I have been commissioned to write some sort of “Best of 2011” list. The problem is I don’t believe in “Best of” lists. Instead, this is just a list of 15 movies from 2011 I liked, in alphabetical order. (Disclaimer: You can blame Ally (and some other Tweeps) if you don’t enjoy this list.)
“Sir, if I may. I want to party with you Cowboy.” – Stephen Colbert
My hardcore crush on German director Werner Herzog continues. The Cave of Forgotten Dreams director appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss the documentary. Please discuss the Manhattan phonebook with me every day, Werner.
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And about those crocodiles. I didn’t go into the radioactive albino crocodiles in my review of Cave of Forgotten Dreams because they were way too creepy for me to ever want to think about them again.
Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a bewildering film. While watching the images that Herzog and his team captured of the Chauvet cave unfold before you, you have to ask: Could any filmmaker other than Herzog have made this film? The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is resoundingly no. Herzog is truly the only filmmaker with enough fortitude to make a documentary like Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It is a wondrous exploration of what confounds people the most: human existence.
Chauvet Cave in southern France holds the oldest known cave paintings believed to be around 32,000 years old. Under the strict rules established by the French ministry of culture, Herzog and his team documented the paintings and the cave’s researchers. The documentary gives an unprecedented look at these gorgeous paintings and allows Herzog to be his intellectual best.
I did not see Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D. (Not by choice.) I wonder if the 3D really adds anything to the film. The paintings and Herzog’s presentation of them are so marvelously insightful and provoking that I can’t imagine how 3D adds much to the documentary. (Although if I get the opportunity, I will see it in 3D, the way Herzog intended for this movie to be seen.)
Film gives these paintings a true breath of life, connecting them to our present-day lives. Images like Fred Astaire’s infamous shadow dance, which Herzog incorporates into the film as part of a discussion of shadow, gains a new meaning. (The director discusses this scene at length in a recent NPR interview.)
The Chauvet paintings themselves are so mysterious and fascinating. It becomes clear throughout the film that the researchers will never find any true answers about them. All that can be made are informed assumptions about what may have been.
“It is as if the modern human soul awakened here…”
If you have ever dreamed of blindly following Werner Herzog into a cave, this is your chance.
Herzog’s latest documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams is one that I will take great strides to see this spring. The film about the Chauvet Cave is Herzog’s first 3-D film. Herzog went to great lengths to film the cave, receiving special permission from the French minister of culture and building custom 3-D cameras. The trailer was released in the past few days and I have goosebumps from watching it.
The most intriguing aspect of this documentary is Herzog’s decision to film it in 3-D. Can Herzog, of all directors, actually bring artistic merit to the much maligned technique? It was a challenging shoot and huge risk for Herzog. I’m excited to see it.