Week 6: Fox and His Friends

This week’s readings involved different interpretations of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film, Fox and His Friends, as well as Fassbinder’s greater works as a whole.  Elsaesser discusses the historical implications of Fassbinder’s film work, declaring that both Fassbinder’s life and the state of Germany itself mirrored his work. Elsaesser then goes to emphasize how Fassbinder’s auteurship contributed to his filmmaking success. This commentary was of specific note to me as I am studying the rise of auteurship in American Cinema. It is interesting how the concept of it is so divisive, either leading to the great success of filmmakers and studios or great financial downfalls because of the extravagancy and trust given to directors to exercise total creative freedom on their part. Nevertheless, such a rise in filmmaking made great strides for the industry allowing for new approaches to storyline development, technological advancements, and stylistic nuances.

This idea of auteurship progressivity is then furthered by Gregg who asserts that Fassbinder’s works are advanced in that they almost normalize homosexuality, portraying characters in more earnest and less hollywood manipulated lights. Gregg states that, “Fassbinder introduces gay viewers to a culture in which homosexuality was as “normal” as heterosexuality” (572) His films then become more relatable as they embrace imperfections such as his own body and interests of materialistic consumption. Fassbinder is even depicted as going as far as to “de-eroticize” his film, portraying his characters in a less hyper-sexual light. So much so that “gay eroticism suffuses the film, but does not overwhelm it” (569). Though Fassbinder’s pieces appear to ignore gay politics in the explicit sense as Gregg notes, I think they do manage to comment on such issues. Whether that be in the nature of it being a queer film in the first place, or the fact that Fassbinder attempts to evade queer negativity or persecution within Fox and His Friends suggesting an idealized and progressive world. Something that predicts and strives for more accepting times of sexual freedom.

Both Gregg and Elsaesser’s commentary makes Fox and His Friends all the more intriguing. Not to mention Moltke who introduced the relationship of camp and melodramas as well as issues of spectatorship, and how that relates to films like Fox and His Friends. I look forward to gaining a better understanding of how camp functions across different contexts such as this especially when considering the normalized and stylistic way Fassbinder chose to portray his characters.

Works Cited:

Elsaesser, Thomas. “Historicizing the Subject: A Body of Work?” New German Critique. Number 63 (1994): 10 – 33.

Gregg, Ronald. “Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends and Gay Politics in the 1970s.” A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Brigitte Puecker (ed.). Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012: 564 – 578.

Moltke, Johannes von. “Camping in the Art Closet: The Politics of Camp and Nation in German Film.” New German Critique. Number 63 (1994): 76 – 206.

 

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