Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button

Features


Few filmmakers have enjoyed a decade quite so diverse or quite so prolific as Rainer Werner Fassbinder did during the seventies. Amid the likes of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and Fear Eats the Soul, it's easy to forget some of the lesser-known and more singular works, two of which are presented here.

 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette

Fox and His Friends

is among the director's most personal works and the first to tackle homosexuality in a direct manner. Fassbinder himself plays Fox, a sweet working class soul whose relationship with wealthy industrialist Eugen, he discovers, is based almost wholly on his unexpected lottery win. When his money runs out, so does any affection, with tragic consequences.

Chinese Roulette, set in an isolated house during a weekend break, is like Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None without the murders a tense psychodrama in which infidelities are revealed and families breakdown. At its centre is nouvelle vague icon Anna Karina, a rare outsider alongside the familiar Fassbinder faces. Official Synopsis


 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette
Leaving the E arly Works disc behind and heading to 1975, Fox And His Friends (123 mins) is a jump forward in terms of storytelling for Fassbinder. Classically linear, the film leaves behind the avant-garde approach of his early works and delivers a much more focused story.

Video & Audio

: The film is initially looks grubby but colourful in the opening credits but leaving those the presentation is clean, bright and full of strong detail. The colours are natural, textures look fantastic most of the time and the colours really give the film a fresh modern look, despite the 70s production.  Darker scenes are still full of colour, red and oranges look particularly great within these scenes. The audio track is simple and central, with clean dialogue and the underpinning of score or music within scenes to add a bit of depth to the limited track.

Chinese Roulette

(86 mins) is once again a slightly more linear story. Fassbinder plays with a few of his established abstract styles within scenes but there's still a relatively straight forward plot to follow here. The film delves more into characters and seeing Margit Carstensen with her striking ginger hair and dress suit, you can see where a lot of David Bowie's style came from in the period. The similarities are striking.

 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette

Video & Audio:

The film holds a much grittier appearance than Fox and His Friends but it gives the film a much more stylised appearance with its warm colours and shadows. Exterior scenes appear a little brighter and natural but the warm, bronzed skin tones remain.  There's a handful of scenes that don't looks so good, with an extremely soft and washy look to things and blacks crushing any sort of detail in low light but the detail remains strong within close ups and light from candles or room lighting tends to pull the better elements of this presentation back to more pleasing results. As for the audio track, the film opens with a piece of classical music that starts us off strongly. It's full of power (given the mono restraints of course) and is very effectively dramatic. Of course this soon makes way simple dialogue and basic sound effects and the film sits more comfortably in silence.

 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette

Extras


The Hamish Ford commentary on Fox and His Friends broadened my knowledge of Fassbinder, his volume of work and a bit more of his legacy. It's solid track full of detail and it was good to finally get some in depth insight into the director's work via these discs. There's also the 'Fox And His Friends' trailer

'Chinese Roulette: An Appreciation by Ulli Lommel' (06:55 HD) has the actor talk of the France based production which was his last collaboration with Fassbinder and wrapping up there's the 'Chinese Roulette Theatrical Trailer'

 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette

Overall


Jumping into 1975 there's a big step forward for Fassbinder in terms of audience pleasing storytelling and less artsy approaches. As informed on the commentary Fassbinder did a ton of work between what I saw on the last disc and the two films here and also a lot of TV, which I assume is where he finessed a more linear and focused approach to his storytelling. Whatever the case, the two films here held some strong performances and really shows a director who has confidence and a sense of the characters he's presenting to us. The two films look pretty great presentation wise in different ways, one clean and wonderfully remastered, the other more stylised and full of bolder colour choices. Also the commentary available on Fox and His Friends adds a bit more knowledge of Fassbinder and his work, so those tempted to venture into these discs, should find that a nice addition to their journey.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette
 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette
 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette
 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette
 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette
 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette
 Fox and His Friends & Chinese Roulette



Links: