Can you believe it's already August? A new month means TWO more films from our featured director, Werner Herzog. This month we will kick things off with another of Herzog's greatest accomplishments, Stroszek.
Stroszek is a 1977 film by Werner Herzog. Written specifically for Bruno Schleinstein, the film was shot in Berlin, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. Most of the lead roles are played by non-actors. Stroszek tells the story of a Berlin street performer, recently released from prison, who, with a prostitute and his elderly landlord, move to Wisconsin in the hopes of finding a better life for themselves. Stroszek was conceived during the production of another Herzog film, Woyzeck, which Herzog had originally planned to use Bruno in the title role. After believing Klaus Kinski to be more suitable for the part, Herzog specifically wrote the leading role in Stroszek to compensate Schleinstein for his disappointment over Woyzeck. The film was written in four days and uses a number of biographical details from Schleinstein's life.
The film holds an impressive 100% certified fresh rating, on Rotten Tomatoes, out of 13 critical reviews. Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars and added it to his list of Great Movies in 2002 saying this of the film, and specifically Bruno S. "Stroszek is one of the oddest films ever made. It is impossible for the audience to anticipate a single shot or development. We watch with a kind of fascination, because Herzog cuts loose from narrative and follows his characters through the relentless logic of their adventure. Then there is the haunting impact of the performance by Bruno S., who is at every moment playing himself...he is a phenomenon. Herzog says that sometimes, to get in the mood for a scene, Bruno would scream for an hour or two. In his acting he always seems to be totally present: There is nothing held back, no part of his mind elsewhere. He projects a kind of sincerity that is almost disturbing, and you realize that there is no corner anywhere within Bruno for a lie to take hold."
Our final documentary in our Werner Herzog series is the wonderful film Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is about the Chauvet Cave in southern France that contains the oldest human-painted images yet discovered. Some of them were crafted as much as 32,000 years ago. The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and consists of images from inside the cave as well as of interviews with various scientists and historians. The film also includes footage of the nearby Pont d'Arc natural bridge. The cave is carefully preserved and the general public is not allowed to enter. Herzog received special permission from the French Minister of Culture to film inside the cave. Having received permission, Herzog nonetheless had to film under heavy restrictions. All people authorized to enter must wear special suits and shoes that have had no contact with the exterior. Also, because of near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide, nobody can stay in the cave for more than a few hours per day. The film holds a 96% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 123 reviews and Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars saying this of the film, "The restrictions of four small portable light panels works to Herzog's advantage; as they move, they suggest how the flickering torches might have created an illusion of movement in those repeated features. The space was so limited it was impossible for his crew to stay out of many shots, and their shadows dance on the walls, just as the shadows of forgotten ancestors must have danced in the torchlight. Herzog's inspiration is to show us the paintings as the cave's original visitors must have seen them. I have seen perfectly lighted photographs of other cave paintings that are not so evocative."
(We will briefly return to our regular schedule for the month of September, but October will be our annual Horror Fest, so stay tuned for updates!)