There’s one last thing I wanted to mention re: Fox and His Friends, but I couldn’t quite articulate it or figure out how to work it in until now. (I guess I have a lot to say about this one.)
After you’ve watched the movie all the way through, watch the opening credit sequence again. There’s this series of shots of the audience listening to Karl Scheydt’s spiel which follows the beautiful opening crane shot into the carnival or circus or whatever it is. These images struck me as both poignant and significant. The faces in the crowd are shot from a distance with a long lens, so there is a real candor to them. As they listen, these people seem simple, innocent, gullible (Eugen or Max would probably add slack jawed), happy to suspend disbelief even though the show, at bottom, is a hoax (there is no Fox the talking severed head, after all). Which is to say, Fox and his sideshow friends do to the audience what Max and his friends ultimately do to Fox, albeit on a different scale.
My initial reaction to this sequence had been to commend the director for the humanity with which he depicts this crowd (as I said, there really is something poignant about their faces). But then I recognized the hurdy gurdy music, which also accompanies the movie’s last scene, in which Fox’s downward trajectory is completed, and I realized that Fox and his friends, old and new, are all part of the same vicious circle of exploitation. These people willingly allow themselves to be fooled into giving their money to hucksters like Fox in exchange for entertainment, for a little thrill; Fox willingly allows himself to be fooled into giving Max, Eugen, and Eugen’s family everything in exchange for the illusion of love. How depressing is that?