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literally laughing himself sick at the absurd sight of a defecating camel.


It sounds terribly abstract and difficult, but view- ers who stick with it will be treated to individual scenes of remarkable savage beauty (as when the dwarves take it into their heads to curb a palm tree to their collective will) as well as moments of great humor and surprising tenderness (as when Hombre and Pobrecita, played by Gisela Hertwig, are locked by their mocking companions inside a “honeymoon suite” and, after many failed attempts at climbing atop a bed together, decide to look at the pictures inside the magazines the groom had attempted to stack high enough to reach his blushing bride). If one of the things we demand from great films is unforgettable characters, EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL certainly delivers them.


Shot in 35mm, the B&W film has been presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with a DTS-HD 2.0 mono audio track. The soundtrack cannot help but be erratic in quality, as it consists of live sound shot under various location conditions, indoors and outdoors, as well as pieces of music either recorded by Herzog himself or pulled from different vinyl sources. Likewise, the visuals can look either re- splendent or limited depending on where and how they were shot (a too-direct light source in a dim- ming room produces accentuated grain around 21:55, for example), but the deep-focus location shooting conveys moments of pleasing dimension- ality and remains quite impressive for a film this offbeat and early in its director’s career. The audio commentary is the same as that which was included with Anchor Bay’s WERNER HERZOG DVD box set of 2004. Given the fact that he is joined by two moderators, Herzog’s commentary is more of a Q&A but the talk, as a whole, is quite person- able and revealing. He regards the film—shot for $200,000 in the Canary Islands—as a “nightmare” full of “gloom,” not admitting to its humorous and absurd side until late in the session. He responds to some of the negative publicity he received for the film’s apparent mistreatment of animals, accepting the blame for some of it, but he correctly points out that the worst of it was simply documenting what certain animals ordinarily do to one another; the chicken scenes—none of which were scripted, and which include shots of live chickens cannibalizing their dead, as well as one chicken similarly attack- ing a live chicken that is for some reason minus one leg—are so bizarre, they prompt him to remark that “There is something very wrong about creation itself.” There are some misstatements in the track, as when Norman Hill credits Herzog with photo- graphing the entire film on the dwarves’ level, a


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credit he accepts, though the observation is made during a shot that looks down upon Hombre from a taller vantage—as many do, so it’s not really a valid comment. Herzog also notes that he made this film before he saw Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932), a film for which he felt a kindred sense, though he berates Browning for making his film “apologeti- cally” with an opening scroll about “Nature’s Mis- takes”—which was in fact added to the film by exploitation profiteer Kroger Babb in re-release.


FATA MORGANA 1971, 76m 22s (S!F), 76m 18s (BFI)


The title of this strange, poetical film alludes to those desert mirages which seem to hover just above the horizon line, thermal aberrations wherein the heat and air produce spectral mirror images of places, people and events taking place as far as twenty miles away from where they appear to be happening. It is an appropriate title for many rea- sons—most obviously because the film contains photographed instances of such illusions, but more obliquely because the film itself is illusory in na- ture, documentary in terms of its raw material but fictional in its construction and manipulation, which might leap from the Sahara to Algeria to Kenya to the Canary Islands in four sequential shots while the unsuspecting viewer assumes the unraveling journey to be continuous.


The film begins with a complex repetition: shots taken at different times of day of different air craft landing on an air strip, shots that become less real, more abstract, as the heat of the day becomes more intense, causing straight lines to ripple and smear the closer the fuselage descends to the horizon line. These seven repetitions herald the first of three sec- tions in the film, “The Creation,” which accompa- nies views of the Sahara desert with readings from the sacred Mayan text, the POPOL VUH, by Ger- man film scholar Lotte Eisner, then in her 80s. Herzog sets out to record the beautiful and inexpli- cable, mysteries ranging from different mirages to pieces of machinery he found sitting out there in the middle of nowhere—a partially constructed aban- doned factory, a gravel refiner found 1000 miles away from the nearest machine, even the decades- old wreckage of an aircraft. There are also two other sections, “The Paradise,” which attends to primi- tive villages (even places that look like towns but are actually cemeteries) and the people who inhabit them (either from birth or as the result of some unspoken escape from elsewhere), and “The Golden Age,” whose very title suggests that the entire work may be viewed from a post-apocalyptic vantage,


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