The Hands of Bresson

Sundry observations on the art of cinema and world film culture

Werner Herzog: Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans

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Forty-plus years into a still-vital, ever-proliferating filmmaking career, Werner Herzog has aged gracefully into the role of the sage adventurer, still fearlessly exploring the terrain between documentary and fiction as well as the vanishing point between charismatic eccentricity and full-blown psychosis. Born in Munich, raised in the Bavarian Alps, and lumped early on with other avatars of the New German Cinema, Herzog has ceaselessly chronicled the obsessions of dreamers and renegades both real (God’s Angry Man) and imagined (Stroszek, The Wild Blue Yonder), as well as social outcasts whose quest for ecstatic truth leads to madness, self-destruction, or sometimes, in the case of Grizzly Man’s Timothy Treadwell, both. There are those who find Herzog’s documentaries to be the apotheosis of that singular vision, and those who are partial to the fevered collaborations with Klaus Kinski, when Herzog seemed to be placing his own life at risk in order to realize impossible ambitions, just like the protagonists of his twin monuments to crazed hubris, Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, The Wrath of God. In recent years, he has journeyed to a science colony in Antarctica (Encounters at the End of the World), ringed the jungle canopy with a high-flying inventor (The White Diamond), and revisited the story of downed airman Dieter Dengler (Little Dieter Needs to Fly), this time in fiction (Rescue Dawn). Regardless of whether it makes sense to divide such effulgently individualistic output into separate genres (in this director’s cinema of extremes, we are forever on the brink of both catastrophe and revelation), one thing is certain: only Herzog is ever Herzogian.

Click here to read my interview with Werner Herzog at Filmmaker.

Written by eyemaster

November 30, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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