Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999

1999 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
#6, Flighty Herzog, or The World According to Werner

by Richard Schwartz

Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999 is brought to you by:

CANNES, May 16 - Werner Herzog may be a brilliant German auteur, the creator of such films as "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo," but the guy is definitely a nutcase.

First, Herzog brings to the Cannes Film Festival a picture called "Mein Liebster Feind (My Best Fiend)," which chronicles the attempts of Herzog and his sometimes friend (and frequent leading man) Klaus Kinski to murder one another. The film's press kit contains statements from both men (and Kinski, who died in 1991, was no closer to sanity, either) conveying their hate for the other. Herzog claims he once told Kinski that he "had a rifle, and [Kinski] would only make it as far as the next bend in the river before he had eight bullets in his head - the ninth would be for me." In another scene, Klaus Kinski goes into an uncontrollable rage and destroys all of the furniture in Herzog's apartment. Of course, the film's tone is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but one gets the feeling that both men are utterly serious about what they speak.

Then, as if the looney jury was still undecided on Herzog, the director has a one-page, single-sided, photocopied statement distributed to journalists' casiers, the official festival press boxes inside the Palais. The paper carries a rather ho-hum title, "Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema," followed by the heading, "Lessons of Darkness." In this 12-point diatribe, Herzog imparts some strange bits of wisdom, first on cinema verite documentary filmmaking and then on life in general. "Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue," Herzog states, sounding like that guy from the "Wear Sunscreen" song. He adds in point number ten, "The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn't call, doesn't speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts." And then, in paper's most bizarre statement, the renowned filmmaker waxes political on snowmobiling accidents and stumps for WWF wrestler-cum-politico Jesse "The Body" Ventura. "Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: 'You can't legislate stupidity.'"

You can't legislate insanity, either. And that's a good thing for Herzog.

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