Werner, nobody will read this book if I don’t write bad stuff about you… The scum only wants to hear about the dirt, all the time.
Klaus Kinski to Werner Herzog (according to Werner Herzog)
My Best Fiend is a reverent ode and an unabashed grave-piss that smudges the boundaries of personal and indulgent, and it’s fascinating as long as you care the slightest bit about the two great artists at its core. Basically, Werner Herzog reminisces about what a bastard psychopath Klaus Kinski was, recounting bonkers behind-the-scenes anecdotes (which may have been painted over with a light coat of bullshit myth-making). Between anecdotes, Herzog reminds us what a mesmerizing performer Kinski was, showing highlights from each of their collaborations.
Ultimately, Herzog can’t simply pile on the dirt. In a parting gesture somewhere between saintly and Stockholm Syndromic, he leaves us imagining Kinski not as a mad monkey-chucker, but as a tender butterfly whisperer.
Had Kiniski been alive to see My Best Fiend, and could make it to the end without storming off in one of his nuclear diva tantrums, I think he’d approve. If you squint just right, you can see Kinski portrayed as a super-intense genius who embodied his roles by raging against the world the way the world raged against his characters. And if a few ass-licking idiots or lunatic megalomaniacs couldn’t grasp that, then they deserved to be screamed at or bludgeoned or shot at.
All right, there’s really no way to justify most of Kinski’s behavior, no matter how you slice it. But considering My Best Fiend spends much of its running time extolling the transcendence of Kinski the actor, it might be exactly the kind of biopic that Kinski the frenzied egomaniac would’ve wanted.