Rainer Werner Fassbinder Vincent Canby - Essay

Vincent Canby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The characters in "Katzelmacher" are lower middle-class layabouts who] sit on—or lean against—the railing outside a Munich apartment house in various positions of boredom. They bicker. They brood. Mostly they just stare into space, lined up all in a row like the crows in Hitchcock's "The Birds."…

[The] characters, with the possible exception of Jorgos …, who never says much, are either slobs or dimwitted, and though they are totally self-absorbed and given to parroting clichés, they are sometimes capable of the unexpected gesture as when Marie decides to leave Erich for Jorgos….

The static camera, the exaggerated mannerisms of the actors, the jump-cuts, the repeated themes and variations of scenes, all recall Godard, but the major influence on the film appears to be Mr. Fassbinder's early work in the theater.

The screenplay, in fact, is an adaptation of a Fassbinder play, but having seen the film twice I find it difficult to imagine it as anything except an extraordinarily stylish film. It's quite unlike anything else I've seen….

"Katzelmacher" is scathing about the postwar German economic boom that has, of course, been so kind to the film maker himself. More importantly the film is an early glimpse of his dazzling talent….

Vincent Canby, "'Katzelmacher'," in The New York Times (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 4, 1977 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1977–1978, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1979, p. 62).