Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends (1975)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part V of V

Starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s penis. Yep, he knew EXACTLY what he was doing there, lol. 

Fox and His Friends has the assimilation commentary of Martha but it’s endorsed by the examinations in prejudice of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Rather than seeing the elitism through sexism, however, Fassbinder expresses it through aporophobia, and rather than seeing the bigotry through racism, Fassbinder expresses it through class. The upper world seems to be as motivated to conform the “uncivilized” into “civilized” as they are to just allowing them to dip back down further into poverty or rather back into poverty, so long as it fits with their agenda — the more power, the greater leniency for self, yadee yada, duh. But, these “uncivilized” roots aren’t necessarily uncivilized as the movie suggests; they really only boil down to cultural norms that are quite fixed based on the economical position or environment you find yourself brought up in, so then why do the norms of the wealthy seem to be pressured with a more authoritarian grip than the lower class? Again, it all comes down to blind trust and glorification for those in positions of victorious finances; it’s the classic tale of money always being our first choice for escapism.

So, it’s fair to say that these financial positions we’re born into sometimes builds and defines our personality that’s set onward, and it’s hard to have it accepted when you’re pressured to assimilate with the culture of the upper class, something looked at as more valuable and ethical. This is what makes patronizing those lower than us such an easy snag to get away with, indulging our superiority complexes to sweeping degrees. Becoming wealthy isn’t the savior of our demise, as well; if anything it puts us through a process of cultural immersion that is shockingly unfulfilling due to the “euphoria of the rich” being a complete hoax, especially in an endless hand of controllers — nobody can ever be on top, even in luxury. In Fox and His Friends, love at first seems to revolve around belief-centeredness in a desire to help those you love, sure, but shouldn’t love also inspire a lack of cultural strictness, and insinuate growth and collaboration with others? Fassbinder doesn’t see that as a reality though, more so as a fallacious dream you should rarely expect out of people born and raised into their own strict, impenetrable realities and ambitions. 

Being born into wealth proves to us that it’s really not a safe-spot of unlimited happiness, and we therefore begin seeking to expand it even more despite our privilege, justifying this ambition with, again, superiority complexes that convince us to destroy those poorer than oneself; it encourages egomania. Being born into the lower classes burdens us with the idea that we need wealth to be happy, and once the few that do finally achieve such a glorified predicament by rising up the pyramid happens, they begin recognizing just like the wealthy that this never-ending ladder is the only thing keeping us hopeful yet counteractively lethal towards others. We naively give our all to new financial lifestyles without actually deciphering the complex realities of what it can deceivingly do to us, and for those who oppositely stick with an inflexible lifestyle forever, they’ll likely develop an unconscious pseudo-intellectual complex powerful enough to turn them into socially protected con-artists against those below or above (Parasite moment) them. 

Although, I guess you can’t knock it till ya try it? Umm… maybe it just is what it is?

Obviously, the title Fox and His Friends is an irony in that Fox never had true friends to begin with. Can you really blame him for it though, living in a world that revolves more around money than it does around love? No wonder friend groups usually function in those born into the same class, to avoid temptation like this when people move up or down, and by people, I mean freshly baked — haha, get it? — victims to be manipulated by the immorally consistent.

Verdict: A-

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked

“Fox and His Friends” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Martha (1974)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part IV of V

Fassbinder’s strong point really is “horror”. I can’t believe this just ended up being a TV movie, smh. 

Martha (aka try not to let the Electra complex control you into tolerating a psychopathic husband) thinks love and marriage simply cannot compensate with reason sometimes. Imagine being so corrupted and beaten down by the power of jurisdiction that you can come to talking yourself out of recognizing your own power and importance. When you’re manipulated from the very start by gender authorities you begin to feel a withdrawal when it’s suddenly taken away from you, not knowing the happiness that free-will can bring you and conditioned to only finding that nonsensical dependence once more. If we treat each other like children all our lives, we should only expect childish, inequitable, and toxic relationships to be the definitive outcome of it.

Fassbinder smartly takes on a graphic approach here, continuously pounding violent visuals at us in a world that seems to be completely oblivious to them; there’s an absurdity to them yet a clear emphasis of realism towards what they represent. It reminds me of Luis Buñuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire just a tiny tiny bit with its constant heaving of abuse upon our lead protagonist, rippled off in the first place from their desperation for “objective” satisfaction through approval, as how society or rebellion demands it to be. This movie is incredibly shelled with a haunted house feeling of female oppression, showing how plenty of men incline themselves into basically locking women of the family up in cages and training them like pets through psychologically degrading methodologies; the abhorrence of female to male relational dynamics are so apparent in Fassbinder’s savage depiction of a woman unsure of her way in life that you embody this force inside of her to continue undergoing the abuse of men because they’ve tormented her to be so all her life by distancing her independence, swiping egoism (the basic human necessity) needed to truly experience freedom from their reach.

Of course, Martha‘s composition is dilated with more of Fassbinder’s signature blocking, yet with maybe my favorite color choices by him thus far with the set/light design — the library, the wedding, the garden… ugh! If that red and blue mirror/hallway contrast shot at minute 25 ain’t the sole definition of “visually appeasing” than I don’t know what is. Ohhh, and that relatable spin of anxiety that the camera does when Martha and Helmut (the two “lovers”) first see one another had me dizzy.

All in all, Martha is a pretty sturdy allegory for being an eternal victim, but one who occasionally walks right out in the open for nobody watching to understand. Precisely, though, it’s one dedicated to a bourgeoisie subject living in a 1970s Germany, a country currently recovering from their own past blind loyalties for leaders due to systematic manipulation (i.e. Hitler). Hint: these habits haven’t quite left them yet. 

Verdict: B+

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked

“Martha” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part III of V

I hope Fassbinder is at least getting paid for the sheer amount of Coca Cola product placement he’s been hammering in so far.

You never see this in films that sort of cover xenophobia too often, but I was quite fascinated by how the younger generation in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul were also the ones guilty of bigotry, since their era seemed like one of the first to expect German people to work with those from different backgrounds, unable to assimilate to the new out of nostalgic destruction of the old, therefore encouraging racism. F**k you, Hitler. 

Fassbinder surveys jealousy, envy, and how the two end up being a racists’ defense mechanism whenever they’re wrong about foreigners. Yet, an elderly lady named Emmi was able to connect and emphasize with those victimized by discrimination because she too felt secluded, just like how Ali must’ve felt being distanced from the rest of the country. Loneliness truly does instigate the strongest forms of unity, but also the toughest experiences of adversity. 

Verdict: B+

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked 

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire (1973)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part II of V

Yeah, not surprised Rian Johnson has a feature on the supplements for the Criterion release of this; I didn’t expect the cinematic origin to The Matrix, Minority Report, Inception, and White Christmas/San Junipero to be a cute little “who-dun-it” if you look past all its terrifying, psychedelic scares of human-computer malfunction/deletion and the overbearing reality crisis of our own skeptical universe. Dang.

For a nearly four-hour mini series that almost feels entirely expositional but more so in a pseudo-psychological way where you’re not sure whether or not what you’re listening to should actually be taken into consideration as it could be just false precepts to help put you directly into the ever-warping mind of our disturbed main protagonist, World on a Wire is a masterful adaption of the classical philosophical argument that’s brought up in the 1964 novel Simulacron-3 regarding realities controlled by other realities… and maybe controlled by even more realities, and so on so forth. Opposed to The Matrix though which takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape of a ruling alien race dominating humans through a virtual reality, World on a Wire seems more concerned with the technology’s place when present in modern society. 

A cybernetics corporation is in search for testing societal theories through an almost predeterminable methodology: a computerized reality that either absorbs the success of an idea firsthand or bites the bullet of it entirely to therefore benefit the “real” world as it applies its observations to avoid or recreate such experiments for themselves. The mini-series seems to suggest that if there is a God looking over us, there may be another God looking over him, and by “God” I mean a plethora of them, all representing different personalities and ambitions, good or bad, just like, well, people; wouldn’t any artificial world-building suggest such a motley of creators? 

This may not necessarily be Fassbinder’s best work in terms of acting directions (I won’t deny that I laughed a few times at some dramatic reactions/revelations) but it’s not that shocking to behold when you realize how out of bounds this kind of story seems so far in this director’s filmography, opposed to his previous projects where he tended to be vastly more concentrated on the characters rather than the plot. However, visually, this is on par with his previous year’s work, holding no punches to make every shot seem compositionally rich with its expressionistic camera movements or blocking fractures, the colorfully concentrated lighting, and the futuristic variant of luxurious, dream-like set pieces to accompany it all. The buzzy score is fittingly unpleasant, as well. 

My proudest take away though that I got from this was watching people (even the fancy, professionally suited businessmen) who have spinning chairs at their office desks ACTUALLY spin in their chairs. It’s nice to see a filmmaker that finally gets it: no sane person wouldn’t do that s**t 24/7 if they’re blessed enough to have one.

Verdict: A-

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked

“World on a Wire” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day (1972)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part I of V

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a director use zooms this tellingly and consistently before; for those who say they’re a jarring technique in film that should be secluded more, think again!

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day is about the most charming, inviting, warm and cozy mini-series I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Like, HOT-DAMN, this is just so utterly wholesome and crowd-pleasing that it kind of has me baffled why it seems to be a bit obscured from Fassbinder’s central filmography. It probably has to do with its political origins, being such a liberal-geared show broadcasted during a right-winged obsessed Germany, it would make sense this got shelved for so long before just now being restored for the public to bathe in all eight hours of its empathetic glory. 

This 1972 television program is one galored with power dynamics, including but not limited to a grandma in control of a new lover and a man in control of a best friend. But, probably the most telling connective piece of tissue to the story’s parallel to social work would be the fathers of the story who are often in control of their family; Fassbinder exposes the humiliating authority complexes that come with it and how when taken away shows true vulnerability and desperation — it reminds me a smidge of what PTA’s The Master attempted to convey about leaders, but made with a less glamorous approach and for good reason. Fassbinder sees hostility as a harm of judgement and proper action, but then again it can also come forth as a fruitful method to right the wrongs of lower/middle-class disadvantages, hindered by the higher-class decision swindlers; same goes for the ideology of silence: it’s a shield against trouble yet it is one rarely effective in resolving social frustrations, even in the casualist of affairs. A time period unprotected to capitalism and embracive of governmental exclusiveness sort of requires one to expect and hope for a counteraction of citizens to take measures into their own hands; it’s sort of sorrowful realizing that this is a reality that’ll likely never end for any country even today, as self-interest seems to be an impenetrable attribute no matter who you are, but its inspiration of good-minded uprising is very much a human motivation and ambition worth living for; it gives us a purpose if anything, as oppression and corruption calls for that within its victims — a bittersweet outlook! 

It’s honestly surprising how much I loved this too, because it is very much a piece of archetypal melodrama catered to an identical formula for every episode with its “in order to improve society we must work together to accomplish it” resolutions, and I will admit that that’s what’s holding me back ever so slightly from giving it a perfect score as it got slightly repetitive by the end and I desired a little more adversity in those regards like we get in episodes 3 & 5. But, in all fairness, Fassbinder’s execution here is so absolutely dialogue-detailed and candid with new wisdom to discuss in every single scene about human nature, perfectly acted and holy engaging in its characterizations, and consistently optimistic yet rightfully challenging to truly earn those moments that it actually warranted the numbing simplicities of the narrative’s familiar and convenient structuring. 

I’m very much for how supernatural the score can get in this mini-series too; it reminds me of Punch-Drunk Love a bit: replicating emotions in ways that feel unworldly, exaggerated, and surreal. 

Verdict: A

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked

“Eights Hours Don’t Make a Day” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973)

Federico Fellini Marathon Part VI of VI

No horny police allowed in my Fascist Italy! Umm… Foreshadowing? 

You know, I don’t mind a little nostalgia porn from time to time myself. The humanity of Amarcord is quite peachy, deriving straight from the manipulated memories of Federico Fellini himself. It’s no shock that recollection in childhood is usually glorified positively, and Fellini makes efforts for that to appear very much the case in this likable breeze of a mental wash, especially when put against some of his astir previous endeavors. It’s not NEARLY my favorite Fellini, but it’s inclusively charming and successful in what it sets out to exhibit.

Peacocks are very nostalgic to me though, so when that one appeared during the film, the coincidence had me flabbergasted; I grew up in an area full of them so it’s hard not to.

Verdict: B

Federico Fellini Ranked

“Amarcord” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Federico Fellini’s Toby Dammit (1968)

Federico Fellini Marathon Part V of VI

Federico Fellini’s slim adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s work feels like a long lost segment to , except it’s shelled into this Dario Argento-vibey horror hybrid that’s got me personally even more fretful to seek out a career in the film industry. The use of orange and red in the opening segment of Toby Dammit is so intense that it feels like the planet is literally ready to implode into flames, sending us straight into an alienated nightmare world of phoney-ass talkshow interviews and *dun dun DUN* the OSCARS, and proceeding so with a very much soberless driving sequence that had my timid, poor body on ice for nearly fifteen cold minutes. I must say, it was quite curious seeing the Devil himself swing a dashing home run before the picture ended too; it surely packed the final punch I needed to consider this short nothing less than a miracle of surreal horror-telling.

Furthermore, I’d like to see Terrence Stamp and Marcello Mastroianni have a match-up now for who can play the more washed-up celebrity, please? Mastroianni may have taken me on the superior trip, but it only took Stamp 40 minutes to convince me that he was already there.

Verdict: A-

Federico Fellini Ranked

“Toby Dammit” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963)

Federico Fellini Marathon Part IV of VI

This one quote alone from could destroy any argument against people who desire intellectual substance in art or general entertainment: 

“No need to add chaos onto chaos.”

La Dolce Vita (1960) seems like pity surrealism when you put it up against Federico Fellini’s follow-up which just goes FULL IN ON IT. The busyness of a considered winner (AKA, the director himself portrayed by the actor Marcello Mastroianni) is in complete effect here: Fellini treats industry success and subsequent future filmmaking projects like a fever-nightmare of endless harassment, of surreal confusion, a headache-inducing attempt at harmonizing your artistic vision and the real, critical world you must suffer through to get to it, as well as the repulsive desires of your own bodily self and the dream-state that hardens your judgement. , ultimately, is unbelievably self-indulgent, but in the most entertaining way possible. 

Now, I could go on about technicalities such as Nino Rota’s score and soundtrack which is just *explosion noise* some of the most constructive utilization of music in the film medium ever or the diverse production design which I’m still baffled by how it was even conceived in the first place, but I’m more keen to mention how I kind of sinisterly love how this movie almost feels like a satirical slander against creating thought-provoking or quote on quote “intellectual” art too, and the overwhelming process of getting there. Why burden ourselves with arduous discussion when all it does is bring us closer and closer to a gaping desire for death? Why run an empire of needy souls when it only provokes their mind’s wants into further chaos and disappointment? Expectations sort of do that ya know, especially when you’re looking up to a filmmaker now considered to be a modern legend, but is secretly just a liverish egotist. I’m starting to perceive essentially as if it was a far less optimistic interpretation of Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev.

The relentless mind of a fatigued artist has never felt so authentic as it does here. is one of those movies where you really have to see it to believe it; don’t take my mere word for it. My interpretations are currently being curated in a blender of impressions right now, so in future rewatches I’m sure I’ll write a more detailed analysis on what makes this movie quite the tour de force, but for now, you get this half-assed review. You’re welcome.

Verdict: A+

Federico Fellini Ranked, My All-Time Favorites

“8½” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) – The Failure of Success

Federico Fellini Marathon Part III of VI

Okay, now for the real debate: was Marcello pimpin’ or was he simpin’?

This is the endless social wandering of wanting to be something that you can’t, and one that you could never know nor picture. La Dolce Vita is the upper-class existentialist’s crusade: a chaotic meddle of materialistic beauty and the hideous people that inhabit it. Imagine yourself tied to relationships that for some reason you can’t leave, like a prison used poorly to reach the character to which you would fancy inhabiting. Why are the ones who love always attracted to the ones who can’t? Why can’t the ones who can’t can despite them wanting to? Why do we only share the accomplishments of our careers when we all fear self-destruction, and choose to cover it up with our richness and fame? Why is when tragedy is finally spoken of, it’s exploited in tabloids and heartless photographs rather than in the genuine nature of caring and connecting with one another? In other words, why do we choose to complicate who we are to those that encompass us rather than relate to them in sincerity? Is it from the peace that we gain in believing the impossible? Or, is it just that we aren’t built to do so; our species is simply incapable of succeeding in this surreal desire for genuine love? Is the world just this cynically pointless, even at our wealthiest and most physically attractive? Are we that indicative to our intellectuality that it has only led us back into a pothole of mindless games and daftness? 

A whole lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers… for deliberate reasons of course. Really, “Hedonism” seems to be the sole solution that these people know of.

La Dolce Vita arguably has some of the richest (no pun intended) location scouting I’ve ever come to encounter; it’s an absolute hypnotic feast. I love how “in the moment” this movie can be, lingering onto the fun that these people experience but constantly insisting on its shallowness and desperation to elicit purpose. The scale of this project is unlike anything Fellini has done up until this point too, showcasing his knack for representing the post-Fascist Italian world in an appropriately deceiving black-and-white aesthetic of allure. Case in point, this is by far Fellini’s finest looking movie; it really is just a three-hour production orgasm. 

Fellini’s laborious work here feels like a slow gallery-walk of beautiful melancholy, but that’s either going to break it or make it for viewers, and it even had a bit of a toll on me too from finding it to be consecutively perfect. Admittedly, it’s very reliant on poetic abruptness and repetition, but not necessarily in a way that would have me completely perturbed by the film, as it more so just unceasingly made me fall victim to Marcello’s descent into meaninglessness. Like I said before, it’s sort of an elongated string of these visually gorgeous, half-hour segments that are paradoxically meant to make you feel sorrower and sorrower at the continuous failure of post-work success, and the somewhat avoidable yet bizarrely tempting hell it seizes us into. Oh, and the failure of post-family success… and post-life, like… just in general, success. Sheesh, what a Debby-downer La Dolce Vita is.

Verdict: A-

Federico Fellini Ranked, My All-Time Favorites

“La Dolce Vita” is now available to purchase physically on the Criterion Collection’s website.

Quick-Thoughts: Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954)

Federico Fellini Marathon Part II of VI

Interesting how Giulietta Masina went from playing a total introvert to a total extrovert from this to Nights of Cabrina. Two movies in and she’s already becoming one of my favorite actors ever! 

A little rough around the edges in plot and technicalities here and there, but not nearly enough to make La Strada seem like anything less than solid. Gelsomina believes that she has no reason to live, yet when she’s taken under the wing of an abusive circus-act man, her clinginess to his company begins warranting hope despite how cold-hearted of an individual he is. Excessive masculinity blinds us from our truest desires, resulting in negative possessiveness and unwarranted authority towards others, and isolation in those who commit it. The feeling of being needed is something essential to human livelihood; having connection is important to us, no matter how toxic the circumstances of it are. 

Obviously, I’m not saying you should stay in that kind of relationship, but I am most certainly saying La Strada capsulizes well why we choose to still stay in such. It’s in our habit to find even the merest amount of purpose in those who surround our lives, whether it be of the wrong and torturous or otherwise.

Verdict: B+

Federico Fellini Ranked [Coming Soon]

“La Strada” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel, HBO Max and Kanopy.