Monday, June 13, 2011
An evening with Werner Herzog
If you did not already know, the Hollywood Forever cemetery screens classic films from time to time...with a projector against a crypt wall! It's kinda insensitive but you tell yourself you're honoring the dead who surround you.
And Saturday night my girlfriend and I saw John Huston's "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" with Herzog hosting the event and taking questions afterwards. I've already seen the movie a few times before and I'll give you my thoughts on it later.
Herzog was the really star attraction here. I've only seen one of his movies, "Grizzly Man" which I found captivating. Herzog himself was quite pleasant. My girlfriend had taken his Rogue class with him a year ago which only accepts 50 students at a time out of thousands of applicants. After hearing him speak I think I may try to get in too.
Herzog praised Huston (who was buried near by) for his non-conformity and related a story of Huston traveling to Mexico (where the movie is set, just fyi) to his first time in the states. Herzog's visa was revoked for some vague reason which lead him to flee to Mexico, learn Spanish, and live there for a year or so. He also talked about how he and Huston preferred to get very little coverage when shooting and rarely use storyboards. As Herzog put it, "Storyboards are for people without strong imaginations" but I'm paraphrasing here. The bit about getting little coverage was Herzog's belief that a performance is hindered by repetition and that you are best off getting it right once and moving on (which also keeps you ahead of schedule).
Then the Q&A began and...oh boy. I am not a particularly brave person and never jump at the chance to say hi to a celebrity (especially given I live just north of L.A.) and this experience reinforced that fear. Not because Herzog was dismissive of the fans that flooded him with awkward questions, but because of HOW awkward they were AND the crowd's verbal reactions.
One woman wanted Herzog to come down and hug her nine-year-old son for good luck. Another asked if he'd seen Danny Boyle's "Shallow Grave" (which has a similar theme to Sierra Madre) and then proceeded to describe the film to him. Ugh. But the worst was the last...a schlub of a guy wanted to know if Herzog agreed with him on the "synchronicity" of the film...
Sorry, the what? The crowd's reaction was a loud groan with a few boo's for good measure. He went on to describe it as the film's quality "a-syncronation". Sweet god, it was difficult to watch. Someone from the crowd agreed and shouting "Get off the stage!" But the long and short of what the guy was asking was if Herzog thought the film was so perfect, it flawlessly communicated everything it was meant to. Well...yes. That's why we were there and celebrating it. More importantly, Herzog defended the schlub arguing with the irate audience that even though his name for his emotional connection with the film was different it was still just.
All in all it was a great night and has left me dying to see more of Herzog's films. He also had a story about working with Klaus Kinsky and how he shot another actor's finger off with a hunting rifle...yeah. For more on that it was recommended that I see the documentary "My Best Fiend" about the actor and director's relationship. I'm also dead set to watch Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant" which is available for streaming on netflix. BTW, Herzog said he loved working with Cage on it. I'll put the trailer for it below if you haven't already heard of it.
As for "Treasure of Sierra Madre" if you haven't seen it yet, you should! It's one of the best movies ever made (yes, up there with Casablanca). It's exciting, funny, and very tragic. If for no other reason see it for Walter Huston's (John's father whom he directed here in his Oscar winning role) performance as the original prospector.