Rainer Werner Fassbinder Penelope Gilliatt - Essay

Penelope Gilliatt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Satan's Brew"] is a deliberate slap in the face…. [Walter Kranz] operates from the same feckless, uninhibited, unscrupulous, and unpredictable position that Fassbinder does in hurling this movie at us. The film creates an irritable weather all its own. People behave like cross morons, pretend to less intelligence than they actually have, move with the gestures of wooden puppets on tangled strings. (p. 62)

Fassbinder has made this shock-the-middlebrow picture go at a rattling pace, piling on evil comic details to see how much we will take…. Fassbinder forever pits words against physical expressiveness in this film, and throws sense out of joint…. Fassbinder has given himself the license to go haywire, perhaps in the interests of testing our endurance while we are having a sadomasochistic charade thrown at us like so much mud. Spattered and spluttering, we must be prepared to roll with the punch. Exceptional talent—and Fassbinder appears to possess it—often has moments of running amok. Better to go too far than not to move; and there may even be a compassionate nut of truth about the fate of the underendowed buried somewhere in this gaudy piece of provocation. (pp. 62-3)

Penelope Gilliatt, "Japanese Friends, a German Agent Provocateur," in The New Yorker (© 1977 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. LIII, No. 26, August 15, 1977, pp. 60-3.∗