Werner Herzog’s “Even Dwarves Started Small”

Werner Herzog’s 1968 film Even Dwarves Started Small has a very specific and demanding vision dominated by extraordinarily long takes, the camera mercilessly watching as to what might unfold, be it a truck driving in an endless circle…dwarves (7)Dwarves looking at pictures of nude girls…dwarves (3)Or a chicken eating a dead mouse.Screenshot (55)Much is demanded of the audience, too much, throughout this drifting narrative in which dwarves yell and laugh maniacally as they wreck everything they can find.dwarves (8)Says Herzog: “Film is out about our collective dreams and also our collective nightmares, something that cannot be extinguished from our minds.”dwarves (5)

Nightmare indeed.

Ice Friday: Herzog’s “Kaspar Hauser”

Werner Herzog reflects on his 1977 film Kaspar Hauser:

I had a seven-minute-long sequence between Kaspar and an impoverished farmer in the countryside. The farmer in his despair had killed his last surviving cow. It was a very intense and beautiful scene, but somehow disrupted the flow of the story. It meant that the audience would have to take some time to get back into the story once the scene was over.
IMG_4898So I threw it out even though it was one of the two or three best sequences I had shot. I am not speaking here of the mechanics of the story. It fit in the story and it made a lot of sense when placed in context of the story of Kaspar being pushed into the world around him. But there was something about it that disrupted the flow of the film in terms of how I felt the audiences would receive it; they were detoured too far, and the return journey would have been too arduous. IMG_4900In such a case, as I work for the audience and for no one else, I had no problem throwing the scene out.*

(*From Herzog on Herzog, Interviews conducted by Paul Cronin.)


Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me, Earl and the Dying Girl is an awkward tale featuring an irritating high school senior who is compelled by his mother to spend time with a girl dying of cancer. 1288fe3341f2203c06c9ff64e559bb64The awkwardness is trite and purposeful, portraying the world of teenagers with some accuracy, and is wearing in the end. The exhausting atmosphere is best seen in the protagonist’s obsession with cinema, making countless references to art house films, featuring no less than three from Werner Herzog. MyBestFiend3As endearing as this element is intended, it falls flat, trying too hard, while pretending not to, and concluding with a shrug, despite a dramatic and emotional end.

The GIF: Realizing an Existential Nightmare

Existentialists tend to discourse on our sorry lot as humans in this life, caged between birth and death, trapped in this existence, the terror and nausea of realizing how lousy it all really is. alice trappedFriedrich Nietzsche referred to this terror as the greatest weight: What if this life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence — even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself.

starlightThe eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, a speck of dust!

Jean-Paul Sartre expounded on the horror in his play No ExitYou have stolen my face from me: you know it and I no longer do. beautiful faceLuckily, thanks to our evolved sensibilities and their application to technology, we can see the kernel of this philosophical gobbledygook captured in profound and eternal loops.

car crashcat's tailsexy-girl-gifThe GIF – or Graphic Interchange Format – is, as Albert Camus wrote, basically, at the very bottom of life, which seduces us all. There is only absurdity and more absurdity. And maybe that’s what gives us our joy for living, because the only thing that can defeat absurdity is lucidity.

gopro_bike_rideYes, life just as Nietzsche envisioned it. sex gifexistential

Werner Herzog: The Myth of the Man

20140905_072700“There are 50,000 spectators,” Werner Herzog explained to the rapt audience at BAM, the final image of his documentary The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Stein on display.Screenshot (293) “But we see only the man alone against the snow.”

In his interview at BAM’s Harvey Theater in Brooklyn on Thursday night, Herzog admitted to creating myths in his documentaries; he has often stated that “all filmmakers are liars”.

Herzog does not believe in documenting facts, offering data to support a thesis, but instead creates a nebulous thing from which a greater truth may be derived.

He uses whatever he has – everything from archival images of starving people gazing longingly at a sausage (Little Dieter Needs to Fly) to an albino alligator (Cave of Forgotten Dreams) – to make his film work; it doesn’t matter if the material is factually accurate. He has gone so far (in Lessons of Darkness) as to write down his ideas and attribute them to Blaise Pascal, just for effect:

The collapse of the stellar universe will occur - like creation - in grandiose splendor.

The collapse of the stellar universe will occur – like creation – in grandiose splendor.                – –  Werner Herzog

At the end of the talk, Herzog read from his book, Conquest of the Useless, a journal he kept while filming Fitzcarraldo:

fitz02I did not even feel my bleeding foot. There was no pain, no joy, no excitement, no relief, no happiness, no sound, not even a deep breath. All I grasped was a profound uselessness, or to be more precise, I had merely penetrated deeper into its mysterious realm.

Aspiring to the Enigmatic: Five Film Scenes

Advertisers want to give us answers, all of our confusion beaten into sell-able pulp.

Christian Dior sells the bag, not the question.

Christian Dior selling purses.

Movie trailers are the same.

Luhrman's "The Great Gatsby"

Baz Luhrman’s “The Great Gatsby”

All of it so simple and pornographically direct. Screenshot (208)The failure is in their intent, attempting to answer everything, give our lives a clear, cohesive narrative, when it is just the opposite.

Being John Malkovich

Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich”

Real questions don’t do well under the spotlight; they wilt and are never clear. Sudden and enigmatic, they only offer a glimpse, making us stop and think, “Wait. What was that?”

5. Being There (1979, Hal Ashby) Chance watches cartoons in a limousine.Screenshot (262)4. The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick): American soldiers walk by a local in Guadalcanal.

Screenshot (277)3. Punch Drunk Love (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson): A car crashes in an empty street.Punch Drunk (3)2. The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols): True love is realized…and then what?the_graduate_ending_shot_elaine_and_benjamin_on_bus1. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog): In the end, only monkeys are left for the revolution.600x1000px-LL-89d5a674_aguirre

Who is with me?

The Academy’s Most Popular Award

Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is occasionally on the mark with their annual Best Picture – Casablanca (Curtiz, 1943), Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969), Annie Hall (Allen, 1977) & No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007). no-country-for-old-menHowever these awards have more to do with Hollywood politics and marketing campaigns – such as Harvey Weinstein bullying on behalf of the dreadfully mediocre Shakespeare in Love (1998) – and much less to do with the art of film-making. shakeAs a consequence, the Best Pictures ends up consistently falling short. This isn’t just an issue with which film wins, but which are nominated and has been a problem right from the start of the Awards in 1927. The most apparent has been in the exclusion of most of the great foreign films in ages past, failing to nominate Passion of Joan of Arc (Dryer, 1928), M (Fritz Lang, 1931), La Regle de Jeu (Renoir, 1939), regle-du-jeu-05-gSeven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954), Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957), Breathless (Godard, 1960), Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog, 1973) and The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986) and City of God (Meirelles, 2003)…to mention only a fraction. cityofgodThe Academy is flawed at its core, responding to the topicality of the film – social movements above all – and less to the work itself. “Best Pictures” are often predicable and dull, lacking in both vision and inspiration…and this year is no different. Here’s my list of the Academy’s most glaring mistakes.

Not even nominated                  Winner (Soon to be Forgotten)

1933      Duck Soup (McCarey)              Calvalcade (Lloyd)GROUCHO MARX

1946      Gilda (Vidor)                                Best Years of Their Lives (Wyler)

1952      Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly)            Greatest Show on Earth (DeMille)

1958      Vertigo (Hitchcock)                      Gigi (Minnelli)

1968      2001: Space Odyssey (Kubrick)  Oliver! (Reed)2001_-a-space-odyssey-large-picture

1979      Manhattan (Allen)                        Kramer vs. Kramer (Benton)

1982      Blade Runner (Scott)                   Gandhi (Attenborough)

1989      Do the Right Thing (Lee)              Driving Miss Daisy (Beresford)Do the right thing

2003      Elephant (Van Sant)                     The Lord of the Rings (Jackson)

2013      The Master  (Anderson)               Argo (Affleck)themaster

That’s Show Biz.