November 18, 2011
THE BEST documentarians, to my mind, build a bond of trust with an audience by making us feel as though we are on a journey of discovery right along with them. No preaching, no preconceived agenda. One of the best working today is Werner Herzog, whose docs are far too weird and singular ("Encounters at the End of the World," "Grizzly Man") to be designed around any sort of agenda. That's true of his latest - "Into the Abyss" - which wanders around the edges of capital punishment, but ends up going off in typically (for Herzog)
October 4, 2002 |
If German director Werner Herzog was going to return to his past and resurrect some freakish animal for his new movie, "Invincible," you wish that at least he'd choose the hordes of chattering monkeys that populated his best movie, "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" instead of the red African crabs he used in his documentary "Echoes from a Somber Empire. " Just a thought, and admittedly a random one, but then Herzog gives you plenty of time to ponder such trivialities while watching his lumbering return to fiction filmmaking.
February 16, 2013 |
It's a great place for dogs, Bakhtia. In winter, when the Yenisei River is frozen over in this remotest patch of Siberia (accessible only by helicopter or, in summer months, by boat), the huskies go hunting with their masters, or tag along behind undulating snowmobiles, or curl up in a patch of sun in an opening between massive firs. When the ice thaws, they help to catch fish. The males and females breed. Puppies are born, and the cycle continues. Although Happy People: A Year in the Taiga isn't really about the dogs, documentarian Werner Herzog is fascinated by these keen-eyed beasts, and their relationship with man. But per the title, this engaging film - which Herzog cut down to size from a four-hour Russian TV program by Dmitry Vasyukov - is about the human residents of the village in the Taiga boreal forest.
December 15, 1995 |
During the arduous filming of Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Werner Herzog was rumored to have arrived at a new understanding of a "shooting script" by pulling a gun on his star, the late Klaus Kinski, who wanted to quit. Since cast and crew were enduring much privation in the jungles of Peru, Kinski's unhappiness and exhaustion were understandable. But he stayed, and Aguirre is one of his most arresting collaborations with Herzog. The film is a haunting story of the fate of a band of conquistadors under the command of the undeniably mad Don Lope de Aguirre (Kinski)
July 13, 2007 |
Man's battle to survive the unforgiving forces of nature, and to survive the interior forces that lead to obsession and madness - these are themes running through most, if not all, of Werner Herzog's work. And in the gripping true-life saga Rescue Dawn, they are visited again. Here, the director of Grizzly Man and Fitzcarraldo has recruited the scarily good, and once again scarily emaciated, Christian Bale (see The Machinist) to play Dieter Dengler. A German-born U.S. fighter pilot shot down over Laos during a secret bombing mission in the early days of the Vietnam War, Dengler was captured, tortured and tossed into a compound run by the Viet Cong.
November 27, 2009 |
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Werner Herzog's luridly entertaining police noir, is a one-of-a-kind experience that boasts a twice-in-a-lifetime performance from Nicolas Cage. The actor has not gone this deep into the abyss since Vampire's Kiss (1989). You watch, hypnotized. Will he crawl his way out? Will you? In Herzog's film, which shares a title and little else with Abel Ferrara's 1992 Bad Lieutenant, Cage plays a crackpot (not to mention crackhead) law-enforcement officer emerging from the primal ooze of post-Katrina New Orleans.
July 11, 2008 |
Have camera, will travel. In pursuit of a compelling story, Werner Herzog will go anywhere. He has pitched his tripod in the Alaskan wilderness (Grizzly Man), on the lip of an active Caribbean volcano (La Soufri?re), and only-God-and-Klaus-Kinski-know-where up the Amazon River (Aguirre, the Wrath of God). A contrarian spiritual journey as provocative as it is hypnotic, Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World literally treks to planet's end. The irascible filmmaker travels to the geographic end-of-world in McMurdo, Antarctica, and its environs to profile a handful of vagabonds and visionaries, who, like him, contemplate the mortal end of the world by pondering its beginnings.
January 9, 1986 |
If you want five straight hours of top-notch entertainment, tune to Channel 3 at 8, stay there until 11, then switch to cable TV's Lifetime network. This delicious video feast begins with four good NBC comedies (The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court), includes Hill Street Blues and ends with a singularly bizarre drama, Fitzcarraldo. EVENING HIGHLIGHTS THE COSBY SHOW (8 p.m., Ch. 3) - Like St. Elsewhere, this show has become so reliable, it's a sure bet as an evening highlight.
December 30, 2005 |
In the world of DVD releases, weeks like this are pretty slow; most distributors of movie discs put out their products before the holidays. A real gem, however, came out this week. The Grizzly Man DVD contains not only the strange journey of a man answering the call of the wild (and ultimately succumbing to it), but it also has an excellent featurette devoted to one aspect of films often overlooked in DVDs' extra content - the music. Those with gift cards or receipts for discs they don't want would do well to pick up this documentary.