Week 6- Fassbinder

In “Historicizing the Subject: A Body of Work?,” Elsaesser writes, “Fassbinder’s project emerged from a constant crossing of the boundary between the personal and the professional. It might have provoked reflection on him as someone trying to give his life the truth of art or of a life lived for ‘art'” (15). Elsaesser’s discussion on the role life versus work or the personal and professional in Fassbinder’s work was really interesting to me because recently, in another class, I saw a clip from Germany in Autumn. The particular clip I saw was the section of Fassbinder and his male lover. The clip brings up notions of performativity as Fassbinder is playing a projection of himself– a ‘persona’ as Elsaesser later describes (31) . I mean performativity not necessarily in relation to gender, but as a stylized presentation of the body. One way in which Fassbinder exhibits this performativity is through the frontal nudity of both him and his partner. By choosing to present his body in such a way, Fassbinder conveys the themes of vulnerability, paranoia, realism, and self-infantilizing that add to the political implications of the film.

Reading Ronald Gregg’s piece after Elsaesser’s was interesting as it explained how in keeping with Fassbinder’s body of work as a whole, the politics of Fox and his Friends have been criticized. I find the contentiousness of Fassbinder’s work really interesting. On one hand Gregg brings up hotw “In Fassbinder’s world, according to Dyer, capitalist, patriarchal, and heterosexist domination cannot be challenged, and the working class, women, and gays are victims without agency and “hopelessly complicit” in their oppression” (566). This sentiment particularly brought to mind the incredibly complicated sexual dynamics and depiction of the female protagonist in The Marriage of Maria Braun in which he seems to play into tropes without any particular discernible message of resistance. However, I’m also compelled by Elsaesser’s defense of Fassbinder’s work in which he writes, “Fox and His Friends did an unprecedented thing for 1975: it took the characters’ homosexuality for granted – and found a way to reach both gay and art house audiences with its depiction of a gay scene that was not “ashamed,” but as diverse, exuberant – and problematic – as any other” (566). Fassbinder’s work seems to be merited in its allegorical interpretation, and I am curious to see what I am able to make of Fox and His Friends. 

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