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Monday, 16 May 2016

On Blu-ray - David Hare reports on a new edition of Fassbinder's Fox and His Friends (with R-rated screen cap)

Fassbinder (as Fox) spivs himself up for his new Economic Miracle Era BF and his new life in the Fast Lane in a favorite image of him from Fox and his Friends (West Germany,1975). The BF is the nobly moustached and coiffed Peter Chatel in a new Blu-ray of Fox which rubs disc space with a new 4K transfer of the equally out there Chinese Roulette (West Germany) from 1976. Both are marvellous transfers to disc from the new RWF Foundation series of remasters on the wonderful Arrow Academy label. Fox is the best movie ever made about gay life, and I will resolutely ignore all the usual "universal" and "Straight readings are valid" cris de coeur to focus on the gayness of the material, essential as it is to a reading of society, character and history.

Fox is ultimately killed off in one of the most briefly ludicrous scenes of humiliation in Fassbinder's work with the final robbery by some raw kids, after having passed through a possibly worse 2 hour ordeal of Bourgeoisification at the hands of the bitchiest, most vile, shallow, nelly queens you could ever hope to see together in one room (and you have), all the while having his lottery winnings stripped bare by the equally vile new German Economic family of the narcisstically greedy BF. Gay life here is entirely about the shallowness of people, their worst petty and grand prejudices, the vain surfaces, the vicious jealousies, the murderous loathing for non-conformity to the new gay bourgeois norms of the 70s with its rigid caste-typiing, and the stifling atmosphere of hideous overdoses of "taste" which look like they crept out of the decor for Dreyer's other great gay movie from the year 1925, Michael (Denmark). All the while Peer Raben's exemplary score murders the classics while Peter Chatel flawlessly pronounces the names of various French wines as if to merely embarrass Fox in front of the gay waiter.
Only Fox' old circus pals try to warn him off mixing with the trash that is the new middle class, but these entreaties go unheeded by a cock-struck lead. The wicked machinations of the Faggot Den Mother who ensnares him in an early scene at the local beat is wonderfully played with Buddha like countenance by Karlheinz Boehm (left), the son of the conductor and a great performer in his own right, first admired by me in Rififi in Tokyo (Jacques Deray,France, 1963) and then Powell's Peeping Tom (UK, 1960). Boehm also does a role for Fassbinder as the sadist who torments his Rebecca-like masochist bride Margit Carstensen as the titular Martha  (West Germany, 1974) in his black comedy of the year prior in what was very much a trial run for Fox, as a dessicating critique of the hypocrisy of the middle classes and notions of romantic marriage. Gay marriage fans beware!!
Pasolini never even came near this level of satire or loathing.

Which lead to this interesting further Facebook exchange which went on via these contributors and others quite extensively to discuss a range of subjects but which I'm cutting short

David Ehrenstein The film's actual title "Faustrecht di Freiheit" means "Might Makes Right”*. It's dedicated to his lover Amin, a lower than lower class kid. RWF is in effect playing him, and Peter Chatel is playing RWF's nightmare version of himself. Armin went on to hang himself a number of years later.
David Hare Yes it's certainly that personal. I think though the current of the times was also the spur for this film. I would compare it most closely to Rosa von Praunheim's masterpiece, Army of Lovers/Revolt of the Perverts which is not merely a devastating critique of the new gay bourgeoisie but also the inadequacies of great slabs of the then gay rights movement, particularly its largely all white racism. Rosa's movie came out just as the new opportunistic diseases were starting to appear and in just two years after the holocaust began the whole fucking landscape changed. Now we're seemingly back to square 1 or two and bourgeois conformity. I think we're desperately overdue for a dose of Fassbinders' caustic remedy, with too much smugness and far too much all white middle class bourgeois BS. All gay people are wonderful, etc) I should add really Paso does come close to it in Teorema but he doesn't have the guts to make that a gay film, instead it's "universal". Despite which it's still his best movie. I suppose he left the gay moniker to Salo. But Teorema is a better movie.

David Ehrenstein I find "Teorema" and "Salo" equally great. But if you want to talk about PPP's gayness you must deal with the Ninetto (Davoli)  films as Ninetto was the love of his life.

David Hare David much as he adored Ninetto I find him a taste better left to others. (I do of course love Ninetto for his complete loyalty to Paso after the murder.) The clips are a joy , the oil to Fassy's vinegar.

Faustrecht di Freiheit  (literally "Right Fist of Freedom")

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