Friday, April 29, 2011

Yes, Herzog's documentaries are indeed better than most...

by Salman Hameed

It is always a treat to watch a Herzog film. He is fascinated and intrigued by humans. I absolutely loved Encounters at the End of the World and I'm looking forward to Cave of Forgotten Dreams - in 3D! It is about 32000 year old paintings found in Chauvet cave in southern France. Unfortunately, it is not playing anywhere nearby - not even in Boston. C'mon Massachusetts!

In any case, here is a fantastic Fresh Air interview with Herzog. Couple of things to note. Around 20 minutes in, he talks about 3D films. He makes an interesting comment that our brain takes more time and effort to process 3D images. It is therefore a mistake to make short-edits in these films. Instead, you should have longer takes and let people absorb the 3D information. Second, he also says that our brain - in real life - in not fully processing 3D information. That is, the brain takes short cuts, and uses other information to give is 3D information. But in most 3D films, we are forced to constantly deal with visual 3D - and that is the reason we feel tired after watching those films (Though I was tired after Avatar because of its multi-dimensional inanity).

But the best part of the interview is when he talks about Fred Astaire in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Huh! And this is the reason Herzog's documentaries are better than most:
And when you look at the cave and certain panels, there's evidence of some fires on the ground. They're not for cooking. They were used for illumination. You have to step in front of these fires to look at the images, and when you move, you must see your own shadow. And immediately, Fred Astaire comes to mind — who did something 32,000 years later which is essentially what we can imagine for early Paleolithic people."
And so he added a sequence from Swing Time (1936), where Fred Astaire dances with his shadows. How cool is this! And this is a spectacular sequence (though black-face is a serious problem here). Here it is:

By the way, I'm not a big fan of musicals - but it would be great to have Fred Astaire style movies again. In undergraduate I took a class on Hollywood musicals and saw numerous Fred Astaire (and Ginger Rogers) films - and I have to say that most of them were very good.

Back to the 21st century. I'm looking forward to watching Cave of Forgotten Dreams. In the mean time, listen to the full interview here (the last couple of minutes are spent on the religious aspect of the cave). 


Mohamed said...

I agree, Herzog makes fantastic documentaries. I loved ‘Grizzly Man’. His dramas are wonderful too---check out ‘Aguirre, The Wrath of God’ or ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’

Salman Hameed said...

Mohamed - Oh yes, of course. He is quite a unique director.

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