Posts tagged: germany
Dear Unthinkable Mind Students,
Works in progress are beautiful things. These images make me think of your composition notebooks.
Professor Old Skull
“Selected pages from the Spätgotisches Musterbuch des Stephan Schriber, a manuscript which appears to be some kind of sketchbook, belonging to a 15th century monk working in South-West Germany, where ideas and layouts for illuminated manuscripts were tried out and skills developed.”
Screen captures from The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), directed by Fritz Lang, adapted from Norbert Jacques’ novels by Thea von Harbou.
Christmas greetings from Fritz Lang and the crew of Metropolis
WILL’S CINEMATIC HALL OF FAME
Werner Herzog week continues with My Best Fiend (1999)
To my eyes, My Best Fiend, Herzog’s documentary self-portrait about his personal and professional relationship with Klaus Kinski, is both one of the most irresistible and most flawed of Herzog’s films. It suffers the practical flaw that little footage exists of Kinski and Herzog together, so for much of the runtime, Herzog simply sits in the locations where their films were shot and tells anecdotes to the camera. However, what footage Herzog digs up is uniformly memorable: Kinski raging at the audience during his “Jesus Tour”; Kinski berating a crew member on the set of Fitzcarraldo (a deleted scene from Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams); a touching moment of Herzog and Kinski hugging each other/chatting affectionately at the Telluride Film Festival; a side-by-side comparison between Jason Robards’ aborted performance as Fitzcarraldo, and Kinski’s.
The other flaw is more conceptual. Ostensibly a tribute to his late collaborator Klaus Kinski, My Best Fiend strikes me as more than a little self-serving. No doubt plagued for years by the myths that arose from the productions of Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo (like the old story that he forced Kinski to act at gunpoint - or at least threatened it), My Best Fiend feels like an attempt by Herzog to position himself as the only sane man who could harness the volatile madman. There are many stories of Kinski’s ranting and raving, and comparatively few about his talent or warmth (Claudia Cardinale and Eva Mattes are on-hand to provide some kind words), and it’s hard not to wince when Herzog says things like, “Together we were like two critical masses which made for a dangerous combination when coming into conflict.” More than anything, My Best Fiend makes me wish Kinski was alive to provide a rebuttal.
But while this is hardly a great movie, it is, as I said, irresistible. All these flaws could be excused away by the sheer fact that a film like this is a valuable document. You may quibble with his presentation, but this is inarguably Herzog’s perspective of Kinski, and how wonderful it would be if every prolific actor/director team produced an autobiographical document of this nature (Scorsese/DeNiro, Kurosawa/Mifune, Von Sternberg/Dietrich, Greydon Clark/Joe Don Baker… the possibilities are endless). And, if you like hilarious stories about Kinski throwing tempter tantrums, My Best Fiend has ‘em in spades.
Recommended after - and only after - viewings of all five Kinski/Herzog films.
There are very few English-language interviews with Klaus Kinski, but this invaluable collection of Kinski resources includes an interview he did with Fangoria, issue #24:
Fangoria: One of your latest films, Fitzcarraldo, is already something of a legend…
Kinski: Yeah, they made a legend out of it. It’s strange to see how a legend grows.
Fangoria: How did this one grow?
Kinski: Werner Herzog invents his own legends to make himself look interesting. He was writing down notes the entire time he was shooting the film. He had a notebook with him, always. It took him longer to write his ledger than it did to film the movie. Every three minutes he’d be off scribbling. He was printing tinier than the print you find in the Bible. Brave! You can print smaller than the Bible. [NOTE: Herzog’s diaries were published in 2009 as “Conquest of the Useless”]
He would send these letters back to newspapers in Germany, like some explorer describing the conquest of the North Pole. “This morning, Kinski tempts me…but I resist! I cannot give up!” That sort of shit. “I have the feeling that Kinski is terrified of being filmed!” Of course I was terrified of being filmed! The cameraman didn’t know anything about lighting and half the crew didn’t understand the movie.
Fangoria: Was filming in the Amazon jungle as rough as Herzog states?
Kinski: We made it rough. The jungle is life itself. A thousand times more alive than anything you’ve ever seen. We didn’t go there to be a part of it. We invaded it. We shaved the jungle and made a stinking camp in the middle of it. Radios blaring. It was disgusting.
Herzog was most interested in showing the world that he could pull a 250 ton ship over a mountain. That’s the plot of the movie. I would say things like, “You are stupid! This task is stupid! What are you trying to prove? American movie makers would use a small model ship that would duplicate the full scale ship. You’d save time. You’d save money!”
He said, “No, I want to show the world that I can do what nobody has ever done.” I say to that, “Fuck that, asshole.”
The real Fitzcarraldo’s ship was only 35 tons. He had it dismantled and carried across the jungle. Herzog wanted to outdo the real Fitzcarraldo. That’s crazy.
Fangoria: Did Herzog’s behavior strike you as being particularly odd?
Kinski: No. Herzog’s always been like that. He did strange things when we were filming Aguirre 12 years ago. He wanted us to do suicidal things. But he didn’t count on me. I wouldn’t get trapped like the others.
We were supposed to go down the jungle rapids in a raft. The local natives were saying “You’ll die! You can’t do that!” Herzog dismissed them. He was in a motorboat. I was on the damned raft with over 40 pounds of armor on. If I had fallen into the water, I wouldn’t have been able to swim. The raft ran into a tree. We were in the water up to our waists. I started cutting my armor off. Herzog told me to stop. To keep it on. I yelled back “Fuck you!” He didn’t care about me. He filmed the entire scene, with me cursing at him and cutting off my armor. Later, he played that one scene in Germany before the movie opened. He was already creating legends years ago. Me? I think a movie, if it’s good, will create its own legend once it opens.
Fangoria: Do you dislike Herzog?
Kinski: No. He’s a highly talented guy. He does very good movies and he’s not the sort of person who always talks in bullshit. He does man,y many things right. But he’s also sick. Obsessed. He wants to make history, not movies. Anyone who wants to make history is stupid.