The Mirror of Film

The Tree of Life - Submerging memories through film.

Still awash in fresh memories of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, I watched for the first time Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1975 film The Mirror.  The problem I’ve had with Tarkovsky films in the past (especially Stalker, which I found tedious and nearly impenetrable though certain moments and images have stubbornly stuck with me) is that I feel like you need an advanced degree in Russian history to understand the context and symbolism.  With Malick’s film, however, illuminating the way, I found Tarkovsky’s The Mirror to be deeply rewarding on multiple levels, and it emerged as an unforgettable cinematic experience deserving of repeated views.

The two films are strikingly similar: deeply personal, semi-autobiographical, supplemented by other art forms (classical music is used exquisitely in both, while The Mirror also drew upon original poetry) and constructed in a stream-of-consciousness style made to evoke dreams and memories.  Both films are deeply rooted in the childhoods of their makers. Continue reading

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

The unstoppable forward momentum of man’s imagination, art and progress.

In 1994, three French explorers uncovered a cave that had been closed off for millennia as the result of an ancient rock slide.  As if the beautiful natural wonders of calcite formations and perfectly preserved animals bones of long extinct creatures weren’t enough…this particular cavern in the limestone, Chauvet Cave, was also home to the oldest prehistoric cave paintings ever discovered.  Scientists estimate some of the paintings date back over 30,000 years to a time when most of France was covered by an ice sheet and man roamed the harsh terrain along with Neanderthals, wooly mammoths and rhinos, horses, cave bears and lions.  As unforgiving and calamitous as their environment may have been, these early humans still found time to dream and create art that would survive 30,000 years of unstoppable forward momentum.

This is the focus of Werner Herzog’s gloriously transfixing and typically odd little film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

If you are a fan of Herzog, his particularly lucid and sometimes loony narration will be an absolute delight.  Herzog has always been drawn to the misfit and extremist dreamer – people so dedicated to their vision or project that their madness can just as easily bring about their demise as it can a resounding success.  Continue reading

Karma Police

Werner Herzog once ate a shoe on camera after losing a bet.

Nicolas Cage starred in Con Air…and 8MM…and Ghost Rider…and not one, but two National Treasure films. The list of travesties could go on and on…though I jest the National Treasure films; they are good family fun even though they are so sloppily put together.

Clearly both men are insane.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (henceforth referred to as BLt: PoCNO) is a film to watch not just for the decent into bizarro world offered up by a collaboration between German Auteur Herzog and Hollywood Movie Star Cage, it’s a film to savor for all of its layers of interesting elements.  Continue reading

A Review of Werner Herzog’s “Rescue Dawn”

 One Flew over the Bamboo Hut, 16 July 2007
9/10
Author:
David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

For me, Werner Herzog will always be remembered for his haunting 1979 remake of “Nosferatu.” Next to the silent-era original, it’s probably the greatest artistic statement ever put to film on the myth of the vampire. Apart from that, he’s been one of those fascinatingly enigmatic European enfant-terrible directors, brazenly going against the studio system and doing whatever he damn well pleases, be it documentaries or bizarre art films. “Rescue Dawn” comes as a huge surprise, and proving that he still does whatever he pleases, is a dramatized version of the true story of Vietnam POW Dieter Dengler that Herzog previously filmed as a documentary in 1997 entitled “Little Dieter Needs to Fly.” Masterfully realized, “Rescue Dawn” emerges as Herzog’s most accessible film. After over 30 years of film-making, he’s gone “Hollywood” but has done it on his own terms.

“Rescue Dawn” features classical and feverishly transcendent direction from Herzog, breathtaking cinematography of Laos and Vietnam from Peter Zeitlinger, a triumphant and evocative music score from Klaus Bedelt, and Oscar-worthy performances from an amazing cast. In the lead role of Dieter, Christian Bale once again puts his whole body into the character (as he did in “The Machinist”). Bale has become one of those rare actors whose every role seems to be the performance of his career. Also noteworthy are Jeremy Davies (“Saving Private Ryan,” and “Ravenous”) as Eugene from Eugene, Oregon, who seems to always get cast as the most emotionally unstable soldier, and a shockingly good and sympathetic Steve Zahn as Duane. Herzog puts the cast through the ringer in artistically rendered depictions of torture, horror, and survival in the harshest of conditions. Even in some of the most cringe-worthy scenes, Herzog turns what could’ve been wallowing on its head–witness the fantastic transition from Bale eating live worms and one crawling in his beard to a beautiful caterpillar leisurely making its way across a leaf in the peaceful jungle.

Essentially what we have here is the war-movie version of Milos Foreman’s “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” as Herzog depicts a group of average men who were slightly crazy already becoming increasingly more mad through involuntary imprisonment. While Bale’s character refuses to be held down and is constantly trying to keep his brain and skills sharp through plotting an escape, some of his fellow prisoners are rendered hopeless as they have turned their own minds into the most impenetrable walls. Herzog does a great job of depicting tiny bits of humanity and dignity shining through in the most inhumane conditions, and how the will to survive can triumph over death. He’s somehow crafted a movie that is both boldly anti-establishment and unapologetically pro-soldier and patriotism. Being based on a true story where the ending is known to the viewer doesn’t take away from the white-knuckle suspense and human drama. Unlike Foreman’s classic from the 1970’s, where Jack Nicholson (mirrored here by Bale) flew over the cuckoo’s nest and disappeared into his own insanity, Herzog gives up hope. One flew over the bamboo hut…and he made it.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database

http://imdb.com/title/tt0462504/usercomments-20