Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
At the delicate art of combining the bizarre and the mundane, nobody is more skillful than Rainer Werner Fassbinder. His formula is wickedly simple. He begins, often enough, with elements of lurid sexuality. Then he films against type, looking for deliberately banal characters and locations. And then, in a stylistic double-reverse, he photographs his banal subjects with a highly mannered artificiality.
The results are uneven, but then anyone who made some 33 films before he died at 36 can be excused for a certain inconsistency. What's important is that when everything's working. Fassbinder produces work that's hauntingly poignant.
That was true of his best film. "Ali -- Fear Eats the Soul," which explored the consequences of a marriage between a 60ish Polish maid and a 30ish Moroccan laborer. It was true, too, of "The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant," with its doomed lesbian triangle, and "Jail Bait," with its chubby 13-year-old vixen, and "The Merchant of the Four Seasons," with its alcoholic fruit peddler.
And it's especially true of "Fox and His Friends." Fassbinder himself takes the leading role, playing a naive and slightly dense young working-class man who wins the state lottery and soon finds himself -- and his lottery winnings -- embraced in Munich's gay circles. The slightly dazed young hero is adopted by the superficially charming son of a rich industrialist. But then things grow complicated. The industrialist, we learn, is about to go bankrupt. The son hopes to save the business. One solution might be to swindle the easily flattered lottery winner out of his fortune -- using love as a pretext.