Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Herzog. Encounters with Remarkable Men.

Well I finally saw Herzog with my own very eyes. Thanks to my friends Lauren and Dave, (Babushka and Little Fyodor) who clued me into the international conference at the University of Colorado. I had been to this conference before as an undergraduate in the mid 90s. The highlight of the experience was always Roger Ebert's "interruptus" session of some movie he thought worth dissection. It is a "democracy in the dark." A movie is watched in a theater (The Mackie Auditorium) but anyone is allowed yell "stop!" to make a point or ask a question. In the past it was wholly moderated by Ebert. But the man can't talk anymore.

All I knew was that Herzog was going to be in Boulder, and therefore, so must I. The details trickled in, but I was in such an excitement that nothing really registered except that "Herzog was going to be in Boulder!" A quick glance at the panels excited me further. A talk on his "walking on foot." And then two two-hour sessions of Aguirre the Wrath of God in Interruptus form over two days.

To my extreme delight I found out when I arrived that not only would it be Herzog, but also Ramin Bahrani, director of the neo-realist film "Chop Shop.' A film that I think is one of the best movies of the past decade. The absolute anecdote to Avatar. (He also directed the cutesy "Plastic Bag" short that's been floating around, narrated by Herzog.) Bahrani, a young accomplished director, and a professor at Columbia, asked all the best questions. And the audience mostly allowed the two do the majority of the commentary. Still, even when some knucklehead would ask a stupid question, Herzog could ALWAYS transmute the banal into the profound. He is just spectacular to see speak. *

We went up to talk to him afterwards; Babushka in the vanguard. She slipped him a CD of Little Fyodor and Babushka's Peace is Boring. And as a delightful consequence, the CD is a prop in the video that Ebert shot of Herzog explaining his latest project; something to do with a cave in France. Petroglyphs and stalagtites filmed in 3-D, apparently!

Here's Ebert's blog post from the first day.

I'm off screen. But only just. Off to the left, standing with Dave and Lauren (Little Fyodor and Babushka.)

If only I had the courage to chime in with something substantive, instead of enduring stupid comments from aging, clueless Boulderites! (I'm positive that there could be a very small number of people in the audience that knew as much about the man as I did--if any.) But I was mortified, less than ten feet away, in the presence of the man I most idolize on this planet. So, I didn't get to speak to him directly. That will have to happen another time.

* The esctatic culmination of this effect was at the end of the second showing day of Interruptus. Because Herzog could not stay the whole week, there was a short question and answer segment at the end. There was time for one last question, and this older dude was annointed with the honor of the last question. This gent stood up and announced he was very particular about movies. He questioned the special effects, and how a cannon that fell from a cliff wouldn't explode this or that way. Some literalist bullshit. Herzog took this deflating, idiotic question and went on to explain that he was a storyteller, and the moment in the story was one of many that form a fabric that leads the viewer into stranger and stranger realities.

Aguirre the Wrath of God was the first Herzog film I saw. I watched it almost disinterestedly on my roommate's tiny crappy TV on VHS. By the end of the movie I had felt like something had changed in me. Beyond something like "a ride," or "an experience." But an actual change in the way I experience reality.

The dissection of the last two days showed me in many ways how this is accomplished by Herzog. Slowly, ever slowly, the reality of the movie evolves so that the unacceptable becomes the acceptable. And it is not a drug trip crescendo; quite the contrary. The film is rooted: in the environment, the circumstances of production, the physicality of the jungle, in the mud, Kinski's histrionics--all of it is crafted by the structure of the movie to slowly change the viewer's mind what is acceptable and what is not. By the end we are in El Dorado with a demented conquistador who talks to monkeys. Yes, it is a parallel experience to drug or dream reality. But it is a conscious, crafted reality chiseled by an artisan. It is the difference being in love with a cloud and in a human being.

In short, my faith has been affirmed. Inspired anew!


Pree-oz said...

Dan, you are the master of meeting your heroes!! First DD and now Herzog.

Yer cool!

sarcasmus said...

thx P. You're jjang too! You're the ddong.

Bean said...

why no new posts, dan?

sarcasmus said...

i don't really feel the need to post anymore.

every once and awhile i will post on

or at

or at

or even at

and you can follow my twitter and google buzz and facebook feeds!