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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Film Club: June

June is here so summer has, as far as I'm concerned, officially begun, and with it, our Summer Film Club.  The theme this year is Director Spotlight: Werner Herzog.  Each month we will be viewing TWO films by Werner Herzog, a feature film and a documentary.  I tried to pick a nice selection of some of his best, and most fascinating films.  Our first two films this month will be Heart of Glass and Little Dieter Needs to Fly.
The setting is an 18th century Bavarian town with a glassblowing factory that produces a brilliant red ruby glass.  When the master glass blower dies, the secret to producing the ruby glass is lost.   One of the most famous things about this film is that during shooting, almost all of the actors performed while under hypnosis.  Every actor in every scene was hypnotized, with the exception of the character Hias and the professional glassblowers who appear in the film.  The hypnotized actors give very strange performances, which Herzog intended to suggest the trance-like state of the townspeople in the story.  Herzog provided the actors with most of their dialogue, memorized during hypnosis.  However, many of the hypnotized actors’ gestures and movements occurred spontaneously during filming.

The film holds an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars, and added it to his list of Great Movies.  He said this of the film, “The interiors are darkly lit, with shadows gathered around them.  The music of Popol Vuh seems like melodies from purgatory.  Ordinary conversation is lacking, ordinary routines abandoned.  These are people solemnly waiting for…nothing.  Although some have found the film slow, I find it terrifying in its emptiness.  It is like looking down into a vertiginous fall at the edge of time.  Herzog fascinates me.  I feel a film like Heart of Glass comes as close to any single one of his titles to expressing the inchoate feelings in his heart. He was once asked what he would do if he had one day to live.  It’s a meaningless question, but I appreciated his answer: “Martin Luther said that if he knew the world were ending tomorrow, he would plant a tree.  I would start a new film.”

Our second film for this month is the documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly tells the story of German-born American and Vietnam veteran, Dieter Dengler.  As a child, he watched his village destroyed by American warplanes, and one flew so close to his attic window that for a split-second he made eye contact with the pilot flashing past.  At that moment, Dieter Dengler knew that he needed to fly.  As an 18 year old, he came penniless to America.  He enlisted in the Navy to learn to fly.  He flew missions over Vietnam.  He was shot down, made a prisoner, became one of only seven men to escape from prison camps and survive.  He endured tortures by his captors and from nature: dysentery, insect bites, starvation, and hallucinations.  In this film, Dengler and Herzog take us on a journey through the experiences he had as a prisoner.

The film holds a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars saying this of the film, "Herzog sees his mission as a filmmaker not to turn himself into a recording machine, but to be a collaborator.  He does not simply stand and watch, but arranges and adjusts and subtly enhances, so that the film takes the materials of Dengler's adventure and fashions it into a new thing.  Herzog starts with a balding middle-aged man driving down a country lane in a convertible, and listens, questions and shapes, until the life experience of Dieter Dengler becomes unforgettable.  What an astonishing man! we think.  But if we were to sit next to him on a plane, we might tell him we had seen his movie, and make a polite comment about it, and go back to our magazine.  It takes art to transform someone else's experience into our own."

If you haven't already checked out the trailers that were included in the last post, they are included here again:

Heart of Glass
Little Dieter Needs to Fly

I'm super excited for this summer's theme and I can't wait to share these films with you.  Hope to see you there!

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