“Werner Herzog in conversation with Jonathan Demme”

August 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Alain Robert, a Frenchman who apparently has climbed more than 70 skyscrapers around the world, and follower, both scaled the 52-story “New York Times” office building today in order to raise awareness for global warming.

While the audience patiently waited for the Conversation to begin at “The Times Center” this evening, ironically, Philippe Petit’s, “Man on a Wire”, was being advertised on the big screen. To continue along with the Superhero/Spiderman global theme, Jonathan Demme and Werner Herzog discussed their world renowned accomplished works, celebrated the launch of “Moving Image Source’s” new “holistic” website devoted to the history of film, television, and digital media, http://www.movingimagesource.us, and Werner’s latest film, “Encounters at the End of the World”, opening on the 11th, which was shot in Antarctica, and exemplifies global reach and global conversations, where “cosmic dreams come true”. “Encounters….” discusses global warming, and melting icebergs, the “Happy Camper”, or a two day survival course which is mandatory to take before heading out into the field, underwater diving expeditions where seal calls have been recorded, the population of “everyone not tied down, who wind up in the end of the world”, the PhD’s washing dishes, the tree huggers and whale huggers, penguins and their odd behaviours, and the exploration of Mt. Erebus, an active volcano. Great film!

David Schwartz, curator of “The Museum of Moving Image”, stated that we are here this evening to celebrate film history, and that if you were to combine Werner Herzog and Jonathan Demme, you would have an 127 year old.

Jonathan Demme, known for his directorial Academy-Award winning features including, “Philadelphia”, and “The Silence of the Lambs”, documentaries, “Jimmy Carter: Man from the Plains”, and music films, “Stop Making Sense” with “The Talking Heads”, and “Neil Young: Heart of Gold”, interviewed, Werner Herzog, known for directing feature films including, “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”, “Fitzcarraldo”, “Grizzly Man”, “Rescue Dawn”, and his most recent work, “Encounters at the End of the World”, in an up close and personal setting.

Jonathan started off the “Conversation” reading a letter written by Roger Ebert dedicated to Mr. Herzog. 
Werner shared that “Encounters…..” was dedicated to Roger Ebert, a good soldier of cinema, and light-heartedly mentioned that, I thought by dedicating this film to Roger, it would prevent him from reviewing it, but he eventually published it on his website anyhow.” The touching letter congratulated Werner on his “visions, offered his admiration and veneration among any other directors alive, mentioned how the modern world is starving for images, and how you show me a planet I did not know about. You never lost your sense of humor, your wonder of human nature. I praise your work. Your work is unique, invaluable. You believe that if it interests you, it will interest your audience too.”

W.H. ~A teary eyed Werner brought to the audiences attention, Roger Ebert’s health struggles, his battle of cancer for the past two years, and how he has been very kind to his films and work.

J.D.~”What led you to the memorable moment of moving water scene in “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”?
W.H.~”We were below Machu Pichu, and I asked the cinematographer to hold the shot, it was so violent, it was a raging river, and although we see only a few seconds of the the scene, we held it for one minute. Many editors in today’s industry tell me, I should have done it this way or that way, however, I do it the way it is, and it is fine.” 
J.D.~”I was very moved by this shot, I tried it on my own, and never quite captured it”. “It’s a very pivotal scene, as a group of humans comes to this river to meet their death.”

W.H. to J.D.~”You scare me a little, your ability to sense primal fear in “Silence of the Lambs”.
J.D.~ “I can’t respond to that”. 
W.H.~”We are proof that we know how to handle cinema, we know how to handle defeat, and that’s what’s made us who we are.”

J.D.~”I loved ‘Rescue Dawn’, In 2006 “The New Yorker” wrote an article about it that I just devoured. 
W.H.~”The hardest thing, and the thing I am most proud of, was to maintain the integrity of the film”. “It was great to work with Christian Bales.”

J.D.~”You were born in Munich…”
W.H.~Interupting, “I was born in BAVARIA, just as a Scotsman wouldn’t say that he was British, I don’t like the Germans”. “I grew up in a remote mountain village in Bavaria and never saw any films, television, or telephones as a child. My first phone call was at the age of 17. In a way I feel I was inventing cinema myself. I was without much knowledge of cinema. I was a welder the last 2 years of high school and decided to make films. I made my first film at age 19, and am still somehow doing it today.”

J.D.~”Were you influenced by any films in particular?”
W.H.~”Music and literature had more of an impact on me than anything.” “I am very proud of the Russian Orthodox Choir used at the end of ‘Encounters..'”. “I love to work with musicians, and composers, especially, Henry Kaiser.” “I deal well with music, and am able to form music and images. I can’t read scores, and rely on composers.” “I had a bad experience when I was 14, they asked me to sing in front of the class, and I felt like my back was being broken, I decided I wasn’t going to sing, and planned on returning to the school to burn it down, which I never did, of course. I decided in life, no one is ever going to break my back again.”

J.D.~”Your subjects are so relaxed, speaking with a candor, what’s your trick?”
W.H.~”I know the heart of men. You have to know the heart of men, if you don’t, you are not a filmmaker. If you don’t understand people, don’t make movies. If you don’t know how to collaborate, you will NEVER get the sense of movie making. It’s all about casting, I find the right people. Once we saw an intense look on an actor that I had to find out who he was, we found him in Cambodia, and discovered he did not speak Thai or French, in fact, he did not speak at all, we called him ‘walkie talkie’, and I directed him anyhow. I love walking into the unknown and make it productive, without any verbal communication.” “It is the beauty of making films, Klaus Kinski understood this.”

J.D.~ “Question on German Cinema, do you feel like you were being labeled?”
W.H.~ “There was a Renaissance of German Cinema, and a reluctance to take on German culture, an abyss of Barbariansim, from the Third Reich, however, with some perserverance, the films were brought to audiences worldwide, and people started to accept us.”

J.D.~”Are you on ‘You Tube'”?”
W.H.~”Not really” “I email my brother in Germany”. 
J.D.~”New Directors have a limitless audience on the net. Do you know Dan Geekan? I saw Obama’s speech on race prodcast live. ‘You Tube’ is a medium for ideas being exchanged. 
W.H.~”My wife watches with great discourse, many political analysts.”
“I do not want to exclude myself, although I probably won’t produce any films for ‘You Tube’.

W.H. finalized how “The Museum of Moving Images” new website that offers a selective guide to major screenings, festivals, and gallery exhibitions, “www.movingimagesource.us” is just totally wild, you can go into the deep bottom of the unknown on this website.”

Reception followed in the lobby.

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