"It's my way, or The Way of the Gun!"

Stiff-Legged Film Festival Series Presents:

The Films of Werner Herzog

November 4-6 & 11-13, 2005

 

JUMP TO THE SCHEDULE!

JUMP TO THE HERZOG BLOG PAGE - LIVE JOURNALING FROM FESTIVAL GOERS!

I told [Klaus Kinski] I would do him in if he left the set now, that I had a gun with nine bullets, eight of which I would use on him, leaving the final one for myself. He understood that it was not a joke. - Werner Herzog

That got your attention, didn't it? If that didn't, I guess there's not much I'll be able to say that will get you to join me for SIX DAYS of films by the legendary German director Werner Herzog. If, on the other hand, this little anecdote above gave you serious pause, please consider putting your busy life on pause for a few days and join me for a windfall of unforgettable images, mystifying obsessives, and reports from the most unusual cultures and habitats of the world.

"He takes away all the make-believe and fabrication to get back to the real thing, back to when directors first had a movie camera and they set it up to shoot a ski-jumper taking off or a lion eating an antelope. Werner allows us to just see the world."

So says Herzog's friend, fellow director Volker Schlondorff. It's this impulse that makes Herzog's films so unique...he draws no major distinctions between his fictional films and his (abundant) documentaries. The feature films are often based on real-life events, and frequently feature non-actors. Conversely, his documentaries almost all contain elements that were fictionalized, in the interest of bringing a mere "true-life" story into the realm of artistic allegory. Herzog crafts all his films the same way, and imbues them with his own interests and worldview. To some, this may make the documentaries seem suspect and the features strange or lacking in polish. Throughout, Herzog reminds us that a movie is to be watched, not read, and that the images and the feelings the film conjures are the most important thing. To that end, all of his films are unified in thought and conception by the voice of their masterful storyteller.

Without adequate images, we will all die out...like dinosaurs. -WH

Both weekends start at 7 p.m. Friday, and with only a few hours off for sleep, they go straight through until late Sunday night! Almost 40 film programs in all!! Come one, come all, come for a few, stay as long as you want. NO CHARGE. NO OBLIGATION. NO HAND-STAMP FOR READMISSION. NO QUIZ AT THE END. Just because this is DIFFICULT GERMAN CINEMA doesn't mean we can't have fun along the way!

AT LAST!! The Herzog Festival Blog Page is here! Check it out:
HERZOG BLOG!


ALL START TIMES ARE RIGID!

Unless we're running late, the start time listed is the exact time we start. Check out my friend (and bona-fide Stiff-Leg lifer) Adam Witt's blog to see what a fascist I am about this. 10-15 minutes is given on average between films, meaning those who want to grab dinner had better be quick if they don't want to miss the next film. There's a McDonalds and Subway around the corner, not to mention a great Mexican restaurant or three that do takeout. Delivery menus will also be on hand. Seating is limited, and the Host gets eternal dibs on the couch throughout the festival, unless I choose to relinquish it (like, say, if Roger Ebert decides to pop around). Sorry, that's just the way it is. Limited sleeping space is also available for those that wanna turn this into a sleepover (some most of the nights go really late!).

Special thanks to: Anchor Bay Video, Odd Obsession Video, Facets Multimedia, Ebay, the vendors of Amazon Marketplace, Blastitude e-zine, J.M. Rudder, and the director's own website for contributing movies and valuable input.

Extra special thanks to John Aes-Nihil of Aes-Nihil Productions.

The Schedule

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4
EARLY YEARS: BIRTH OF FILM-MAKING, BIRTH OF A "NEW WORLD"

From the very earliest celluloid experiments to the creation of a most alien landscape, our first night brings us to the threshold of Herzog's famous collaboration with his most feisty partner. Until then, we get war and peace, beauty and decay, old worlds and new directions.

7:00 p.m.
EARLY films....like, as in, 'Little Wernie was SEVENTEEN when these films were made' early!
EARLY SHORT FILMS: Herakles; Last Words; The Unprecedented Defense of the Fortress Deutschkreutz

 

 


 

 

Three short films, shot back when Young Wernie was still wondering what this downy hair was on his unmentionables (seriously, like age 17!). Herakles appears to involve the concept of Ironic Juxtaposition (as is the case with most creative endeavors of 17 year-olds); Last Words is the final thoughts of a man in exile on a Greek isle; Deutschkreutz shows soldiers defending a fortress from imaginary (or invisible) enemies. WARNING: These movies are shown WITHOUT English subtitles! (As a further slap in the face, they're actually in German and Greek with ITALIAN subtitles! "Hey, here's some subtitles to help you along....PSYCH!"). Shorts 1 and 3 are sufficiently free of dialogue for you to "get it" without assistance. I hope.

 

8:00 p.m.
In the biz, those are called "Kubrick Eyes." It's true...look it up. SIGNS OF LIFE

Herzog's full-length debut. May have influenced the book The Shining? A soldier and his family are placed in charge of an abandoned island military base. After an interminable period of endless boredom/isolation, the man goes crazy and tries to kill his family. Sound familiar? Noteworthy "indelible image": a man hypnotizes a chicken by drawing a line in the sand.

 

9:45 p.m.
The fatal flying fanatics of Guillotinesburg MORE SHORT FILMS: Measure Against Fanatics; The Flying Doctors of East Africa

 

 

 

 

Fanatics is described on the director's website as "an elaborate on-camera practical joke." Flying Doctors was shot at the same time as Dwarfs and Fata Morgana, and documents a group of English doctors who bring Western medicine to Africa, treating people whose only recourse for the treatment of terminal diseases like cancer were the herbs and chants of local witch-doctors.

 

11:00 p.m.
Dedicated to Ronnie Dio and Udo Dierkschneider
EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL

One of Herzog's most bizarre fictional stories - it features an all "little people" cast! Said little people are imprisoned on a nondescript island. They "rise up" from their shackles (even the warden is a little person!) and start a revolution that turns into violence perpetrated against everything and everybody...not just their tormentors. Disturbing things happen to animals, so watch out, those of you that watch out for things like that. Intellectual eggheads and yippies criticized this movie for poking fun at the student movements that were taking place around the world (Herzog claims that was not his intention). Others criticized Herzog for "exploiting" the cast (Herzog contends, on the other hand, that when he found these actors, "they were working in some sort of a 'Tiny Town' amusement park. For the first time they got some real, decent work and enjoyed it tremendously."). Interesting Trivia: Herzog promised the cast that despite the abundance of dangerous situations he placed them in during filming, that not one of them would be hurt. He said that if nobody was hurt seriously while filming, he would jump heedlessly into a cactus patch, a promise he made good on immediately after filming (in interviews, he claims that several cactus needles "still reside under my skin"). This tendency toward making impossible bets and then following through on them would come back to haunt him in one of our later features.

I'm a cowboy; on a steel horse I ride....

 

1:00 a.m.
No Hellen Keller jokes, please
LAND OF SILENCE AND DARKNESS (Documentary)

Generally considered one of Herzog's most affecting and powerful documentaries. The subject is people born without hearing AND sight, a fate that would seem to cut them off from interactions with the world around them. Not so, claims Fini Straubinger, who communicates through her hands, and helps others who have been similarly afflicted to live life joyfully. Will no doubt make you reevaluate your own bitching and kvetching next time you wake up with a little muscle ache in the morning or face a long commute to work.

 

2:40 a.m.
"Who are you calling fat?" - J.P. MorganFATA MORGANA

As we drift out of night one, we come to one of Herzog's most otherworldly pseudo-documentaries. Filmed simultaneously with Dwarfs and Flying Doctors, the director and his crew traveled deep into the Sahara Desert to film mirages. The resulting images, rather than being presented in documentary fashion, are crafted into a pseudo science-fiction narrative dealing with the birth of a new world. One of Herzog's most brilliantly visual works, showing off truly alien terrains and unusual people that reside in some of the last semi-wild regions left on our planet. Trivia: Herzog and his crew were jailed during filming, allowing him to experience the hardships of African prisons. He has said famously in interviews that after this experience he no longer has any fear, a boast that would seem ludicrous coming from the mouth of just about anyone else.

Buy my cat!

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5
KLAUS KINSKI/BRUNO S. - THEIR FINEST HOURS

Two of Herzog's most famous collaborators were truly unique (and diametrically opposite) actors, actors who are intertwined with the reputation of the director for all time. Klaus Kinski, an insane firebrand who spread a swath of violence, sex, and debauchery in his wake like a penis'd tornado, contributes some of his most memorable performances in today's program. Bruno S., a homeless street musician from Germany, only acted twice in his lifetime, both for Herzog, and both of his guileless performances can be seen here.

12:30 p.m.
Made legendary in my youth via its inclusion in Danny Peary's "Cult Movies" anthology! Finally get to see it! AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD

Considered one of the all-time great cult classic films, and possibly the most insane collaboration between Herzog and Kinski. In the interest of capturing the harsh realism of it all, Herzog stranded his cast and crew in the darkest region of the Amazon river, allowing their isolation and insanity to seep into the script. Kinski plays Aguirre, a conquistador traveling through the Amazon in search of new territory to conquer. Like Apocalypse Now, the travel along the river parallels a descent into madness. Breathtaking imagery and a thoroughly maniacal performance from Sir Klaus. If you want to believe the myths & legends, I'll be happy to tell you that Herzog directed Kinski at gunpoint through some of this film (whether that's true or not, it does appear to be true that he told Kinski, in private, "If you try to abandon this production, I have a gun here with nine bullets in it. Eight are for you. Guess who the ninth is for?")! Absolutely not to be missed!

Between 3 and 4 in the morning, the phone rang. It took me at least a couple of minutes before I realized that it was Kinski who was the source of this inarticulate screaming. And after an hour of this, it dawned on me that he found it the most fascinating screenplay and wanted to be Aguirre. - Herzog

"You ant eyee, vee arrr not zo different, geebering mongkey!"

 

2:30 p.m.
Little Walter Needs to Fly (too) The Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (Documentary)

Steiner, a woodcarver by trade, also competes as a ski jumper. However, he has a little problem. He has developed his skill to such a degree that he isn't just beating his competitors by a few feet, but by hundreds of feet. For you see, Steiner isn't interested in competition as a ski-jumper; he lives for the moment of unfettered flight that ski jumping allows him. The problem? He travels so far past his mark, he threatens his own life by landing amidst rocks, trees, rough patches of land, even the parking lot! Man may not be a bird, as Makavejev put it, but that doesn't stop him from trying.

 

3:35 p.m.
THE ENIGMA OF CASPAR HAUSER

The first of two films featuring nomadic street musician Bruno S., portraying a classic piece of German storytelling, the legend of Kaspar Hauser. Similar to the "Wild Child" story as filmed by Truffault, Kaspar Hauser's story differs in that he was not just raised in the wild by wolves, without human interaction, but was literally isolated in darkness his entire life...locked in a dungeon by a cruel master he never saw or heard (echoes of Land of Silence and Darkness?. He arrives in the town square, unable to walk, carrying a slip of paper and only able to say one sentence. Originally given the much better title Every Man For Himself, And God Against All, Herzog claimed that NOBODY ever got the title right when writing about it, and so decided to truncate it. Too bad for us all.

Much better, don't you think?

 

5:45 p.m.
Hey batta-batta-batta!SHORT FILMS: No One Will Play With Me; How Much Wood Would A Woodchuck Chuck...

 

 



No One is a short fictional film about a child's difficulty with making friends in school; Woodchuck is a documentary about the rarified talent of auction barkering....you know, the mile-a-minute prattle that everybody thinks they can imitate when they're all drunk at a party, but then they have to stop after three seconds. Why? Because it's REALLY HARD, that's why! Herzog admits that his fascination with barkering comes from it being a system of language entirely developed to serve economic ends, like Esperanto with bling. Whatever....you know you just wanna see this so you can drink beer and listen to some dudes go "heywhaddawannagimmegimmeoneIgotoneonefiftygoinggoingGONE!" at like eight billion miles an hour. Cheering encouraged....drunken imitations not so much. I love how the reviews on imdb are all people who want to point out that "well, these aren't the BEST auction barkers out there...there's this one guy who's all blah blah blah look how much I know...." and so on. It's awesome...the world has BARKER GROUPIES! "Lemme tell you about my man...the man with the Silver Tongue......."

 

7:00 p.m.
Once had a love (of hypnotism), and it was a gas
HEART OF GLASS

The chief class-blower of a small German village dies without passing on the secret of blowing the very valuable Ruby Glass to any of his employees (shades of Andrei Rublev!). The crowd, lacking their primary source of income from the outside world, goes into a batshit panic trying to figure it out. What you need to know here is that Herzog hypnotized almost everybody in the cast in order to get them to act in a certain agitated-zombie-like state, a state of mind where people spout improbable dialogue and have random outbursts. The one guy who wasn't hypnotized claimed that nobody was REALLY hypnotized, but just acted that way so they could be in a Herzog film. Your call. EXCELLENT soundtrack by Popul Vuh.

"Oh me! I feel I shall faint! Please, bring me a bromide, puh-leeze!"

 

9:00 p.m.
Thar she blows!
La Soufriere (Documentary)

Good Lord...that damn fool Herzog thinks it's a good idea to trudge off to this island with an active volcano that's about to BLOW, raining devastation down in a radius of several hundred miles in all directions, because there's ONE guy left on the island that refuses to leave, and he's just GOT to interview him. What an asshole!

 

9:45 p.m.
Is it a "grass is always greener" affair, or does every country in the world have better posters than the U.S.?
STROSZEK

Bruno S.'s other feature film, written in 4 days by Herzog, specifically for him. A German street musician travels to America with a prostitute and an old man to start a new life in Wisconsin, in the hometown of Ed Gein! Unfortunately, as we find in many of Herzog's films, certain people just NEVER MAKE IT in life, and Bruno is brutally left behind, but only after being stomped on in every possible way. Despite this description, this actually has strong elements of comedy to it, though it is also very sad and affecting, of course. Contains the classic line, "We've got a truck on fire, can't find the switch to turn the ski lift off, and can't stop the dancing chicken. Send an electrician."

Bruno's got a squeezebox he wears on his chest....

 

12:00 a.m. (Witching Hour!)
Give 'em something WITCHY
NOSFERATU

Probably the most famous of Herzog's films. Another classic Kinski performance, this time under some pretty heavy makeup. Herzog's vampyr is more his take on F. W. Murnau (hence the title) than Bram Stoker, and he portrays him as a true demon (as opposed to a suave baron), but also as an emotionally devastated and lonely soul, wandering the land without form or aim (or friend). Immortality this that and the other, sure, but think about the day-to-day drudgery that would involve living for 1000 years! Or more! If you haven't thought about it before, you will think about it now. And you'll probably drink beer and make vampire faces at each other too. And then you'll dream about winning the novelization of Nosferatu that will be raffled off that evening for a bit. But mostly, you'll just think about being a vampire, and how totally uncool it would be.

gimme some neck

 

2:00 a.m.
Is anyone else here disturbed by how similar THIS image/pose is with the Nosferatu pic above?
WOYZECK

Two Kinskis in a row! This classic 19th century play (made into an opera by serialist Alban Berg in the early part of the 20th) tells the tale of a soldier who has been stomped on by the Army in every possible way, and finally decides to take it out on his unfaithful mistress. Look at any stills from this flick, and you get the idea. Something terrible is INDEED about to happen!

You were expecting a happy ending?

 

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6
BOATS AND MOUNTAINS, HYMNS AND BALLADS, DREAMS AND DINNER

A hefty portion of today's menu will be given over to the classic Fitzcarraldo. First, we see the film, then a film about the film! When we're not watching all that boat-being-dragged-over-a-mountain goodness, we can treat ourselves to some unusual preachers, imaginary Aborigines, and snack on a shoe or two when we start feeling peckish.

11:00 a.m.
Better get you some churchin', Elwood!
CHURCH DUO: Huie's Sermon; God's Angry Man

"You get wise, Elwood...you get to church!" You too should wise with our first two documentaries of the day. Huie's Sermon visits the parish of the real-life preacher that inspired the Cleophus Jones character played by James Brown in The Blues Brothers. A real-time 45 minute sermon by this real-life roller of holiness, live from the late '70s devastation of the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of New York. God's Angry Man visits Rev. Gene Scott, a fiery televangelist who whips himself into an insane frenzy as he howls at his parish for MORE MONEY. Rev. Huie gets into some esoteric topics, including Jordache Jeans and sex-change operations. Rev. Scott demands more money so that "we can buy that prize-winning show pony!" Both are perfect soundtracks to your breakfast sandwich and hash browns.

 

12:40 p.m.
Better than eating crow, I suspect!
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (short)

You know those guys that just talk shit ALL THE TIME? You KNOW they're aren't ever going to follow through on any of their big plans? Well, Werner thought he saw one coming in the guise of Mr. Errol Morris, then a struggling film student. Morris was coming around, talking some smack about this film he was going to finish someday, a bunch of nonsense about pet cemeteries. Ever the betting man, Herzog looked him in the eyes and said, in his cold Teutonic rasp, "If you ever actually finish that film, Errol, I will eat my shoe." Well hey? Guess what?? You can rent Gates of Heaven any old time you want. As a result, Werner cooked his shoe (with the help of a dietitian), and, before a college audience, picked away at it piece by piece while explaining his thoughts on images in the cinema and our lack of new mythology in modern society (his two favorite subjects). "Man, this steak burrito is kinda CHEWY." (looks up at TV) "Well, never mind. It's okay."

 

1:20 p.m.
Looks like the "book on record" version of the movie...you know, for kids!
FITZCARRALDO

Another ABSOLUTE CLASSIC in the Herzog canon...if you've seen any one Herzog film before this fest, it was likely either this or Aguirre, just because those are the ones that are around the most. Again, a tumultuous story starring mighty leading man Kinski again - lucrative ice-baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (called "Fitzcarraldo" by the natives of South America, where he resides) turns to the rubber trade to double his fortunes, with the intention of "bringing opera to the natives." To afford his lifelong dream (building an opera house to the remotest portion of the Amazon), Fitzcarraldo decides that he needs to tap a nearby river for its abundant rubber trees. To do this, he needs to get a boat over there. And to do that....ah, yes, therein lies the fundamental image of this film, a man who uses his extraordinary wealth to PULL A STEAMSHIP OVER A MOUNTAIN. Herzog, ever the literalist, felt that audiences would be able to tell if he used a model, or any sort of special effects, and that it would not have the same resonance as if they saw real people pulling a real steamship over a real hill!! When asked "What if we cannot get a ship over a mountain using block-and-tackle?" he replied, "If it can be done, that is what the movie will be about. If it cannot be done, THAT is what the movie will be about!!" A timeless story, with a true-life behind-the-scenes story that is equally amazing, as you will see below...

His Master's Voice

 

4:15 p.m.
Such a heavy load...for the villagers to bear
BURDEN OF DREAMS (Documentary)

The making of Fitzcarraldo, directed by Les Blank. Watch Herzog and Kinski go at it like rabid wolverines! Watch natives offering to have Kinski killed (Herzog: "I would have liked to take them up on their deal, but I needed to finish a few more shots with Kinski, so I was forced to abandon their offer.")! Watch natives do horrible, backbreaking work that could kill them! Truly one of the most insane "making of a movie" documentaries ever, lapping Hearts of Darkness by a country mile.

 

6:10 p.m.
Werner takes time out of his busy schedule to pose with Singer/songwriter/actor Kris Kristofferson
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (Documentary)

A look at legendary mountain-climber Reinhold Messner, on the slopes that made him famous. It's weird...Herzog shot this documentary about the real Reinhold Messner in 1984, and then, about seven years later, shot a fictitious account of the same man, in his film Scream of Stone. And he's doing that again next year!! Word through the grapevine is that Herzog is working on Rescue Dawn, a fictitious account of the documentary story he filmed in 1993 as Wings of Hope. What does this all mean??

 

7:10 p.m.
Anyone remember when EVERY locally-run video store had a copy of this in their "foreign/nobody rents these" section?
WHERE THE GREEN ANTS DREAM

A tribe of Aborigines attempt to block an Australian mining concern's activities, which includes doing controlled explosions under the earth to "sound" for uranium deposits. The tribe leaders feel that these explosions will wake the green ants from their dreams...an event which will bring about the end of the world. Although the intricate and ornate legends recounted by the Aborigine actors sound real, they were in fact fabricated by Herzog himself, who did not have enough time to sufficiently study Aborigine lore to synthesize real fables into the story, and therefore wrote his own!

 

toot toot!

 

9:05 p.m.
This pic is way too unsettling to try being snide about
Ballad of the Little Soldier (Documentary)

Powerful and disturbing documentary. Herzog speaks to preteen soldiers in Central America, a veritable Children's Crusade, trained with the intention of fighting the child-soldiers in the Sandinista army. The children explain their horrible situation away in surface talk of revenge and noble cause, but their eyes tell a different story, the story told by all 11-year-olds forced by their surroundings into inhuman living conditions. An extra-horrible story to end your first weekend. Thanks for the memories folks, see you next Friday!!

 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11
THE END OF KINSKI, AND THE END OF THE WORLD

Kinski's final collaboration with Herzog starts Friday evening's night of "entertainments," and the burning oil fields of Kuwait take us into a new epoch...the Rust Age.

 

7:00 p.m.
No, waiter, I did NOT ask for Cobra Verde sauce on my chimichanga!
COBRA VERDE

The final Herzog/Kinski collaboration...they just couldn't deal with each other any more (and Kinski but a big definitive period on the sentence by dying 4 years later). Considered by many (the director among them) to be a less-than-perfect film, we're still treated to a smorgasbord of visual insanity in the form of warring tribes, rampant violence, totally illin' behavior on the part of slave traders, and the sight of a 62-year old Kinski going completely berserk with a spear in a crowd of African soldiers. You won't have time or inclination to nitpick any shortcomings of the screenplay when you're right there, hoping Krazy Klaus doesn't decide to jump through the screen and skewer you but good! AHHHHH!! LEMME SEE YER WAR FACE!!

Too many directors have been face to face with this site through the years (Kinski running at them with a spear, hollaring), but only one thought to actually film it!

 

9:15 p.m.
WODAABE: HERDSMEN OF THE SUN (Documentary)

Although the Wodaabe, a tribe in the Sahara who are barely surviving a never-ending onslaught of drought, dwindling population, and persecution from neighbors, would make an appropriate subject for a number of different documentaries, Herzog primarily highlights the visual elements of this tribe (who consider themselves "the most beautiful people on the earth"), in particular the extraordinary courtship ritual between men and women. In a reversal of gender order in just about every other part of the world, the males of the tribe primp and preen, showing off gleaming white teeth, bright white eyes, and ornate makeup for women who walk past them and pick an appropriate suitor. Imagine a town square in which a bunch of Lincoln Park Chads got all gussied up in ornate ceremonial finery (Abercrombie polos and Drakkar Noir?) and pranced and preened in front of a group of Trixies for the privilege of being chosen for a lifetime of wedded bliss. Doesn't compute, does it?

Buffalo boys, won't you come out tonight?

 

10:20 p.m.
JAG MANDIR (Documentary)

"The eccentric private theatre of the Maharajah of Udaipur," according to the director's website. That's all I know. Oh, and it seems that there's an elephant involved in some way, according to this picture.

 

12:05 a.m.
AHHHHHH! It's Donald Sutherland!!! AHHHHHHH!!!!!
SCREAM OF STONE

A mountain-man melodrama, based on real-life mountain-man Reinhold Messner, who we saw earlier in The Dark Glow of the Mountains. Looks good - I mean, check out that pic below...damn! And it's got Donald Sutherland in it! He's good too, right? But most critics say, not so good. I dunno. I'll leave this one in your court. Will YOU climb to the daunting peak of this oft-reviled film? Could this be the "O.C. and Stiggs" of the Herzog fest? Only one way to find out....

"OH SHIIIIIIIII....!"

 

2:05 a.m.
Burn baby burn
LESSONS IN DARKNESS

Intentionally or not, this fictionalized documentary works as the bookend to Fata Morgana. While that film imagined the birth of a new world, Lessons In Darkness portrays the death of a very old one. Herzog filmed this in Kuwait in 1991 when the oil fields were on fire, but it is NOT a documentary, and it is not a modern political allegory either. It is a series of powerful images, images of a world on fire, a world crumbling toward entropy, wrapped up in a scant sci-fi story. Nothing is what it seems, but everything is on fire, and the sun shines through the black clouds in a most despairing color. These are the kinds of images Herzog claims our modern society lacks, and until now, he may have been right. Now, we get them in full measure. Wake up! Look at that.

Hot or not?

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12
DAY OF THE DOCS

Through much of the '90s, Herzog did documentaries, a medium considered by many director's as the kiss of death, a sure sign that you've exhausted all your friends in Hollywood and are ready to be taken around back and shot. Not so for Herzog. Since he takes as many liberties with the details in his documentaries as with his fictional stories (see his Minnesota Declaration to get his take on what the documentary form is, and what it can be), it's not like he's doing anything THAT different here. Let's see...unfathomable characters, check. Improbable lore, check. Breathtaking imagery...yep, everything's here, everything's in place.

12:00 p.m.
Skating away (on the thin ice of a new day)
BELLS FROM THE DEEP: FAITH AND SUPERSTITION IN RUSSIA (Documentary)

 

Another one about which I have to claim ignorance. Whether these are real religious beliefs and superstitions, or ones that Herzog fabricated for the purpose of enhancing the nature of the narrative, I'm not sure. But that lady in the picture does seem to be standing on ice. I know that much.

 

1:20 p.m.
The painting....a primitive form of TV
GESUALDO: DEATH FOR FIVE VOICES (Documentary)

A documentary on the 15th century Italian composer. A strange figure in music history - as usual, Herzog looks for fringe characters as the subjects of his documentaries, and Gesualdo is definitely the Woodcarver Steiner of classical music. Several performances by "appreciation societies" border on madness, taking on an almost mockumentary, trekkie-convention element. Will we actually know more about the great Gesualdo when the film is over than when we began?

 

2:40 p.m.
I Believe I Can Fly
LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY (Documentary)

German-born, U.S.-based businessman Dieter Dengler recounts (and in many cases, re-enacts, sometimes even in the far-off places where they happened!) his experiences being shot down as a pilot in the Vietnam War. Dengler is one of only a handful of soldiers to escape from a P.O.W. camp and lived to tell his story. Although Dieter is obviously a haunted man, his love of life goes far beyond what might seem possible for a man who has endured the most brutal and horrific forms of torture and starvation imaginable. Despite the hideous nature of much of the narration, this is also considered one of Herzog's most uplifting (and best) documentaries, a real and un-syrupy "triumph of the human spirit" story.

...

 

4:15 p.m.
"Oh that Klaus! Ha ha, what a joker, pretending to strangle meaghhhhhh...."
MY BEST FIEND: KLAUS KINSKI (Documentary)

The no-holds-barred story of the tumultuous relationship between Herzog and Kinski through the years. Burden of Dreams contains few examples of the awful hissy-fits that went on between Werner and Klaus, but My Best Fiend bares all. It's hard not to imagine it being a rather one-sided telling of the whole story (I mean, Kinski had been dead almost 10 years when this was filmed!), but it's a fascinating one-sided story regardless. That Klaus, he sure did like to scream. Could it be true that the two of them were really conspiring to have the other killed at the exact same time? There, THAT got your attention, eh?

He was a tornado...When you watch a tornado laying waste to a village you don't ask what kind of problem does the tornado have. It is a force of nature. It is the village that has the problem. - Herzog on Kinski

 

6:10 p.m.
WINGS OF HOPE (Documentary)

In the style of Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Herzog finds another survivor of tragedy, one Juliane Koepcke, the only person to walk away from a plane crash in 1971, and has her recreate her experiences. As with many of Herzog's documentaries, facts are embellished or changed to turn a real-life story into an enduring artistic gesture.

 

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13
PRESENT DAY: WHEEL IN THE SKY KEEPS ON TURNING

It's still documentary-fever around Herzog central, though the inclusion of his classic Nazi-era fable will provide some big bang (and a little star power in the guise of Tim Roth) between the true tales. And yes, we've got the bear movie.

12:00 p.m.
No matter your religion, one thing is clear....religious garb looks SWEET!TWO SHORT DOCUMENTARIES: Christ & Demons In New Spain; Pilgrimage

More looks at religion, which just happen to fall on Sunday morning in the schedule. Christ & Demons covers Catholicism in Brazil, while Pilgrimage is a silent film (with musical accompaniment) showing pilgrims on their way to their various meccas, be it the Virgin of Guadalupe, the tomb of St. Sergei, or anywhere else that people will travel unimaginable lengths for their faith.

 

1:10 p.m.
Is that your final answer?
INVINCIBLE

Nazi-era morality fable concerning a good-hearted Jewish strongman who is recruited by the Nazis to portray an Aryan strongman. Tim Roth gives an oily and malevolent performance as notorious Nazi mystic Erik Jan Hanussen, while real-life Finnish strongman Jouko Ahola goes the route of Bruno S., baring his true nature without guile. This is Herzog's return to feature film after almost 10 years of creating only documentaries.

No way! Those things are totally hollow! They probably got gerbils running around in there!

 

3:20 p.m.
Ten Thousand Years Older (Short)

A small piece of speculative fiction created for a short-film omnibus. The last remaining tribe to avoid the influence of outside civilization is finally discovered by hidden cameras. The result of this intervention by outside society is simulated and reported upon from some time in the future.

 

3:30 p.m.
Approximate German translation: Time is RAD!! Alternate: It's the RAD time now!!!
WHEEL OF TIME (Documentary)

Called "The Woodstock of Buddhism," this enormous gathering of the devout involves a ritual for the purpose of bringing about peace throughout the world. Although Herzog was reluctant to tackle this film (admitting a lack of knowledge about Buddhist ritual and teaching), he was beseeched by the Dalai Lama himself to be The One Who Holds the Camera. Another beautifully captured film, documenting several Buddhist rituals never before shown!

You sank my battleship!

 

5:10 p.m.
Up, up and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful ba-LOOOOOOON!!!
THE WHITE DIAMOND (Documentary)

The White Diamond is a small-scale (2 passenger) research balloon, designed to travel just over the trees in the Amazon (again with the Amazon, Werner!?) to explore organisms inaccessible from the ground of the rainforest. The airship had a bit of trouble in the past, though - a cameraman that went up in it died. Of course, this doesn't deter Herzog from hopping right into the basket and strapping in. Sigh. Here we go again...

 

7:00 p.m.
Throbbing Grizzle
GRIZZLY MAN (Documentary)

Perhaps you saw this in the theatre a few months ago! One of Herzog's most acclaimed films in years, it is the tragic story of Timothy Treadwell, a dropout from the world and a self-professed lover of nature who has spent the past 13 summers living with grizzly bears in their natural habitat in Alaska. Although he claims that he is "protecting" them from poachers and dangerous humans, EPA people who get paid to know about this kind of things said that 1) the bears are plenty safe on their own, and 2) it's not a good idea to get bears accustomed to having humans around anyway. Tim looks in a bear's eye and sees the absolute perfection of nature. Herzog looks in the same eye and sees blind indifference, the manifestation of soulless animal instinct, the harsh reality of the natural order. Treadwell pushed his luck, and was eventually killed and eaten by a bear (his girlfriend was with him at the time, and was killed as well). Herzog portrays the man neither as a hero nor a fool, but a complex figure who epitomizes a certain aspect of modern culture - people who confuse the actions of animals with the motivations of humans. It's the mentality of people that dress up their pets in little people clothes and buy them their own four-poster beds taken to the final, disastrous extreme.

Alternate poster, obviously going after the Dave & Busters/SportMart demographic

 

9:00 p.m.
I know you are, but what am I?
WERNER HERZOG: I AM MY FILMS (Documentary)

Released in 1979, this documentary appears to have been made circa Stroszek, but as with the other Stiff-Legged festivals, it seemed like a career overview documentary would be a good way to wrap it up and tear it down. Watch one of Werner's actors challenge him to a fistfight, and then back down when he realizes he is actually going to have to follow through on the threat! Listen to Werner tell of the time as a child when Jesus and Santa Claus visited him on the same night! Marvel at the extraordinarily washed-out print (not to needlessly reiterate, but this is a HELLA RARE film, thus the griminess of it)! And when you've done all this, either STAY AND DRINK WITH ME or GO HOME!! Thanks for coming!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm serious....Tarkovsky-fest is REALLY NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.