kottke.org posts about Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog is saying things about the worldAug 04 2016

Lo and Behold, a documentary about technology and the internet directed by Werner Herzog is coming out soon and so Herzog is doing some interviews and such about the film and dozens of other topics. With Paul Holdengraber, Herzog talks about North Korea and volcanoes:

The North Koreans apparently had seen quite a few of my films. I established a trust with them. It's very strange because you're accompanied by people who would look after what you were doing, who would politely tell you you cannot film this, or cannot film that, and at one point I filmed something which I was not allowed to do, so I wanted to have it edited or deleted. But since they are filming in 4K or 5K or so, very complicated data management, we were unable to delete it, and they wanted to take the entire memory hard drive. And I said, "But it contains two days worth of shooting, that would be terrible." So I said, "You know what, I can guarantee to you that I'm not going to use this material." And they said, "Guarantee, what do you mean by that?" I said, "Just look me in the eye, what I offer is my honor, my face, and my handshake." And they said "ok" and they trusted me. And of course I'm not going to use this moment of filming that I was not supposed to film.

Herzog talked about Pokemon Go and film school with Emily Yoshida:

Q: You might be able to catch some. It's all completely virtual. It's very simple, but it's also an overlay of physically based information that now exists on top of the real world.

A: When two persons in search of a pokemon clash at the corner of Sunset and San Vicente is there violence? Is there murder?

Q: They do fight, virtually.

A: Physically, do they fight?

Q: No-

A: Do they bite each other's hands? Do they punch each other?

Jason Tanz spoke with Herzog for his profile on the director and his new film:

Herzog grins as he takes a seat in a conference room at UCLA, which has been set up for an event later this evening. His eyes droop, but his skin is remarkably smooth, like the surface of a slightly underinflated balloon. And then there's that voice-silky, portentous-you can imagine it coming out of a GPS system giving driving directions to Valhalla. "I like to look back at the evolution of modern human beings," he says of his interest in the Internet. "Using fire or electricity was an enormous step for civilization, and this is one of those. And I think the poet must not avert his eyes."

What is interesting about Lo and Behold is that it's technically branded content. No, really:

It's a bonafide film that premiered at Sundance in January and has been generating lots of buzz heading toward its wider release. It also happens to be one giant ad, half in disguise, for POD New York client Netscout. The whole thing started out as an agency idea to produce short videos about the internet as part of a online Netscout campaign. But after they roped in Herzog, the vision for the project soon changed-for the better.

"I come from a digital background, and I've talked about the internet for my entire career. My first job was as the internet guy at DDB in Brazil," Pereira said. "When we hired Werner to do content about the internet, I felt like, OK, I know it's going to be awesome, but I'm pretty sure I know what I'm going to see. But actually, it's mind-blowing. We gave him the beginning of the idea and told him, 'This is where it starts.' He took it from there and owned it. It's a mind-blowing documentary."

I saw the film last week,1 and from what I remember, there's nothing about Netscout in the film. They financed the film but according to Tanz, Herzog had final cut:

Herzog retained final cut while granting McNiel veto power, a privilege McNiel used only once, to excise some of the more horrifying troll comments, a decision Herzog now says he agrees with.

See also 24 pieces of life advice from Werner Herzog.

  1. It was interesting in spots, but I felt like splitting the narrative into 10 parts was not the right way to go. I would guess, however, the less you know about the technical aspects of technology, the more interesting Lo and Behold will be to you.

Werner Herzog is teaching an online filmmaking classMay 18 2016

Werner Herzog has made more than 70 films during his career of 50+ years. This summer, Herzog will be teaching an online filmmaking class at Masterclass. The fee for the course is $90 and includes 5 hours of video lessons about documentary and feature filmmaking, a class workbook, and the chance to get your student work critiqued by the man himself. The trailer above offers a little taste of what you'll be getting.

For example, I do not use a storyboard. I think it's an instrument of the cowards.

See also 24 pieces of life advice from Werner Herzog, including "carry bolt cutters everywhere" and "take revenge if need be".

Lo and Behold, a film about "the connected world" by Werner HerzogJan 20 2016

Well, holy shit...Werner Herzog has made a film called Lo and Behold about the online world and artificial intelligence.

Lo and Behold traces what Herzog describes as "one of the biggest revolutions we as humans are experiencing," from its most elevating accomplishments to its darkest corners. Featuring original interviews with cyberspace pioneers and prophets such as Elon Musk, Bob Kahn, and world-famous hacker Kevin Mitnick, the film travels through a series of interconnected episodes that reveal the ways in which the online world has transformed how virtually everything in the real world works, from business to education, space travel to healthcare, and the very heart of how we conduct our personal relationships.

From the trailer, it looks amazing. Gotta see this asap.

Update: Here's the official trailer for the film:

Have the monks stopped meditating? They all seem to be tweeting.

It's coming out in theaters and iTunes/Amazon on August 19th. Can't wait!

24 pieces of life advice from Werner HerzogJan 14 2015

Werner Herzog Bear

Paul Cronin's book of conversations with filmmaker Werner Herzog is called Werner Herzog - A Guide for the Perplexed. On the back cover of the book, Herzog offers a list of advice for filmmakers that doubles as general purpose life advice.

1. Always take the initiative.
2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
5. Learn to live with your mistakes.
6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
12. Take your fate into your own hands.
13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
17. Don't be fearful of rejection.
18. Develop your own voice.
19. Day one is the point of no return.
20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
23. Take revenge if need be.
24. Get used to the bear behind you.

I bet this is some of the stuff you learn at Herzog's Rogue Film School:

The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lockpicking or forging shooting permits in countries not favoring their projects. In short: for those who have a sense of poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those who can tell a story to four year old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream.

We the EconomyOct 29 2014

We the Economy is a series of 20 short videos that attempt to explain important economic concepts. For instance, acclaimed director Ramin Bahrani did a video about regulatory capture starring Werner Herzog, Patton Oswalt, and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

Anchorman director Adam McKay directed an animated My Little Pony-esque video about wealth distribution and income inequality featuring the voice talents of Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Sarah Silverman.

Paul Allen and Morgan Spurlock are behind the effort, with Bob Balaban, Steve James, Catherine Hardwicke, and Mary Harron directing some of the other videos. (via mr)

Running the lungs out of your bodyAug 08 2014

A wonderful interview with Werner Herzog on soccer, his wonderful fatherless upbringing, the nature of reality, and, of course, Mel Brooks.

I told Mel, "Mel, you know what, I have seen an extraordinary film. Something you must see. You must see. It's only at midnight screenings at the Nuart Theater. And it's a film by -- I don't know his name, I think it's Lynch. And he made a film Eraserhead and you must see the film." And Mel keeps grinning and grinning and lets me talk about the movie and he says, "Yes, his name is really David Lynch, do you like to meet him?" I said, "In principle, yes." He says, "Come with me," and two doors down the corridor is David Lynch in pre-production on The Elephant Man! Which Mel Brooks produced! And the bastard sits there and lets me talk and talk and talk and grins and chuckles. And I had no idea [and kept thinking], Why does he chuckle all the time when I talk about the film? But that was how I love Mel Brooks.

Werner the HerzogJul 25 2014

Werner The HerzogMagisterial. (via @moleitau)

From One Second To The NextAug 09 2013

Leave it to Werner Herzog to take the driver safety video to new heights. From One Second To The Next is a 35-minute documentary film by Herzog on the dangers of texting while driving.

Powerful stuff. Don't text while you're driving, okay? (via @brillhart)

New Werner Herzog film on the death penaltyNov 11 2011

It's called Into the Abyss and it opens today. Trailer is here:

There's an interview with Herzog about the film on the Tribeca Film Festival site and Ebert gave it four stars.

Werner Herzog reads Go the Fuck to SleepJun 15 2011

For completenessesses's sake, here's Werner Herzog reading Go the Fuck to Sleep. The video was shot at the book's launch at the New York Public Library last night.

See also Samuel L. Jackson's reading. All we need now are readings by Walken, Pacino, Oprah, Ian McShane, Joan Cusack, Alec Baldwin, David Ogden Stiers, David Attenborough, and Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Internet, make it happen!

More mistakes of the 20th centuryMay 04 2011

When I wrote about the Paris Review's interview with Werner Herzog, I took special note of this observation from the great director:

The Polar explorations were a huge mistake of the human race, an indication that the twentieth century was a mistake in its entirety. They are one of the indicators.

Apparently, "the twentieth century was a mistake" is something of a hobbyhorse for Herzog. Chris Krewson tipped me to a GQ interview where WH rattles off some of the other indicators:

I think psychology and self-reflection is one of the major catastrophes of the twentieth century. A major, major mistake. And it's only one of the mistakes of the twentieth century, which makes me think that the twentieth century in its entirety was a mistake.

Herzog backs this up with some intriguing counter-history:

The Spanish Inquisition had one goal, to eradicate all traces of Muslim faith on the soil of Spain, and hence you had to confess and proclaim the innermost deepest nature of your faith to the commission. And almost as a parallel event, explaining and scrutinizing the human soul, into all its niches and crooks and abysses and dark corners, is not doing good to humans.

We have to have our dark corners and the unexplained. We will become uninhabitable in a way an apartment will become uninhabitable if you illuminate every single dark corner and under the table and wherever--you cannot live in a house like this anymore. And you cannot live with a person anymore--let's say in a marriage or a deep friendship--if everything is illuminated, explained, and put out on the table. There is something profoundly wrong. It's a mistake. It's a fundamentally wrong approach toward human beings.

But lest you think that Herzog's rejection of the ethics of the Inquisition comes from an embrace of spiritual tolerance:

I think there should be holy war against yoga classes. It detours us from real thinking.

I said to my friend Gavin Craig the other day that with folks like Herzog, you almost have to approach them as if they're characters in a play. Instead of asking yourself whether you like them personally or agree with the things they say, take a step back and try to admire how they're drawn.

A drama of formationMay 02 2011

The Paris Review's John Jeremiah Sullivan interviews filmmaker Werner Herzog and archeologist Jan Simek about cave paintings in the south of France (subject of Herzog's new 3-D documentary) and middle Tennessee (Simek's area of expertise):

SULLIVAN
On the subject of the lighting in this film, Dr. Simek, you made an observation, which is that the light tends to be in motion ...

JAN SIMEK
The light never rests. Every time he changes the picture, it goes through a light sweep. The film is clearly concerned with how the moving light causes the images themselves to change. This is not inaccurate at all. The original impression that this artwork made was in some ways dictated by how it got lit by the people who made it, with torchlight.

HERZOG

What we did was very simple: we walked with the light, so that the source of light would make the shadows move slightly, like curtains of darkness rising. Or, for example, a fade-out would be done by just physically removing the light. So it was never a purely technical thing; it was always something human, as if somebody with torchlight were just leaving or coming in.

When you try to imagine how these images looked for Paleolithic people, in the flickering shadows, the animals must have been moving, must have had a strange life in them.

I was also struck by Herzog's reaction to Sullivan's observation that Cave of Forgotten Dreams largely departs from the heroic-discovery mode common to movies about cave explorers:

I'm suspicious of that notion of adventure. It belongs to earlier centuries, and somehow fizzled away with, let's say, the exploration of the North and South Poles, which was only a media ego trip, unhealthy and unwise, on the part of some individuals. The Polar explorations were a huge mistake of the human race, an indication that the twentieth century was a mistake in its entirety. They are one of the indicators.

While researching a story I wrote not too long ago about spaceflight and radio communications, I was surprised at how central the polar expeditions were to that story:

In 1929, Richard E. Byrd made history -- not for reaching the South Pole, but for bringing on his Antarctic expedition 24 radio transmitters, 31 receivers, five radio engineers, three airplanes and an aerial camera. Unlike Ernest Shackleton's trans-Antarctic expedition, who 15 years earlier spent 17 months fighting for their lives after being trapped in the polar ice, Byrd's team was able to stay in constant communication with each other and with the outside world. It was the beginning of modern technology-aided exploration, and arguably the model for human spaceflight.

Also, I think Werner Herzog may be the only living human being who is still allowed to say things like "the twentieth century was a mistake in its entirety" in semi-casual conversation. The rest of us lack the prerequisite voice, record of achievements, and enormous balls.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams at IFCApr 18 2011

Starting April 29, the IFC Center in NYC will start showing Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3-D. A refresher on the film:

The visionary director of Grizzly Man leads us on an unforgettable journey 32,000 years back in time to explore the earliest known images made by human hands. Discovered in 1994, France's Chauvet caves contain the rarest of the world's historic treasures, restricted to only a handful of researchers. Granted once-in-a-lifetime access and filming in 3D, Herzog captures the beauty of a truly awe-inspiring place, while musing in his inimitable fashion about its original inhabitants, the birth of art and the curious people surrounding the caves today.

Herzog first heard of the Chauvet caves from this Judith Thurman piece in the New Yorker.

Cave of Forgotten DreamsNov 30 2010

Werner Herzog's new film is in 3-D; it's a documentary about the 30,000-year-old drawings recently discovered in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave in southern France.

Herzog gained extraordinary permission to film the caves using lights that emit no heat. But Herzog being Herzog, this is no simple act of documentation. He initially resisted shooting in 3D, then embraced the process, and now it's hard to imagine the film any other way. Just as Lascaux left Picasso in awe, the works at Chauvet are breathtaking in their artistry. The 3D format proves essential in communicating the contoured surfaces on which the charcoal figures are drawn. Beyond the walls, Herzog uses 3D to render the cave's stalagmites like a crystal cathedral and to capture stunning aerial shots of the nearby Pont-d'Arc natural bridge. His probing questions for the cave specialists also plunge deep; for instance: "What constitutes humanness?"

Herzog pursued the film after reading Judith Thurman's 2008 piece about the cave drawings in the New Yorker.

Morris and Herzog in conversationSep 16 2010

Errol Morris and Werner Herzog both had films premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. To mark the occasion, they sat down and had a conversation with each other.

That's just part one...Ebert has the rest of it on his blog.

Werner Herzog saves livesSep 15 2010

Some years ago, Joaquin Phoenix was in a car accident. Werner Herzog happened to be driving right behind him, stopped, and pulled him from the wreakage. Herzog tells the story:

Funny how you never see Superman and Werner Herzog together. I wonder... (via buzzfeed)

Werner Herzog as Plastic BagMar 23 2010

I didn't know it until just now, but I had been waiting all my life to watch a short film featuring Werner Herzog voicing a plastic shopping bag.

Struggling with its immortality, a discarded plastic bag ventures through the environmentally barren remains of America as it searches for its maker.

Fantastic. (via greg)

The auteur's Super BowlFeb 05 2010

What if the Super Bowl was directed by Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino? You'd get something like this. The Werner Herzog bit at the end is great.

Werner Herzog reads Curious GeorgeJan 25 2010

The accent isn't perfect (Herzog's distinctive voice is difficult to impersonate well) but there are some great lines in this.

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