Friday, April 29, 2011

GQ and Klaus Kinski on Werner Herzog.

GQ has a short but cool profile of filmmaker, Werner Herzog. Herzog has recently finished a 3-D film about the oldest known paintings in Chauvet cave.
I read an interview with Klaus Kinski yesterday. It was from an old Fangoria magazine. I mean no disrespect, but we all know Kinski was pretty crazy. Anyway, here is what he said about Herzog:
Fangoria: One of your latest films, Fitzcarraldo is already something of a legend...
Kinski: Yeah, they made a legend out of it. It's strange to see how a legend grows.
Fangoria: How did this one grow?
Kinski: Werner Herzog invents his own legends to make himself look interesting. He was writing down notes the entire time he was shooting the film. He had a notebook with him, always. It took him longer to write his ledger than it did to film the movie. Every three minutes, he'd be off scribbling. He was printing tinier than the print you find in the Bible. Brave! You can print smaller than the Bible.
He would send these letters back to newspapers in Germany, like some explorer describing the conquest of the North Pole. "This morning, Kinski tempts me.... but I resist! I cannot give up!" That sort of shit. "I have the feeling that Kinski is terrified of being filmed!"
Of course I was terrified of being filmed! The cameraman didn't know anything about lighting and half the crew didn't understand the movie.
Fangoria: Did Herzog's behavior strike you as being particularly odd?
Kinski: No. Herzog's always been like that. He did some strange things when we were filming Aguirre 12 years ago. He wanted us to do suicidal things. But he didn't count on me. I wouldn't get trapped like the others.
We were supposed to go down the jungle rapids in a raft. The local natives were saying "You'll die! You can't do that!" Herzog dismissed them. He was in a motorboat. I was on the damned raft with over 40 pounds of armor on. If I had fallen into the water, I wouldn't have been able to swim. The raft ran into a tree. We were in water up to our waists. I started cutting my armor off. Herzog told me to stop. To keep it on. I yelled back "F*ck you!" He didn't care about me. He filmed the entire scene with me cursing at him and cutting off my armor. Later, he played that one scene in Germany before the movie opened. He was already creating legends years ago. Me? I think a movie, if it's good, will create its own legend once it opens.
Fangoria: Do you dislike Herzog?
Kinski: No. He's a highly talented guy. He does very good movies and he's not the sort of person who always talks in bullshit. He does many, many things right. But he's also sick. Obsessed. He wants to make history, not movies. Anyone who wants to make history is stupid.
Kinski really got me thinking about Herzog as a storyteller vs. a filmmaker.
Herzog's film My Best Fiend, about his relationship with Kinski is a must-see for fans of either man. Herzog really lays into Kinski, in parts of the film. It is nice to hear a little from the other side, in the Fangoria interview. I'm sure the truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

When I read the first paragraph of the GQ piece, thinking of Kinski's quote, I had to laugh to myself:
"The daring German filmmaker Werner Herzog once walked a thousand miles to propose to a woman. He once plotted to firebomb his leading man's house and once ate his own shoe to square a bet. He once got shot in the stomach during a TV interview, then insisted on finishing. And despite it all, his latest adventure—a 3-D documentary about cave paintings—still sounds batshit crazy."

"The myth of his movies was compounded by the myth of Herzog himself; over time he became almost as famous for the stories of what happened during the making of his movies as for the movies themselves, particularly the two he made in the Peruvian Amazon, Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo. Fitzcarraldo took several years to complete and was beset by obstacles, and its on-screen story—the tale of an ambitious delusional man with a crazy dream to carry a ship from one river to another over a jungle-covered mountain—seemed to also become the story of its making. (Characteristically, Herzog decided that the best way to film a ship being moved over a mountain deep in the rain forest was to actually move a ship over a mountain deep in the rain forest, and film it.) From such stories, and from the intense and obsessive man Herzog seemed to be in the interviews he would give back then, the perception grew that he might genuinely be crazy."

(photo by Erinc Salor)

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