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That time Werner Herzog lost a bet and had to eat his shoe

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You’re only as good as your word. That’s what I was always told when I was young. Never say something unless you mean it. That was another. Both taught me that words had meaning, purpose, importance—their own intrinsic value—a kind of verbal contract.

(I believe you lovely Americans phrase it “Don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash.”)

German film director Werner Herzog is a man of his word. You can trust him. You know if he says he is going to do something—well, hell, he’s going to do it. Or at least try his damnedest. And here’s the proof…

Sometime in the late 1970s, Werner Herzog made a bet with a young filmmaker named Errol Morris. Herzog said he would he eat his shoes if Morris ever got round to making a film. Herzog had listened to this young wannabe filmmaker go on and on and on about the kind of films he was going to make—one day. Of course he did, but no one knew that then. Anyway, somehow all Morris’s talk about his great big movie plans never seemed to come to fruition. It was this seeming lack of purpose that irked Herzog and led to his now legendary bet.

Herzog met Morris at Pacific Film Archive (PFA) on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Morris was studying philosophy but ditched it in order to spend time hanging out with all the other filmmakers congregating round the PFA. It was here Morris first met and became friends with Herzog.

Morris was movie buff—he particularly liked film noir. He also had a great interest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the true exploits of killer Ed Gein upon which the film was based. Herzog shared this macabre interest.

In 1975, Morris and Herzog hatched a plan inspired by their joint fascination with Gein. The pair agreed to travel to Gein’s home in Plainfield, Wisconsin, where they would disinter the killer’s mother to find out if it was at all possible for Gein to have dug her up. Of course, being a man of his word, Herzog traveled to the location and waited patiently for Morris to arrive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Morris was a no-show. This led Herzog to abandon their joint venture.
 
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Herzog on his way to eat his shoes.
 
In 1976, Herzog returned to Plainfield during filming of his movie Stroszek. Here he found Morris living in a small apartment next to Gein’s house. Morris had spent almost a year interviewing residents about the cannibal killer.

Herzog offered Morris work on his latest feature. He also gave Morris an envelope crammed with $2,000 in cash to go and finally start making a film. Morris rejected the money, tossing the envelope out of a window into a parking lot. Herzog went out to the lot, retrieved the money, and told Morris never to do that again. This time Morris took the money.

He used it to research a new film idea about a particularly “gruesome form of insurance fraud” where individuals have a limb amputated in an accident to claim megabucks insurance money. Morris visited “Nub City”—the place where all these fraudsters lived. But he gave up on the idea after receiving death threats. Instead, he decided to make another documentary, this time about a pet cemetery in Napa Valley. This was Gates of Heaven.

When Herzog heard Morris had given up on his amputation film and was now talking about some new idea about dead animals, he wagered Morris that he would eat his shoes if Gates of Heaven was ever made. Whether this was meant as a joke, or a bit of encouragement, or was in fact a genuine bet is a moot point: Herzog (as we know) is a man of his word. He made the bet. Morris had made his first film.

Now Herzog would eat his shoes.

Watch Werner Herzog eat his shoe, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck’: Herzog’s doc on auctioneers & ‘the poetry of capitalism’


 
Recently a massively pretentious man-baby posing as the world’s One True Cinephile expressed his concern over the fact that people are amused by Werner Herzog. The bulkily titled National Post article, “The memeification of Werner Herzog: Why the respected director should be respected for his genius, not regarded as a joke,” bemoaned the fact that Herzog’s voice and name are not only incredibly well-known, but are sometimes imitated or referenced for comedic effect—never mind the fact that Herzog has had some hilarious cameos on comedies like Parks and Recreation and Rick and Morty. Calum Marsh, the very serious author of the piece (who nonetheless unironically wears pocket squares), had this to say:

Of course, reduced to meme form Herzog seems comical in a way that doesn’t serve him. Oh, yes, it’s very amusing to hear him talk about Pokémon Go, or whatever other trending topic hack journalists see fit to ask him for his opinion on; that’s how Q&As go viral. On the other hand, it’s a fairly abhorrent way of treating one of our major living filmmakers. Werner Herzog isn’t Christopher Walken. He ought to be valued for his genius, not regarded as a joke. My advice: plunge into the retrospective and enjoy the films qua films.

Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo are great enough to transcend any memeified punchlines.

Now I do not at all agree with the utterly humorless Mister Marsh on a number of things. I don’t think asking Herzog about Pokémon Go makes a journalist a hack—especially when it elicited such an interesting answer. I don’t think good interviews with legendary artists should simply be a series of ass-kissing softball questions, either. I also don’t think that anyone laughing about Herzog regards him as a joke—and I believe his genius isn’t really in question when he is made a figure of fun.

I do agree that everyone could stand to watch a little more Herzog though, so instead of whining in Latin about how no one sees his films, I present to you, How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck, Herzog’s brief but charming 1976 documentary on auctioneers—you know, the ones that talk really fast. The German title of the film translated to Observations of a New Language, as Herzog had a great deal of respect for the auctioneers and their “beautiful” but “frightening” language, referring to auctioneering as “the last poetry possible, the poetry of capitalism.” I assure you, there are parts where you might laugh, and that is absolutely okay.
 
Watch the film, after the jump…

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What if Werner Herzog wrote inspirational greeting card messages?
01.27.2016
01:30 pm

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Thinkers

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Werner Herzog

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Werner Herzog does not like social media. He thinks it is “stupid.” In fact he’s none too keen on the Internet overall describing it as a “massive, naked onslaught of stupidity.” Mr. Herzog’s social media is his kitchen table.

My wife and I cook and we have four guests maximum because the table doesn’t hold more than six.

It’s a small group. Though I am surprised Mr. Herzog eats dinner for surely he’s thinking What is the point? We will all be dead soon… just like the dinosaurs.

Though he is surely aware of his image as “the gloomy Teutonic dangerously living guy” it is difficult to imagine the internationally respected film director, writer and sage as the “fluffy husband” he claims to be.

Maybe his image would be helped if he branched out into say… writing inspirational cards? You know the kind—those nauseating little cards your friends share on Facebook along with all those goddamned pictures of cats. “Greetings pal! Here’s a waste of time!”

Thankfully, some kind individual has already started this new user-friendly career option for Herr H. on a Tumblr site called Herzog Inspirationals. Unfortunately however it appears this potential shiny future did not last long—possibly because of the “massive, naked onslaught of stupidity” that now fills Tumblr’s pages? Maybe. And maybe this is the opportune moment for Herzog to take up the reins and share his gloomy Teutonic wisdom with the rest of us in snappy little postcards or in Tweets of 140 characters or less? Twitter wouldn’t be nearly as stupid if Herr Herzog were active on it.
 
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I hear the ravens, but a denial is building up inside me. By all means, do not glance upwards! Let them go! Don’t look at them, don’t lift your gaze from the paper! No, don’t! Let them go, those ravens! I won’t look up there now!

 
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...we have to declare holy war against what we see every single day on television.

 
More mind-numbing wisdom from Werner Herzog, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Werner Herzog’s first film ‘Herakles’ is all about the beefcake
09.24.2014
02:27 pm

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Movies

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Werner Herzog


 
For a movie with no dialogue and no plot, consisting largely of footage of male bodybuilders working out to a saxophone jazz soundtrack, Werner Herzog‘s first movie, a 9-minute short called Herakles (Hercules) made when he was just 19 years old in 1961 or 1962, is unexpectedly thoughtful. To finance the movie, Herzog took a job as a welder on the night shift while at university, something to think about when you complain that nobody is giving you any opportunities to move forward in your chosen career.

In Herakles, footage of men lifting barbells etc. is occasionally interrupted by stock footage, which always relates to a (pretty much illegible) caption that has just appeared. The captions all relate to the twelve labors of Hercules, while the stock footage “commentary” points to a modern-day equivalent that all the Schwarzeneggers in the world would do very little to change. So for instance, the question “Wird er sich der stymphalischen Vögel erwehren?” (Will he resist the Stymphalian birds?) is followed by footage of U.S. military planes flying in formation and dropping bombs on training targets. Likewise, after reading “Wird er die lernäische Schlange töten?” (Will he kill the Lernaean Hydra?) the viewer is treated to footage of a long line of stalled traffic on a highway. And so on. To construct metaphorical conceits out of generic footage of muscle-bound weightlifters…. this is pretty clever and interesting stuff.
 

 
To his credit, Herzog doesn’t think very much of his starting point. He had bigger fish to fry. In the book Herzog on Herzog, the director said, “My most immediate and radical lesson came from what was my first blunder, Herakles. It was a good thing to have made this little film first—rather than jump into something much more meaningful to me—because from that moment on I had a much better idea as to how I should go about my business. Learning from your mistakes is the only real way to learn.”

In the same book Herzog also said, “Looking back on Herakles today, I find the film rather stupid and pointless, though at the time it was an important test for me. It taught me about editing together very diverse material that would not normally sit comfortably as a whole. For the film I took stock footage of an accident at Le Mans where something like eighty people died after fragments of a car flew into the spectators’ stand, and inter-cut it with footage of bodybuilders, including Mr. Germany 1962. For me it was fascinating to edit material together that had such separate and individual lives. The film was some kind of an apprenticeship for me. I just felt it would be better to make a film than go to film school.”
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘48% Bug-eyed, unblinking, creepy staring’: Werner Herzog movies in chart form
08.01.2014
09:10 am

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Werner Herzog

Fitzcarraldo
Fitzcarraldo
 
The editorial brain trust of The Dissolve has released an amusing feature breaking down sixteen mostly early Werner Herzog movies and presenting them as bar graphs. The sixteen movies correlate to the ones selected for Herzog: The Collection, the new box set from Shout! Factory.

Herzog is so prolific that many recent favorites aren’t represented, so no Grizzly Man, no Cave of Forgotten Dreams, no Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. However, you can still learn that Aguirre, The Wrath Of God is 2% “Klaus Kinski intimidating a horse” and that Stroszek is 50% “Thinly populated corners of Wisconsin.” (Have to say, those numbers seem about right to me.) Every movie gets points for “Beauty,” “Terror,” “Madness,” “Ambition,” “Success,” and “Reality,” which is what the bar charts represent.
 
Stroszek
Stroszek
 
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Nosferatu the Vampyre
 
Woyzeck
Woyzeck
 
My Best Fiend
My Best Fiend
 
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
 
Cobra Verde
Cobra Verde
 
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
 
Catch the rest at The Dissolve.
 
via Biblioklept

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘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
12:41 pm

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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
04:13 pm

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Amusing

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Christmas
Werner Herzog

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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
10:10 pm

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Kooks
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Werner Herzog
Errol Morris
Les Blank

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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
04:53 pm

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Movies

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Werner Herzog

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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