“FOX AND HIS FRIENDS”–a gay classic


A Gay Classic

Amos Lassen

“Fox and His Friends” (Wellspring Video) caused a great deal of controversy when it was first released in 1975. Many thought that the story of a gay sideshow worker who won the lottery and was then exploited by his upper class lover was homophobic. Fassbinder, the famed gay German director even said that the movie could have been about a heterosexual couple but it would not have been as clear. Fassbinder also plays the central character, Fox,  and his street skills and humor do not reach full potential because of his naiveté as his snobbish boyfriend scams him out of his lottery winnings. As Fox becomes more and more demoralized the movie moves along to its inevitable conclusion. What sounds so depressing here is really quite the opposite as this is a film filled with subtle humor.

What the movie is really a character study of a not-too-smart circus worker who suddenly finds himself wealthy and is a touching film with a great performance from Fassbinder. It is also a strong examination of the German class system and gay relationships in Germany in the 1970s.  It is an unsentimental and even guileless film most of the time as well as droll and melodramatic as well as poignant and tragic,

Fox knows before he even enters the lottery that he is going to win so on his way to  buy a ticket, he allows himself enough time to have sex in a local public toilet. As he revels over his win in a gay bar, he becomes involved with a pretentious and arrogant character that is already in a relationship but pretends to love Fox as he scams him out of his winnings.

The film is also a good study in how to make a really good movie as it is an example of a movie that never loses its focus. It is a study of sexual and political issues that were relevant in the 70s and still relevant today. Whenever I see a Fassbinder movie I am literally blown away. He challenges all that I know and in his own way forces the viewer to have an experience he has never had before. The movie is full of cliché but Fassbinder is conventional like this for a reason He is truth and he makes movies about truth and as we know, truth is not always easy to take. Fassbinder is known for wallowing in the less fortunate but he does it with grace and compassion. His films are usually focused on the barriers between classes and this movie is a noir film about a gay relationship.

Fassbinder was very brave to cast himself in the role of Fox, a role that is unromantic and unflattering. We see that Fassbinder is not content with the gays that are fixated on money and looks but his own film as a great deal of male nudity and these are the kind of men that Fox finds attractive. This is a movie that can be watched again and again and understood differently every time. It never becomes stale and the tongue-in-cheek quality of the movie makes it completely captivating. There are intelligent observations on the motivation of society, political aspirations and above all else on human nature. It is an example of human manipulation. This is really a film that set the way for many films that were follow in the genre known as gay cinema and should be a valuable addition to all libraries.

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