Werner Herzog is one of a tiny pool of directors to have mastered both fiction and non-fiction cinema, blurring the lines and challenging the conventions of both. He had one of his 40-year career’s biggest hits with the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man. This led to what many are calling his “Hollywood film,” his upcoming “summer blockbuster,” Rescue Dawn, itself a fictional retelling of his 1997 doc, Little Dieter Needs To Fly. Film Forum has programmed a 3-week series showcasing his substantial body of work as a “documentarian” (as well as a few films handpicked for the series by man himself).
Most of these films are not available on DVD (and were never released on video), so this career spanning retrospective is a rare treat. Must sees include Land Of Silence And Darkness (1971), my all-time favorite (and playing on my birthday to boot). One of his first films, it centers on the deaf and blind and their struggles to communicate, both with each other and the outside world. Never will you see a better film about the dignity of humanity. Also, The Great Ecstasy Of Woodcarver Steiner (1975) on the (moderately) big screen. It is as good an example of any of Herzog’s obsession with man’s striving for transcendence in the face of pettiness, confusion, and chaos.
Werner’s “Picks” include Chris Marker’s 1982 masterpiece Sans Soleil (soon to be released on DVD by the Criterion Collection), Hubert Sauper’s Oscar-nominated Darwin’s Nightmare (2004); and films by Errol Morris, Les Blank, and Jean Rouch.
Last but not least, Mr. Herzog will be in attendance for some of the screenings, so buy your tickets now!