pieces on film written since 1970, Simonnwrites, “Criticism at best, of course, isnonly a set of subjective opinions. But it isnopinions expounded at some length: explained,nillustrated with examples andnquotations, supported with comparisonsnand contrasts to other works, related toncertain standards of aesthetics and evennethics, and viewed in a larger context ofnhuman life.” This observation is no merennotion of the role of aiticism; it is soundnand studied. Whether Simon, himself, isnalways faithful to his own critical credo isnanother story. Yet his pieces on films, itnwould seem, are far beyond those thatnappear in newspapers. He sits in the minipantheonninhabited by the likes ofnDwight Macdonald, Pauline Kael, AndrewnSarris and Stanley Kauffmann.nThese names have a certain cachet: whennwe see one at the head of an essay we immediatelynassume that what follows is thenresult of a reflection on a cinematic experience,nand not the slap-dash reactionnof some one who has to fill a hole on thenfeature page.nDiary of a Mad Housewife, GimmenShelter, Love Story . . . The AndromedanStrain, Dirty Harry, Fritz the Cat. . .nMarjoe, Billy Jack, Lost Horizon… ThenGreat Gatsby, Murder on the Orient Express,nThe Stepford Wives—imaginenwhat sitting through all of these (as wellnas others that make these look good) willndo to a person’s demeanor. The slimyncreep in The Fan became a savage fromnhaving spent too much time in thendream world of motion pictures. Newspapernmovie-reviewers know that theirnblurbs on Conan the Barbarian, Rockynni, etc. will be forgotten by the next day,nso they vent their spleens with cheapnshots or bubble over with suffocating effervescence.nThen there’s John Simon.nSimon saw all of those movies and thenrest. They affected him, too. But—how?nIhey have made him not a transcendentncritic, but one who is lacking in everythingnexcept a stylish manner in whichnto cloak either his crabby, shrewish commentariesnor his vapid remarks. That is, ancritic of his supposed caliber must ask atnleast one of two questions: What isnmoral? Where is truth? Simon asksnneither, presimiably because his aestheticnsensibility is beyond such trivialities. Innthis omission, he ultimately forgets to examinenwhat is beautiful because it is, orntries to be, true and good—the one obligationnof a critic on which Aristotle, Boileau.nPope and Sainte-Beuve agreed. Hisnis a value-disoriented criticism; it has nonideological, social or ethical grounding.nThe result is an epistemological hollowness.nSimon lacks coordinates.nSimon’s aiticism fundamentally consistsnof comments that are in the end pettynand conclusions that are ultimatelynbankrupt. For example, he perenniallynbludgeons Barbra Streisand not becausenshe is an inferior actress—presumablynwhat a film critic would be concernednwith, her faulty mimetic abilities—butnbecause he thinks she is ugly and he cannotnfathom how she can have the chutzpahnto appear in public. Simon skewersnRoss Hunter because he wears a toupeenand knees two writers not because theynhave written a bad film, but becausentheir family name is Fink. More seriousnthan this picayune venom is the counterfeitncurrency that Simon passes. Wenwould assume that it’s backed with silvern—if not gold—coming from such an illustriousnperson, but it is bogus. For example,nhe treats Fritz the Cat, an animatednfilm released in 1972 that takesn5^nWr j^tm^Sp^S^^K f^H^^^^^H .^^^^^A* jiSnnnDisney-like characters and metamorphosesnthem into drug-taking, rutting vulgaritiesn(this cartoon had an “X” rating),nwith benevolence. Simon gushes overnThe Candidate in a lengthy review innwhich he says: “There are two kinds ofnfilms: those that tell us what to think,nand those that merely invite us to think;nThe Candidate, sensibly and sensitively,nunderstates.” How can there be meiosisnin a film that continually hammers thenmessage that all politicians are Janusfaced,nespecially older, successful ones?nThat intelligence was the key truism ofnthe 70’s. And then there’s Simon’s treatmentnof The China Syndrome, in hisnwords, a “taut, intelligent, and chillinglyngripping thriller,” which he recommendsnas a “must” to see. He finds thenfilm so engaging that he fails to recognizenthat it is stmctured on a vulgar distortionnof reality and is nothing mote than slicknpolitical propaganda, a gross lie. Yes,nnuclear reactors can and do malfunction,nbut are we to believe, with the makers ofnThe China Syndrome, that there is collusionnbetween the media and the utilityncompanies, or the media and the government,nor the media and anyone else? Ifnwe don’t accept that premise—and howncould we—then it’s obvious that the filmnis a slick fabrication passed oflf as socialnrealism by those brandishing “NonNukes” placards.nDwight Macdonald was spared manyn&pt V’nMn1 fcvi^ y^”^^^.n••-••»nJkf^n•MHMM17nSeptember 198Sn