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The Fat and the Lean (1961)
"Le gros et le maigre" (original title)

6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 825 users  
Reviews: 5 user | 3 critic

A small and thin barefoot slave (played by Polanski) plays a flute and beats a drum to entertain his large master who rocks in a rocking chair in front of his mansion. The slave jumps and ... See full summary »

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Title: The Fat and the Lean (1961)

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
André Katelbach ...
The fat (uncredited)
...
The lean (uncredited)
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Storyline

A small and thin barefoot slave (played by Polanski) plays a flute and beats a drum to entertain his large master who rocks in a rocking chair in front of his mansion. The slave jumps and leaps like a madman, wipes his master's brow, feeds him, washes his feet, shades him from the sun with an umbrella and holds a urinal for him. Written by Anonymous

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Genres:

Short | Comedy | Music

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Release Date:

December 1961 (France)  »

Also Known As:

A kövér és a sovány  »

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Trivia

Roman Polanski directed this fifteen-minute black-and-white short just after completing film school. The film features the music of Krzysztof Komeda, who composed the scores for all but one of the director's films between Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). (from the Criterion Collection DVD) See more »

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Featured in Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of Polanski's very best
12 March 2006 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In this awesome short film without any dialog, Polanski himself gives a masterclass in physical comedy playing the lean servant/slave straining himself to exhaustion in his efforts to entertain his rotund and blasé master (André Katelbach), who sits idly in his rocking chair all day long on the lawn of a decrepit house doing absolutely nothing. The servant plays music for his master, cooks for him, spoon-feeds him, wipes his sweaty face, shades him from the sun, shaves him and even helps him urinate. One day, the servant -- observing the city of Paris from afar -- realizes there must be more to life than being exploited and decides to run away. But the master, suddenly energetic, beats him up and chains a goat to the servant's ankle! -- now the servant has to do all his work in chains AND look after the goat! The lyrical, symbolic finale (which I won't give away) pokes fun at that old strategy much practiced in politics: if things are bad, make them worse; remove then the "worse" and what looked like "bad" is going to feel like heaven.

Influenced by Beckett, Kafka and Buster Keaton, this delightful absurdist short comedy already showcases Polanski's trademark black humor, acid sarcasm, great sense of rhythm (helped by Krzysztof Komeda's music) and very personal visual style. "Le Gros..." was obviously meant as a virulent attack on Stalinist regimes (including, of course, the Polish Communist Party) and their tactics of usurpation and exploitation for enduring in power. In this short made in France (his first work outside Poland), Polanski profits from his newfound freedom of expression to make sarcastic criticisms about the Stalinist modus operandi, and avows his fascination with Western capitalism (i.e. the sight of Paris). Coherently, after the international success of his first feature "Knife in Water" the following year, Polanski left Poland for good and conquered Europe and America, not returning to film in his native country until 40 years later with his Cannes+Oscar winner "The Pianist".

"Le Gros..." is not at all dated or circumscribed to a specific country, era or political regime. Its issues will apply as long as there are despotic relationships based on power, hierarchy, servitude, usurpation and humiliation, as long as there are people exploiting other people (well, it will NEVER be dated, right?). Polanski uses the most effective tools to approach "forbidden" themes and dribble censorship: symbolism, irony and comic relief, creating this timeless little masterpiece that must rank among the greatest short films of all time.


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