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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • German PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with actor Harry Baer
  • New interview with filmmaker Ira Sachs
  • Excerpt from a 1975 interview with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Excerpts from a 1981 interview with composer Peer Raben
  • Trailer
  • An essay by film critic Michael Koresky

Fox and His Friends

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1975 | 124 Minutes | Licensor: Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #851
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 17, 2017
Review Date: January 23, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

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 (Peter Chatel) 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.


PICTURE

Moving along through director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films, Criterion next presents Fox and His Friends on Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a 4K restoration taken from a scan of the original camera negative.

Similar to the other recent presentations for Fassbinder’s work Fox and His Friends looks exceptional, with crisp details, with nary a sign of softness. Textures look terrific, fine patterns are distinct and clear, and depth looks very good. Film grain comes of fairly fine but it’s there and rendered incredibly well.

The restoration work has been very thorough, leaving behind nary a blemish that I recall, and past the dated elements within the film it could pass off as new. Black levels look very solid, while colours lean on the warmer yellow side of the spectrum, but this could be the intended look (and is similar to the other Fassbinder releases). Saturation levels at least look good, delivering some nice reds and blues. Altogether everything leads to a real stunner of a presentation, and the film has had some new life injected into it thanks to the work that has gone into this.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The German 1.0 monaural PCM track sounds clean with no damage or distortion present, but there’s a real flatness to it, from spoken dialogue to music, dialogue in particular sounding hollow. It appears most (if not all) of the dialogue is dubbed over, which may partially explain that somewhat detached, flat sound, but other than that the sound is fine.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The pickings for special features on Fassbinder and his work are probably getting slim as Criterion makes their way through his films, but they’ve still managed to dig up some decent archival material and record a couple of new interviews, though admittedly it doesn’t add up to a lot. The first interview, running 17-minutes, features actor Harry Baer who—after he depressingly first points out he is actually one of the last three surviving cast members from the film—talks about the film and how it reflected Fassbinder’s personal life, particularly his relationships, while also heaping praise on Fassbinder’s performance in this film.

Baer’s interview is personal in nature, offering a rather thoughtful portrait of Fassbinder and how facets of his life found their way into the film. Filmmaker Ira Sachs expands on that interview in his 12-minute offering, covering more of the influences from Fassbinder’s life that worked their way into the film, particularly in its portrayal of relationships “through classes.” He continues on about the artificiality of his films, from acting to compositions and so forth, and covers aspects of his style. Though his interview feels a bit more academic in comparison to the former one it is still an engaging appreciation of this film and Fassbinder’s other work.

Criterion digs up two archival pieces for this edition: one from an episode of Pour le cinéma (filmed around the film of the film’s release) featuring Fassbinder talking about the film’s presentation of class divisions (unfortunately most of the excerpt is taken up with clips from the film), and the other from a 1981 episode of Cinémania featuring composer Peer Rabin explaining the process he goes through to create a score for one of Fassbinder’s film, paying a special focus on the cabaret sequence in this film. They’re unfortunately short (5-minutes and 3-minutes respectively) but just getting a Fassbinder interview, where the director is particularly forthcoming, is a terrific addition.

The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer while the included insert features an excellent essay by Michael Koresky on the film, which goes over its themes, Fassbinder’s performance, and some of the controversies it faced during its release.

The features altogether total less than an hour, making it feel very slim. They are all good at least, but a commentary (something that Criterion has yet to add to a Fassbinder title I now realize) would have been a huge benefit.

5/10

CLOSING

The supplements, though good, are unfortunately slim. At the very least Criterion’s new Blu-ray does deliver a sharp and incredible looking video presentation, making it worthwhile to pick up for this aspect alone.


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