Rainer Werner Fassbinder John Simon - Essay

John Simon

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Fassbinder] turns out movies the way other people shed dandruff, and is generally considered the new Godard or, at the very least, the Wunderkind of the German cinema. The main influences on him would seem to be Brecht and Warhol, the unendurably static Jean-Marie Straub and the souped-up second-rate American action directors, which shows that, if nothing else, he is catholic to the point of self-contradiction….

An aura of arrogance is everywhere, as if Fassbinder were saying, "I can slap movies together as fast and loose as I wish because I am a Wunderkind." The procedure, I am afraid, makes him into a bit of Blunderkind. He turns out, as I see it, two kinds of movies: bad ones and not-so-bad ones. [Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven] is one of the latter….

It is a perfectly serviceable story, but Fassbinder develops it with his customary mixture of heavy underscoring and cavalier offhandedness. Occasionally there is some satiric bite, but more often the film contents itself with facile and predictable observations, which the director now shoots with greater assurance than before, but still without particular distinction. Here the ending happens to be happy; it could just as easily have been otherwise. (p. 70)

John Simon, "The Unimportance of Being Ernest," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1977 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 10, No. 11, March 14, 1977, pp. 69-70.∗