Thursday, August 28, 2008

Burden of Dreams

I finally got to watch The Burden of Dreams by Les Blank. It documents Werner Herzog making Fitcarraldo in the middle of the Amazon, risking everything, including the lives of those around him. One, of many, dangerous ordeals undertaken by Herzog in the making of the film involved actually moving a steamship over a large hill in the middle of the jungle without using any special effects and very little equipment. I highly recommend it (another film with a similar theme is Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse).

Some Wernerisms from it:

"If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams and I don't want to live like that. My life begins and ends with this project."

"I'm running out of fantasy. I don't know what else can happen now."

There is a priceless interview, made after Herzog had spent years in the jungle trying to complete the film, during which a somewhat dazed Herzog rambles on about how the jungle is nothing but "fornication and death."

The Criterion edition also has the extra short (also by Blank) Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. This documents Werner cooking and actually eating his shoe in payment for a lost bet. Herzog had challenged Errol Morris, then living in the San Francisco Bay Area, by saying that he was not "brave enough" to actually complete a film and that he would eat his shoe if he ever did. Morris completed Gates of Heaven and Herzog flew to Berkeley for the premiere and ate his entire right shoe (except for the sole) in front of the audience (after cooking it at Chez Panisse). The short is also available online here.

If anyone is feeling particularly generous, there is also a nifty 6 dvd box set of documentaries and shorts by Herzog.

I'll talk more about Les Blank, George Kuchar, Kurt McDowell and other Bay Area filmmakers, in a future post. My brain nearly explodes trying to imagine a San Francisco Art Institute filmmaking class in the early 1970's taught by George Kuchar with Errol Morris as a student.

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