A depressing, slow-burning gay drama that only Fassbinder (also fantastic in the lead role) could have conceived—full of pathos and rich in its depiction of the milieu of a class-divided queer community.
Cast: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Peter Chatel, Karlheinz Bohm
Plot: A suggestible working-class innocent wins the lottery but lets himself be taken advantage of by his bourgeois new boyfriend and his circle of materialistic friends.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
Source: Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
Subject Matter: Moderate – Love, Queer Community, Class
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
One of his most outwardly gay films, Fox and His Friends is R.W. Fassbinder at his most empathetic. A lot of it boils down to his fantastic performance in the leading role as Fox, a young downtrodden working-class man who hopes for a change in fortunes—and indeed gets his wish when his winning lottery ticket unexpectedly sets him up for a life of financial freedom.
That is, until he falls in love with an upper-middle-class man. But love is a losing game, as the late Amy Winehouse famously sang, though under Fassbinder’s exacting hands, one might call it a total KO.
A depressing, slow-burning gay drama that only the prolific German director could have conceived, Fox and His Friends is full of pathos and goes right into the heart of a homosexual relationship borne out of love and connection, but class issues slowly eat their way into it, exposing the rotten core of masculine disdain.
“I pay for everything. I always pay for everything.”
Fassbinder plays against type as a soft-hearted man whose emotional vulnerabilities are triggered when his character is forced to adopt the habits, tastes and attitudes of a learned, well-mannered person.
Furthermore, the theme of financial dependability (and responsibility) is upended by Fassbinder in an ironic fashion—it is Fox, the poor man, who must take care of his newfound fortune. But can he, in all of his naivety?
The film’s depiction of the milieu that Fox finds himself in—the West German class-divided queer community as it were—may be rich in detail, but it is Fassbinder’s stinging social commentary of it that is most striking.
As a queer filmmaker himself, his treatment is certainly an eye-opening perspective—he finds the worst in gay men and subjects them to abject misery. But what comes out of it is universally human, a drama that wouldn’t have felt out of place if it had pivoted on a heterosexual relationship. This is perhaps the film’s true, hidden brilliance.