#24 Get used to the bear behind you.
January 19, 2015 4:44 PM   Subscribe

24 pieces of life advice from Werner Herzog (SLWH) 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.
posted by octothorpe (42 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really, really enjoy Werner Herzog's movies, to say nothing of this interview in which he gets shot with a pellet gun.

That said, I am leery of this listifying tendency. It feels to me like some sort of Buzzbook-Facefeed contaminant.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


If listicles must be made (and it seems that they must), Herzog is the one guy I'd want making them.
posted by Zonker at 5:02 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


25. Always follow the suicidal penguin.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:02 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.

Broadened out to literature/film/music/art/etc., I'd say this is a solid and vital piece of advice. I'm glad to hear it from one of the greats.
posted by naju at 5:08 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've dealt with Werner Herzog professionally on a couple of occasions. My understanding from people who have worked with him is that he can be difficult, but my rare interactions with him have found him to be nothing but polite and delightful. For several years I saved a phone message that he had left for me (just business; I don't want to imply a personal relationship where one doesn't exist); I would listen to it whenever I was feeling overwhelmed at work, it never failed to cheer me up.

I've seen a lot of my friends attempt to do impersonations of Herzog over the years, and no one quite gets it. The key to sounding like Herzog is to simultaneously speak with utter certainty and total bafflement, and that is not easy to do.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 5:13 PM on January 19, 2015 [48 favorites]




This is a pretty great list. Equal parts inspirational cat poster and permission to use guerrilla tactics and the wisdom of age. I really like this and will be annoying friends with it for the next few days. :)
posted by hippybear at 5:16 PM on January 19, 2015


9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.


yes
posted by edgeways at 5:16 PM on January 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


If there is a bear.
posted by Wet Spot at 5:16 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm so mad I haven't been able to find that film clip from the HAPPY NEW YEAR LOSERS gifset.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:19 PM on January 19, 2015


Zonker: "If listicles must be made (and it seems that they must), Herzog is the one guy I'd want making them."

That was my thought. I don't think that I've ever posted a list before but it's Werner Fucking Herzog's list so I did.
posted by octothorpe at 5:21 PM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


poffin boffin: I'm glad I'm not the only one searching frantically.

Whenever Werner Herzog comes up, I recommend people watch My Best Fiend. There's always someone in a group who hasn't heard of it. One of my very favorite documentaries.
posted by (parenthetic me) at 5:26 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know, I wish Herzog had let his ego and personality stay behind the films. In the past 20 years or so, they've really consumed his work. He used to be a very interesting filmmaker but now, more often than not, what he says and does gets boiled down to Herzogisms and it makes me cringe a little. I can't help be feel he's started to just play into that rather than focusing on making new and interesting work.

He talks a lot about pushing beyond boundaries, anti-intellectualism, and a macho from the guts style of filmmaking but he's been treading water creatively for a while now. A caricaturized version of himself has been running the show and it's really watered down and weakened the most interesting aspects of his work/personality.
posted by AtoBtoA at 5:35 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Really? I thought Bad Lieutenant Port Of Call New Orleans was one of his best films, tbh
posted by Greg Nog at 5:41 PM on January 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


Seconding what AtoBtoA said, the character of Werner Herzog the oracle and aphorist has unfortunately overshadowed Herzog the artist in recent years. A good case can be made that this started in 1980, with "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe".

Mind you, Herzog's still a sharp observer, and, let's not forget, a man who cooked and ate his goddamn shoe to settle a bet with Errol Morris aimed at prodding him into making films. Getting the art made is what matters to him, whether it's his own or others'.
posted by informavore at 5:47 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh boy
Another thread where I express my sadness that Herzog didn't direct Lagerfeld Confidential
Christmas all over again

it was almost a haiku...
posted by pxe2000 at 5:51 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.

yes


It might sound like good advice, edgeways, but this is why I can never fly Southwest Airlines again...even if I wanted to.
posted by uosuaq at 6:04 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


You know, film/lit theory is not that hard. And it helps you learn how to use your brain, and experience things deeper. Not that it's the only way, but it's not useless either.
posted by bleep at 6:10 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I only saw Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans once but I do think of it as the best/most interesting thing he's done in a long time. It felt like he was finally starting to try something new and push a little bit beyond his comfort zone. Encounters at the End of the World was good too but mostly because it was him doing what he does best without being too drenched in the posturing.

His ego was always a part of his work. I think he started really slipping around the time of Fitzcarraldo. The making of Burden of Dreams is better than the actual film and it's the behind the scenes story and the mythologizing that came with it that gives that film it's weight. I always thought of it as a bigger, less severe rehash of Aguirre, though.

Rescue Dawn is a truly bad movie and the first one that made me finally give up on expecting much more than Herzog-by-numbers. Little Dieter Needs to Fly is a great movie and by re-making it into a narrative drama, Herzog cheapened his own filmmaking ethics and style a bit. The stories (which Herzog probably had nothing to do with) of tensions on set between him and Christian Bale came across as little more than embarrassing attempts to drum up the Herzog/Kinski relationship for purely marketing purposes.

I used to loooooove Herzog and still route for him a bit, which is why his recent work and interviews frustrate me.
posted by AtoBtoA at 6:11 PM on January 19, 2015


And for what it's worth, the Burno S. films were my first exposure to Herzog and are still my favorite. Of the fiction films anyway.
posted by AtoBtoA at 6:13 PM on January 19, 2015


10. Thwart institutional cowardice.

Those three words are so... efficient, and right.
posted by Paragon at 6:19 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


26. Don't be a Herozg hipster and lay pretense about his old versus more recent work.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:25 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


now i will once again link my favourite mefi comment of all time
posted by poffin boffin at 6:25 PM on January 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


26. Don't be a Herozg hipster and lay pretense about his old versus more recent work.

Hmm.

I wasn't going to share my thoughts in this thread. My intentions were not to rain on anybody's parade. I just like talking about Herzog and his work.
posted by AtoBtoA at 6:32 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


27. I really mean it about the bolt-cutters.
posted by nfalkner at 6:54 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


28. Shoes aren't all that bad.
posted by Fizz at 6:55 PM on January 19, 2015


Don't forget "Sell your house in Indiana and move to be closer to Disney World."
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:57 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think Herzog has always walked a tightrope between nihilism and exaltation. I think BLPOCNO was so good because post-Katrina New Orleans threw him back into the real world when he had been drifting away from it for awhile. I mean, the Loch Ness movie was almost entirely in dream logic land. It's like after doing Timothy Treadwell he was thinking okay, I can go there. Then all of a sudden you have a first-world American city that is almost totally destroyed, abandoned, drowned, and it was like a slap in the face because this isn't some stupid fantasy, this is what's left of the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, and you have to get yourself together and use that in a way that honors their suffering.
posted by localroger at 7:15 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay I just looked it up and I realize I have the timeline backward because Loch Ness was 2004 and Grizzly Man was 2005. Still think there is an arc there that goes through New Orleans.
posted by localroger at 7:18 PM on January 19, 2015


20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
Broadened out to literature/film/music/art/etc., I'd say this is a solid and vital piece of advice. I'm glad to hear it from one of the greats.


I'm weirdly proud of pulling down a D in my Media Literacy Sociology course in my final semester of undergrad. It only cost me about 60K in 1989 dollars in graduate scholarships. Stick it to the man brother even if the man is yourself!
posted by srboisvert at 7:38 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sensing conflict here:

14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.

I have followed most of these most of my life (except I got an A in film).

But #15? Detours are where much of the magic happens....
posted by CrowGoat at 8:24 PM on January 19, 2015


24. Get used to the bear behind you.

Doesn't he realize it's illegal to run through a national park with a bear behind??
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:27 PM on January 19, 2015


Still think there is an arc there that goes through New Orleans.

29.9667° N, if I am not mistaken.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:31 PM on January 19, 2015


I've seen a lot of my friends attempt to do impersonations of Herzog over the years, and no one quite gets it. The key to sounding like Herzog is to simultaneously speak with utter certainty and total bafflement, and that is not easy to do.

Paul F. Tompkins's Herzog carries something of the qualities you mention.
posted by xigxag at 9:31 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: the unmistakeable sound of the breaking of a human toe.

Thanks, xigxag.

Also: 29. You must always try to walk the tightrope between nihilism and exaltation. Or perhaps it is better to fall off the tightrope -- but in which direction?
posted by uosuaq at 9:57 PM on January 19, 2015


Oddly enough, I woke very early this morning and saw Herzog being grilled on BBC News' Hardtalk.
posted by quarsan at 10:29 PM on January 19, 2015


This is wonderful. Werner Herzog is a gift.

My son's middle name is Werner...not technically after Werner Herzog, but not technically *not* after Werner Herzog. The first book I ever read to him, however, was Conquest of the Useless.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:52 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shoot him again, his soul's still dancing
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:29 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


He just had a fun cameo on Parks and Rec as a realtor selling a warehouse loft.
posted by klangklangston at 10:16 AM on January 20, 2015


Crowgoat: I'm sensing conflict here:

14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.


I was going to say that about those two:

15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.


naju: 20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.

Broadened out to literature/film/music/art/etc., I'd say this is a solid and vital piece of advice. I'm glad to hear it from one of the greats.


No, you'd be totally wrong to broaden that advice to music and literature. Because that would be in conflict with this:

6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
posted by sour cream at 3:04 AM on January 21, 2015


That said, I am leery of this listifying tendency. It feels to me like some sort of Buzzbook-Facefeed contaminant.

16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
posted by nosila at 8:19 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]




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