Les Blank

Short Film of the Day

Why Watch? You may think you know Fitzcarraldo, but just you wait. New York-based animator Robin Frohardt, inspired by the legendary difficulties that plagued the production of Werner Herzog‘s Amazonian classic, decided to remake the film with one of the most easily pliable materials available: cardboard. The result is her three-minute trailer for Fitzcardboardaldo, a hardy paper journey into the jungle. Her recreation of a handful of shots from the original epic is spot on, with a few moments of humor tossed in for good measure. It’s impeccably made, down to the last twist of the ropes as the steamship is lifted atop a cardboard hill. However, it seems that even making this 3-minute homage was far from easy. Thus stricken with her own production difficulties, Frohardt went on to spoof Les Blank‘s Burden of Dreams as well. The result is a 4-minute “documentary” entitled The Corrugation of Dreams, in which a record of Fitzcardboardaldo‘s production is combined with a cardboard recreation of some of the best Herzog moments in Blank’s film. Sending a miniature steamship up a fake mountain seems almost as difficult as the real thing, especially with intimidating household cats intervening on set. Frohardt’s stand-in for the German visionary director is also perfect, complete with sad and frustrated eyes that drive home the absurd monologue about shrieking birds and unfinished creation. The two films together are an absolute triumph of homage, and a testament to the boundless potential of short animated cinema. What Will It Cost? Fitzcardboardaldo is just over 3 minutes, and The Corrugation […]


werner herzog eats his shoe

Filmmaker Les Blank died today at age 77 from bladder cancer. He is best known for directing Burden of Dreams, a feature film on the making of Werner Herzog‘s Fitzcarraldo. Roger Ebert, who we lost to cancer just days ago, called it “one of the most remarkable documentaries ever made about the making of a movie.” Two years earlier, Blank made another film with Herzog as the subject. It’s wonderful title is Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Probably not coincidentally, it also involved one of Ebert’s favorite films of all time, Errol Morris‘s directorial debut, Gates of Heaven. The 20-minute short film is, of course, literally named. Blank shows us Herzog cooking up his shoe and then eating it during a public event, part on stage at the UC Theater in Berkeley in front of a large crowd and part at a famous Berkeley restaurant called Chez Panisse. Why did Herzog eat his shoe? Because he told his friend Errol that if he ever manages to finish that first documentary of his that he’d eat his shoe. Plain and simple. In the short, Herzog offers that he’ll eat the other shoe he’d worn that day if a major studio picks up Gates of Heaven for distribution. New Yorker Films, which ended up finally releasing Gates in 1980, didn’t count. 


Culture Warrior

A few weeks ago, as the indie group Here We Go Magic traveled through Ohio, they encountered a tall, skinny hitchhiker who they quickly recognized to be the inimitable filmmaker/public personality/pencil-thin mustache enthusiast John Waters. The band members took pictures of themselves with Waters and sent them out to the twittersphere. John Waters’s presence in their van did not transform into a difficult-to-believe apocryphal story between friends over drinks, nor did it grow into the stuff of urban legend, but instead became a certified true web event simultaneous to the band’s immediate experience of it. For any fan of the ever-captivating and unique Waters, this unlikely scenario which was still somehow consistent with Waters’s personality was truly bizarre, interesting, funny, and perhaps even enviable. But Mr. Waters’s is simply the most recent in a string of out-of-the-ordinary celebrity encounters. Celebrity has changed greatly over the past few decades. Whereas stars of film, television, and popular music formerly dominated the imaginations of their public through their creative output and carefully orchestrated public personae (through interviews, red carpet appearances, etc.), today’s celebrities are characterized more by their public personae than any output to warrant it. The Kardashians, the Hiltons, and the VH1 reality stars of the world are simply famous for being famous (or, more accurately, for being born into incredible wealth). There is no longer a sense that one earns fame through creating something or contributing to culture.

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published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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