Walking to Werner 

Directed by Linas Phillips

At Film Forum’s recent “Herzog (Non)fiction” series, I witnessed a crowd of young men and women trail Werner Herzog after a Q&A as if he were a prophet. Herzog’s Hemingwayesque stature as cinematic adventurer and melancholic dreamer has been inspiring such idolization for years; it’s therefore not incredibly eyebrow-raising that a young fan should emulate Herzog’s notorious ambulatory heroics and walk from Seattle to Los Angeles just to meet the director. Herzog built his legend in part on real physical and spiritual journeys he made on foot, and long-haired innocent Linas Phillips (squint hard and you can almost see a college-aged Klaus Kinski) takes the New German Cinema auteur’s epic excursions as models for his own trip of self-discovery. Never mind that Herzog won’t be waiting for him — the thrill, beauty, fear, and unforgiving arduousness of the road is what matters as Phillips battles nature, meets Herzogian fellow travelers (a recovering suicide, a nomad named Scorpio Johnnie Angel, a repentant murderer), and, like Fitzcarraldo, gives himself up to the majesty of the impossible. Get past his documentary’s intermittent sloppiness and you’ll be giving yourself up to it, too.

Opens July 20 at Anthology Film Archives


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