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Me and Gary, brooding (September 2004)

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Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.

— William Blake


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Friday, November 30th, 2007

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

This is a fantastic movie that anyone whose æsthetic tastes are similar to mine should hurry down to the video shop and take a look at it. This movie is exquisitely good like an elegant meal. I'll try to write more about it later when I've had a little more time to reflect upon it.

posted evening of November 30th, 2007: Respond
➳ More posts about The Movies

Saturday, December first, 2007

Spurious associations...

...and random thoughts while watching Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

  • I wonder if anyone has made note of how strongly (if memory serves) Richard O'Brian's character in The Rocky Horror Picture Show resembles Klaus Kinski. Wonder if that was a conscious choice by the Rocky Horror people. Seriously, when the camera came in close on Aguirre standing next to the river, I thought Oh my God, it's Riff Raff!
  • Aguirre's first appearance in the movie, talking to (I think?) Pizarro, they reminded me of Tintin and Captain Haddock a little bit, which was amusing.
  • This movie has the dreamlike atmosphere that pervades some of my very favorite works of art, like e.g. Gravity's Rainbow -- indeed I think this is a movie that could have been very competently produced by some of Pynchon's characters.
  • The brilliant, brilliant title sequence makes me think of nothing so much as Escher's paintings. I keep thinking Wow, I didn't know you could do that with film.
  • The soundtrack might be the best movie soundtrack ever. At least the best in some subcategory of motion picture soundtracks. From the church music at the beginning, to the piper, to Perucho's threatening hums and hisses... It is in the substance of the film, it complements and enhances the imagery. Perfect.

'Minimalist' is, it seems to me, the best category of foreign language film, the most fun for me to watch because there is some chance I will catch the dialogue. And indeed, here I find I am getting a lot of it (with help from the subtitles).

One thing that really turned me on about this movie was the mix of different influences and realities -- like the characters were Spanish but speaking German, they were dressed in period costume but their makeup and hair and general bearing seemed much more contemporary. Etcetera.

posted afternoon of December first, 2007: 3 responses
➳ More posts about The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Focus

When I am watching Aguirre, the Wrath of God I notice that I am not thinking at all about what might be going on off-camera -- the focus is so sharply on whichever characters are on screen at any moment, they are obviously the most important thing in the movie.

posted evening of December first, 2007: Respond
➳ More posts about Werner Herzog

Monday, December third, 2007

Great Cinema

My brother asks in e-mail, "Really, did you actually love 'Aguirre, etc.' or did you just understand that it's a Great Film?" by way of saying that he understood it to be Great Film but did not find anything to enjoy in the film itself. This is interesting to me because (a) I did actually, authentically enjoy this film and (b) I worry, when I am liking something that I know is Great, about whether my enjoyment is real.

In "On Reading: Words or Images", Pamuk says,

When we notice [our surroundings while reading], we are at the same time savoring our solitude and the workings of our imagination and congratulating ourselves on possessing greater depth than those who do not read. I understand how a reader might, without going too far, wish to congratulate himself, though I have little patience for those who take pride in boasting.

So that is the worry when I tell myself I loved Aguirre, the Wrath of God or My Name Is Red or whatever -- how do I distinguish between the externally-directed pleasure of fancying myself a connoisseur of fine film or literature, and the internal, actual pleasure of understanding and appreciating the work in question? I have an unexamined prejudice that the former pleasure is in bad faith, is boastful and something to be ashamed of.

Herzog's (and Kinski's) genius is certainly front and center in Aguirre -- it seems to me like it would be difficult to watch the movie without having the thought that it is the work of a genius, that it is Great Film. But, I'm not quite sure how to put this, the movie itself is so powerful and moving, the second-hand attributes of the movie are not primary in my mind while I'm watching it.

posted evening of December third, 2007: Respond
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