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Archive for the ‘Werner Herzog’ Category

dec2006SOUNDTRACK: HILMAR ÖRN HILMARSSON & SIGUR RÒS-Angels in the Universe (2000).

angelsThis disc often gets placed in the Sigur Rós discography even though it really isn’t one of their records. It is a soundtrack to the film Angels in the Universe, and it is primarily music composed and conducted by Hilmarsson.  There are 17 tracks on the disc and he is responsible for 15 of them.  The remaining 2 are indeed by Sigur Rós, but if you have the “Ny batteri” single, you’ve already got the two songs.

The Hilmarsson tracks are large airy string pieces (I don’t know the film or anything about it, but it makes it seem rather sad). There are some tracks in the middle that deviate somewhat–some drums and occasional bass, but for the most part the music sounds like a string score to a film.  Pretty, but not exceptional.  At no time does Sigur Rós play with the other performers.

It’s the last two track s that are by Sigur Rós.  “Bíum bíum bambaló” is a slow piece that begins with mostly percussion.  Apparently it is an Icelandic lullaby and their version is quite different from a lullaby.  By the end of the song, when the whole band kicks in it rocks really hard and proves to be a great song.  The final track, “Dánarfregnir og jarðarfarir” was a theme used for death announcements on Icelandic radio (whatever that means).  I love the way it builds from a simple melody into a full rock band version and then back again.  It’s very dramatic.  These songs are both really enjoyable.  I like them a lot.  But I’d just stick with the single.

[READ: November 9, 2013] “The Secret Mainstream”

This article was in Bissell’s book Magic Hours, which I read a while ago.  I recognized some of the material in the article, but not all of it, which I find disconcerting that I forgot so much.

This article is (as the subtitle states) all about Werner Herzog, a filmmaker whose films I have never seen.  Herzog is notorious both for his films (he has made over 50) and for his behavior (some rumors of which are true, others are not).

Bissell wonders what historians would make of our civilization if they based their understanding on Herzog’s work.

He also goes through many of Herzog’s film, starting with Fata Morgana, Herzog’s first overt confounding of the feature film/documentary boundary.  It is neither narrative not strictly factual.  In truth, what Herzog does is make a hyperrealized truth.  For instance, in a film about a blind woman he created images and had her say they were images she remembered).  David Lynch is a fan of Herzog and you can see elements of Herzog in Lynch’s filams (so maybe the adjective Lynchian could be Herzogian.

What Bissell is saying (and Herzog confirms) is that Herzog is an artist, not a journalist.  He is also quite funny.  The story about the 32 pound rooster and the two foot horse is very very funny.

And while Herzog takes his films seriously he doesn’t really plan them.  He says he doesn’t anticipate what his next project will be and he also doesn’t spend a lot of time working on his films.  Woyzeck (1979) was shot in 18 days and edited in four.  He also took less than a month to make Grizzly Man (probably his best known recent film).

And yet for a film like Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), a film about Spaniards searching for El Dorado and slowly going mad, Herzog’s crew and cast nearly went mad themselves.  Klaus Kinski, the lead actor has this to say in his autobiography: “I absolutely despise this murderous Herzog… Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes, gobble up his balls, penetrate his asshole and eat his guts.”  Herzog himself says that he helped Kinski write that and many other anti-Herzog sections of that autobiography.

Bissell cites The White Diamond (2004) as one of Herzog’s best films (it is a documentary about Dr Graham Dorrington a researcher who wants to film Guyana from an experimental blimp.  Or The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner (1974) which is about competitive ski jumpers and shows jump after jump after jump landing badly. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997) is about the escape of a pilot from a prison camp in 1966.  He has Dieter open and close his door three times before entering because “most people don’t realize how important it is to have the privilege that we have to be able to open and close the door.  That is the habit I got into and so be it.”  Which is moving and impressive and totally false.  Dieter doesn’t do that in real life.  But Dieter understood what Herzog was going for and believed in the truth of it even is it’s not strictly true.  Herzog calls it the ecstatic truth.

I don’t recall how I felt about Herzog after reading this the first time, but I am certainly thinking about watching a bunch of his films.

Some recommendations from the article:

  • Fata Morgana (1970)
  • Land of Silence and Darkness (1971)
  • Aguirre:  The Wrath of God (1972)
  • The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner (1974)
  • The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (1974)
  • Strozek (1976)
  • Woyzeck (1979)
  • Fitzcarraldo (1982)
  • Lessons of Darkness (1992)
  • Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)
  • Grizzly Man (2004)
  • The White Diamond (2004)
  • Wild Blue Yonder (2005)
  • Rescue Dawn (2006)—which Herzog was working at the time of the article and which had a fairly large budget (for Herzog) of $10 million.  He even has name stars in it (Christian Bale, for one).  Bissell makes it sound very interesting, and certainly fascinating to watch being filmed.

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SOUNDTRACK: RICHARD THOMPSON-Grizzly Man Soundtrack (2005).

This is a largely instrumental soundtrack by Richard Thompson.  It features some wonderful guitar work (no surprise there).  There are several slow acoustic numbers (“Tim & the Bears,” “Foxes”–which is in the style of his old traditional folk ballads) there’s also the slow impassioned electric guitar solo (set over a simple beat) of “Main Title.”  “Ghosts in the Maze ” is a dark piece, the exact opposite of “Glencoe” a traditional-sounding song, both of these are under two minutes long.  “Parents” adds a cello, which means a sombre song.  “Twilight Cowboy” is one of the longer pieces, and it really conveys an openness of nature.

“Treadwell No More” is a slow six-minute dirge type song.  “That’s My Story” has spoken dialogue by Treadwell, over a simple unobtrusive guitar.  But as the title of the record says, Music composed and performed by Richard Thompson.  Which means there are other musicians on the soundtrack too.  “Small Racket” is where things start to get noisy and a little uncomfortable.  There’s some squeaks and slashes of sound, but it’s mostly a tense guitar feel.  Then comes the darker, scarier stuff.  “Bear Fight,” is a series of cello noises and swipes.  “Big Racket” is indeed that, with guitar from Henry Kaiser and noises from Jim O’Rourke.  “Corona for Mr Chocolate” is all Jim O’Rourke, it’s also odd noises and moods.  None of these three songs are terribly off-putting but they reflect a very different tone.

The album ends with “Main Title Revisited,” which is what it says and “Coyotes” by Don Edwards which has some coyote yodels.

It’s a good soundtrack, really conveying what the movie is about, and while not essential Richard Thompson, it is still some great guitar work

[READ: July 23, 2012] Magic Hours

I thought that I had never heard of Tom Bissell, but I see that I have read three of these articles already (I guess I don’t always pay attention to the author’s name).

This collection of essays comes from the last eleven years (2000-2011).  The articles have appeared in The Believer & The New Yorker (these are the ones I have read) and Boston Review, Harper’s, New York Times Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Times Book Review and Outside (which I am starting to think I should really check out more).

Primarily they are articles about writing–he looks at fiction, non-fiction, film or a combination of them.  Bissell is a strong writer and he does not hold back when he sees something he likes or dislikes.  I found his articles (all of which are quite long–about 30 pages each) to be engaging, funny and very persuasive.  I’m really glad I read the book (and was even glad to re-read the articles that i had read before). (more…)

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