Posts Tagged ‘Werner Herzog’

Raindrops on the lens

April 14, 2010

Check out this new post by Scanners’ Jim Emerson, on Werner Herzog’s “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972; one of my all-time favorites); in it he documents a Q&A conducted with Herzog himself after a recent screening of “Aguirre.” I was kinda shocked to read the following passage:

As it turned out, Herzog was expert at making something worthwhile from even the most nonsensical or ill-thought-out questions. Take the one about the long, hypnotic, out-of-focus shot of the muddy river rapids, churning and splashing and bubbling (accompanied by eerie Popol Vuh music Herzog later re-used for “The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner”), which slowly comes into focus. Indeed, it follows a similarly long shot (in focus) of the undulating brown waters. “Stop!” said a member of the audience who observed that the shot was out of focus. “Was that intentional?”

“Probably not,” Herzog said. He likes to go into a location and capture it in many different ways (including shots of the actors just sitting around on the set, not knowing the camera is rolling, that are used in the finished film) — and, in this case, because they were in such a remote part of the jungle they didn’t have the luxury of looking at dailies. Herzog said he probably noticed the shot in the editing room, liked it, and chose to pair it with the other river shot.

Minutes later it happened again. Aguirre is seen in medium close-up, standing in the rain, on a raft floating down an Amazon tributary. A voice in the crowd observes that there are drops of water on the lens: “Was that intentional?” This time, Herzog is perhaps a little irritated, replying simply that they’re on a raft in the middle of a river and it’s raining. It’s fairly likely that water is going to get on the lens in such circumstances.

I say that I was “kinda shocked” because I vividly recall the “raindrops on the lens” shot and the way it stuck out to me on my first viewing of the film as being a very discreet yet utterly crucial (and philosophically significant) moment in film history. Granted, I hadn’t seen nearly as many movies back then as I have now, so my hyperbolic response is understandable. Still, it was a pleasant surprise to see that particular shot discussed somewhere.

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“Bad Lieutenant” at the Orpheum

March 6, 2010

Just thought I’d let y’all know that “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” which I wrote about in my column this week, is now playing at the Orpheum. Good thing, too: The film’s week-long run at Sundance ended on Thursday.

“Bad Lieutenant” is a lot of fun and a harmonica-backed hallucination covered in Herzog’s unmistakable fingerprints. It’s interesting how Herzog’s recent American productions have done little to diminish the distinctiveness of his directorial touch; yet, I also wonder whether idiosyncratic figures such as Herzog are somewhat problematic in that they too easily inspire the formation of “auteur cults,” effectively downplaying the significance of their collaborators, materials and milieus.

Anyway, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is highly recommended.

Made-for-TV Herzog?

March 4, 2010

It just so happens that the Badger Herald’s Tony Lewis also wrote about “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” in today’s paper; unsurprisingly, he and I had radically different responses. Lewis writes that “Cage rekindles his cinematic spark to save what would have otherwise been a lifeless made-for-TV crime drama.” He goes on, strangely enough, to take issue with Herzog’s direction:

Unfortunately, Cage’s spot-on performance is about the only thing keeping this film from drowning. Taking an approach similar to the one he took in his previous films, director Werner Herzog (“Rescue Dawn”) expertly focuses on the individual and his attempt to escape his personal prison. While Christian Bale’s prison in “Rescue Dawn” was a literal one, Herzog creates the same agonizing conflict with Cage’s character and his internal prison.

[…] Herzog’s ability to manipulate the cinematography so that it enhances the screenplay keeps the film looking dynamic even when the plot isn’t.

[…] Although “Bad Lieutenant” isn’t anything too out of the ordinary as far as crime dramas go, the one-two punch of Cage’s mesmerizing performance and the ominous, yet vivacious New Orleans cinematography make this film worth taking a shot on.

These remarks suggest a few things.

First, based on his references to “Rescue Dawn,” I suspect Lewis isn’t all that familiar with the rest of Herzog’s work, which is significant only insofar as a lack of familiarity with his idiosyncratic sensibility could easily cause a viewer to miss out on a good deal of what makes “Bad Lieutenant” so compelling and magnetic.

Second, Lewis doesn’t seem to understand that a director like Herzog would never dream of sticking to the script; he likely disregarded the screenplay more often than he “enhanced” it through “manipulations” of the film’s cinematography (I’m not exactly sure what that would even entail).

Third, if “Bad Lieutenant” honestly struck Lewis as being an “ordinary” crime drama, then he must be watching some incredibly far-out cop procedurals and I wish he’d furnish me with a recommendation. Though I’ve never been one to watch C.S.I.S. or N.C.I. or whatever, I seriously doubt that Herzog’s penchant for appealing to the mystical is par for the course.

And rest assured, dear reader: The plot of “Bad Lieutenant” is nothing if not “dynamic.”

Serene views of a combustible man

March 4, 2010

Because it is Thursday you may now read my latest column for the Daily Cardinal in today’s paper. This week I wrote about the semi-new Werner Herzog joint, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” which I dug quite a bit but remain unclear as to what it might mean for Herzog’s future. (I fully expect him to live to be 167 years old.) The film will be available on DVD at Four Star Video Heaven on April 6th. Perhaps you and I could even watch it together.

Trailer for ‘My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done’

August 18, 2009

Herzog contra Lynch. Disregard the apparent comprehensibility of this trailer; I very much doubt that it’s at all representative of what promises to be a strange, strange film.