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Fox and His Friends aka "Faustrecht der Freiheit" [Blu-ray]
(Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Tango Film
Video: Criterion Collection Spine #851
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 46,851,848,160 bytes
Feature Size: 36,931,762,176 bytes
Video Bitrate: 35.52 Mbps
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: January 17th, 2017
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio German 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
• New interview with actor Harry Baer (16:56)
• New interview with filmmaker Ira Sachs (12:29)
• Excerpt from a 1975 interview with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder (5:09)
• Excerpts from a 1981 interview with composer Peer Raben (2:50)
• Trailer (3:16)
• PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Koresky
Description: A lottery win leads not to financial and emotional freedom but to social captivity, in this wildly cynical classic about love and exploitation by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Casting himself against type, the director plays a suggestible working-class innocent who lets himself be taken advantage of by his bourgeois new boyfriend and his circle of materialistic friends, leading to the kind of resonant misery that only Fassbinder could create. Fox and His Friends is unsparing social commentary, an amusingly pitiless and groundbreaking if controversial depiction of a gay community in 1970s West Germany.
In this dark examination of love and money, Fox (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) is a young, gay member of the German working class. When he meets the older and dapper Max, who has upper-class roots, Fox thinks he may have found someone to help him out, but Max refuses to do so. However, this changes when Fox wins big on the lottery, and Max becomes friendlier and helps to reinvent Fox. But, in fact, Max and his friends are slyly trying to swindle him out of his new fortune.
Once again, Fassbinder plays the outsider, but this time he is the
protagonist; Franz Biberkopf (nicknamed ‘Fox’) is the star attraction of
the carnival, a young man who makes his living pretending to be a
disembodied head, of which the crowd can ask any questions it likes.
It’s a powerful (if somewhat obvious) metaphor for the character’s
subsequent journey, where he becomes a dislocated presence on whom the
other characters project their own hang-ups and anxieties.
As usual with Fassbinder, Fox and His Friends proceeds with
disarming directness – but at two hours the pacing of this "fist-fight
for freedom" (the original German title) is relatively languid, so we
have plenty of time to watch the precise gradations of Fox's decline.
This is partly due to the fact that the director, after devoting a long
sequence to Fox's pursuit of a lottery ticket (scraping together funds;
hunting down the a kiosk just before it closes, etc), doesn't include
the expected scene in which Fox learns of his win. Instead, he prefers
to show, in excruciating detail, how Fox is embarrassed and cruelly
patronised by his snooty pals' high-society ways, and also to precisely
itemise every deutschmark that changes hands – at times it seems like
the actors are working not from script but from ouble-entry
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Fox and His Friends is transferred to Blu-ray from Criterion and is cited as a "New 4K digital restoration, undertaken by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation". It resides on a dual-layered Blu-ray, with max'ed out bitrate, reproducing a very strong 1080P presentation that has a shade of teal leaning. There is no real damage or speckles and colors are exported with an appealing brightness. The 1.37:1 visuals are a rich, an impressive representation - with texture and deep black levels.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Typically flat,linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps (24-bit) in the original German language. Dialogue can sound a bit scattered at times but I presume this to be inherent of intentional. The score is by Peer Raben (Tenderness of the Wolves, Fassbinder's Despair, Berlin Alexanderplatz, The Marriage of Maria Braun, In a Year with 13 Moons.) It consistently supports the film with a light 'joie de vivre' expression via the uncompressed. Some may pick up on Leonard Cohen's Bird On A Wire, Elvis Presley's One Night and Georges Moustaki's Rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques and Le Métèque. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.
Supplements provide a new, 17-minute, interview with actor Harry Baer recorded by Criterion in Berlin in September 2016. There is also a Criterion-produced 13-minute interview with filmmaker Ira Sachs (Love Is Strange, Keep the Lights On) also recorded in late 2016. Included are 5-minutes worth of excerpts from a 1975 interview - from French TV - Pour Le Cinema - with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder discussing the connection between Fox and His Friends' commentary on class and homosexuality and his decision to play the lead role. It is in French and German with English subtitles. There are also some excerpts from a 1981 interview - an episode of the French television series Cinemania exploring Rainer Werner Fassbinder's impact on German cinema, composer Peer Raben briefly discusses his long-term collaboration with the filmmaker and how Fassbinder's love for cabaret music determined the sound of Fox and His Friends score. There is a theatrical trailer and the package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by film critic Michael Koresky.
December 14th, 2016
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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