The Fat and the Lean (Roman Polanski, 1961, France)

The Fat and the Lean is another Waiting for Godot-inspired short by Roman Polanski, made in 1961. The film opens with Polanski, playing the flute and a drum, in a chair in front of a house. A fat man sits across from him in another chair. The fat man gestures for Polanski to give him the drum, and he begins to play as Polanski dances in the grass. Krzysztof Komeda's jazz music begins to play, and it becomes clear that the Polanski character is subservient to the fat man - he begins attending to his needs and cooling him off.

We see Polanski cooking for the other man, wiping the sweat off of him, and filing his nails. The bird he is cooking for the fat man catches fire. The Polanski character looks out of the window and can see Paris. The Polanski character prepares a meal for the fat man and holds an umbrella over him in the sun. Again, however, the sight of Paris in the distance is tempting. The Polanski character then decides to make his escape to the city, gesturing for the fat man to follow along with him.

The fat man rewards the Polanski character with a goat. Polanski however continues to try to escape, so he is chained to the goat. The ritual continues until the fat man falls asleep and Polanski attempts to make his escape with the goat chained to his leg. The fat man frees Polanski and when the scene fades, we now see him playing a full drumset in the field. The film seems to have a happy albeit bittersweet ending. The Fat and the Lean shows the influence of the theater of absurd on Polanski, as well as his darkly comic side, both of which would resurface repeatedly throughout his career.



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