In one of his journeys to France, after graduating from The National Film School in Łódź, Polanski tried to sell the script for his first feature film, Knife in the Water (1962), without success, so in need of money, he thought in shoot The Fat and the Lean, to see whether it could bring him some benefits. To do this, he got the French producer Claude Joudioux to fund his project.
Roman Polanski (Paris, France, 1933) makes a kind of homage to silent movies, Laurel and Hardy specifically. This is a short film without dialogue, like all the Polanski’s short films before his first feature film, in which the director shows his sense of humour, gallows and absurd, that would show later in some of his movies.
Of course, the short film also has a critical nuance about vassalage, and the exploitation of the proletariat by entrepreneurs, along with the Polanski’s desire of getting out from the Polish communist regime established after the Second World War.
It has two actors, or three if we consider the goat, André Katelbach, The Fat, and Polanski himself, The Lean, which is the servant and slave of the first one, and for whom he does all sort of tasks and all the necessary to ensure that The Fat does not have to get up from his rocking chair, even not for urinating. From time to time, he has to make the buffoon, to keep his “owner” happy and entertained.
The Fat has a house in the countryside on the outskirts of Paris, to where Polanski’s character looks and looks thoughtful when he has the opportunity, and where he tries to escape, with no success, as The Fat always manages to “persuade” him to stay.
This is a good opportunity to watch the burlesque performance of a young and jumper-dancer Polanski. The music is by composer and jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda, who had already been making the music for the previous short films of the filmmaker, and would continue making it until Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
Original French title: Le gros et le maigre, December 1961, 15min. Special Mention in the Festival Tours, 1961.