiting it (by virtue of the dazzling new Criterion 4k dealeo), I am ready to put FOX AND HIS FRIENDS at the front of the line. Fassbinder's (conceptually rich) performance earns it special accreditation. And that ending!
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus. "Desire" list: Peter Chatel. Actor in some of the most amazing movies of the "new German cinema", by Syberberg, Schmid (Swiss-German, but a rightful member of the movement) or Fassbinder, in this film refines, by protagonism, his untouchable charm.