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‘Signs of Vigorous Life’: The New German Cinema of Schlöndorff, Herzog, Wenders and Fassbinder

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In February 1962, a group of young German film-makers issued a statement at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia. Called the Oberhausen Manifesto, the declaration stated, “Der alte Film ist tot. Wir glauben an den neuen” (“The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema”):

The decline of conventional German cinema has taken away the economic incentive that imposed a method that, to us, goes against the ideology of film. A new style of film gets the chance to come alive.

Short movies by young German screenwriters, directors, and producers have achieved a number of international festival awards in the last few years and have earned respect from the international critics.

Their accomplishment and success has shown that the future of German films are in the hands of people who speak a new language of film. In Germany, as already in other countries, short film has become an educational and experimental field for feature films. We’re announcing our aspiration to create this new style of film.

Film needs to be more independent. Free from all usual conventions by the industry. Free from control of commercial partners. Free from the dictation of stakeholders.

We have detailed spiritual, structural, and economic ideas about the production of new German cinema. Together we’re willing to take any risk. Conventional film is dead. We believe in the new film.

It was signed by twenty-six film-makers including Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz. But it would take until the end of the decade before a more radical and ambitious group of film directors put into practice the aims of the Oberhausen Manifesto.

Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Jean-Marie Straub and Rainer Werner Fassbinder allied themselves to a New Cinema that dealt with the interests and issues of their generation, and sought to achieve an excellence of creativity, rather than films made for purely commercial reasons.

Schlöndorff, Herzog, Wenders and Fassbinder were to pioneer this New Cinema, and their movies (including The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, The Goalkeeper’s Anxiety of the Penalty Kick, The Merchant of Four Seasons) were to become amongst the most artistically significant of the 1970s.

Signs of Vigorous Life: New German Cinema is a short documentary on the origins of New German Cinema, which features interview footage with Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Rainer Werner Fassbinder died 30 years ago today


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Werner Herzog figures out that John Waters is gay!
04.19.2012
09:41 am

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John Waters
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Werner Herzog has terrible gaydar! Maybe the worst ever.

They’ve been friends for thirty-five years!
 

 
Thank you Edward Ludvigsen!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Room 666: Wim Wenders asks fellow Directors about the state of Cinema, from 1982

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During the Cannes Film Festival in 1982, Wim Wenders set-up a static camera in a room at the Hotel Martinez. He then invited a selection of directors to answer a series of questions on the future of cinema:

“Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?”

The directors, in order of appearance were:

Jean-Luc Godard
Paul Morrissey
Mike De Leon
Monte Hellman
Romain Goupil
Susan Seidelman
Noël Simsolo
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Werner Herzog
Robert Kramer
Ana Carolina
Maroun Bagdadi
Steven Spielberg
Michelangelo Antonioni
Wim Wenders
Yilmaz Güney

Each director was alloted 11 minutes (one 16mm reel of film) to answer the questions, which were then edited together by Wenders and released as Room 666 in 1982. Interestingly each director is positioned in front of a television, which is left on throughout the interview. It’s a simple and effective film, and the most interesting contributors are the usual suspects. Godard goes on about text and is dismissive of TV, then turns tables by asking Wenders questions; Fassbinder is distracted (he died within months) and quickly discusses “sensation oriented cinema” and independent film-making; Herzog is the only one who turns the TV off (he also takes off his shoes and socks) and thinks of cinema as static and TV, he also suggests movies in the future will be supplied on demand; Spielberg is, as expected of a high-grossing Hollywood film-maker, interested in budgets and their effect on smaller films, though he is generally buoyant about the future of cinema; while Monte Hellman isn’t, hates dumb films and tapes too many movies off TV he never watches; all of which is undercut by Turkish director Yilmaz Güney, who talks the damaging affects of capitalism and the reality of making films in a country where his work was suppressed and banned “by some dominant forces”.
 

 
With thanks to Tara McGinley, via The World’s Best Ever
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Werner Herzog Doesn’t Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas..But It’s a Nice Thought
12.17.2010
01:13 pm

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Well, I admit it. I was fooled. And yes, it seemed almost too good to be true.  And yep, it was.

So, this isn’t Werner Herzog reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, but it’s still a nice thought, just like the one I have about the fat guy in the red suit with the white beard, who’s allegedly bringing me lots of presents…I hope.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Happy birthday Les Blank: Werner Herzog eats his shoe!
11.27.2010
07:10 pm

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Werner Herzog
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Errol Morris

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The master documentarian Les Blank turned 75 today, and there’s no shortage of his films to recommend, including The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hot Pepper and Burden of Dreams.

But one of his most infamous pieces is the 1980 short Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. It follows the great German director in the San Francisco Bay Area as he makes good on the bet he made that filmmaker Errol Morris couldn’t make and publicly screen his film about pet cemeteries, Gates of Heaven. Morris succeeded, and the ever-charming and rather hilarious Herzog obliged, even stewing the footwear at Alice Waters’s recently opened post-hippie gourmet shack Chez Panisse.
 

 
Check pt. 2 after the jump…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Werner Herzog recalls the time he rescued Joaquin Phoenix from lighting a deadly cigarette

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Sascha Ciezata’s When Herzog Rescued Phoenix is based on a true story told by Werner Herzog.

Ciezeta also made another film with a similar concept called When Lynch Met Lucas which ran into some problems.

My immensely popular animated short film When Lynch Met Lucas was pulled off Vimeo and several other sites by a certain “organization” (who claims to support the arts and artists) with a rather nebulous claim that they own the copyright to the audio portion of my film.

Here’s When Herzog Rescued Phoenix followed by Where’s When Lynch Met Lucas??, which Ciezata shot on his iphone.
 

 
Where’s When Lynch Met Lucas?? after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Tips From The Werner Herzog Rogue Film School
10.05.2009
01:53 pm

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As the school’s website touts, it’s not for the fainthearted, but sex-club bouncers might find the admissions process particularly breezy!

The Rogue Film School will be in the form of weekend seminars held by Werner Herzog in person at varying locations and at infrequent intervals.

The number of participants will be limited.

Locations and dates will be announced on this website and Werner Herzog’s website: www.wernerherzog.com approximately 12 weeks in advance.

The Rogue Film School will not teach anything technical related to film-making.  For this purpose, please enroll at your local film school.

The Rogue Film School is about a way of life.  It is about a climate, the excitement that makes film possible.  It will be about poetry, films, music, images, literature.

The focus of the seminars will be a dialogue with Werner Herzog, in which the participants will have their voice with their projects, their questions, their aspirations.

Excerpts of films will be discussed, which could include your submitted films; they may be shown and discussed as well.  Depending on the materials, the attention will revolve around essential questions: how does music function in film?  How do you narrate a story? (This will certainly depart from the brainless teachings of three-act-screenplays).  How do you sensitize an audience?  How is space created and understood by an audience?  How do you produce and edit a film?  How do you create illumination and an ecstasy of truth?

Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking.  Traveling on foot.  The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully.  The athletic side of filmmaking.  The creation of your own shooting permits.  The neutralization of bureaucracy.  Guerrilla tactics.  Self-reliance.

Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.

Related, but more reflective, will be a reading list: if possible, read Virgil’s “Georgics,” read “Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber,” The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee M. Hollander (in particular the Prophecy of the Seeress), Bernal Diaz del Castillo “True History of the Conquest of New Spain”.

Follow your vision.  Form secretive Rogue Cells everywhere.  At the same time, be not afraid of solitude.

For more information on becoming a student, see: Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School

 

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers

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Despite its Jason Pierce score and Werner Herzog subplot, Mister Lonely, Harmony Korine‘s feature film from ‘07 left me bored and disappointed.  Its opening moments had a sense of poetry and provocation (see here), but all that was quickly squandered as Korine, striving to broaden his film’s appeal I’m guessing, attempted the distinctly non-Gummo feat of “establishing his characters.”

Korine’s new film, Trash Humpers, premiered this week in Toronto and, fortunately, it looks like he’s left very far behind him the burdens of character development.  The trailer follows below, but I’m finding even more intriguing this Variety review which opens thusly:

Pity the festival-going fool who stumbles unawares into Harmony Korine’s patently abrasive, deliberately cruddy-looking mock-documentary “Trash Humpers.”  All others—that is, those familiar with Korine’s anti-bourgeois oeuvre and know what they’re in for—will have a glorious time.

Named for a band of cretinous vandals in old-folks masks who favor gyrating against garbage cans (and worse), “Trash Humpers” is a pre-fab underground manifesto to rank beside John Waters’ legendarily crass “Pink Flamingos.”  Theatrical distribution is virtually inconceivable—though, in part for this reason, any fest devoted to maintaining its rep among cult-film completists will simply beg for it.

 
In Daily Variety: Trash Humpers

Trash Humpers @ The Toronto Film Festival

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Werner Herzog’s La Boheme

 
Taking bullets, battling Kinski, is there NOTHING Werner can’t do?!  As spotted in the LA TimesCulture Monster:

Leave it to stubbornly iconoclastic filmmaker Werner Herzog to breathe new life into the well-worn score of Puccini’s “La Boh?ɬ

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment