Saturday, June 25, 2011

5 reasons you'll want to see this cave art documentary

   Reason #1 - Werner Herzog directed it.  
      Werner Herzog directed Cave of Forgotten Dreams about ancient cave art found in France - the first real look at this artwork dating back over 30,000 years.

    That brilliant, delightfully eccentric, German filmmaker who directed many critically acclaimed films, including the documentary Grizzly Man (2005), about the tragic life and death of naive, confused, Timothy Treadwell, the grizzly bear activist/ eco warrior, now directs and narrates this ancient cave art film.
Herzog and Kinski on the set of Aguirre
      Herzog also wrote and directed artistic feature masterpieces such as Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982) starring the painfully crazy Klaus Kinski whom he met at age 13. Kinsky was an extraordinary actor, but had a ferocious temper and would stop all filming on the set to vent about some perceived injustice or incompetence, sometimes to the point behaving violently.  On the set of Fitzcarraldo, the otherwise peaceful local Indians who served as extras, offered to murder the raving, maniacal Kinski. It was a thoughtful offer, but to the chagrin of the much abused crew, Herzog had to turn it down.

          Reason #2 Voodoo
      Herzog believes that locations carry an emotional and psychic electricity which he refers to as location voodoo. Despite his no-nonsense way of speaking, he does seem to be under a conjurer's spell in the trailer for the Cave of Forgotten Dreams

      If you are following on email, you'll have to go to YouTube with this link:

    Enough on Herzog for the time being, although we will return to examine his genius at another time, I'm sure. For now, let's go to reason #3.
      #3 You cannot visit the cave
      The Chauvet cave is off limits to tourists and art lovers because the French government has decided that art tourism could introduce potential degradation to the 30,000 year old paintings. The French government has a nice website about the cave
    Those are your choices for now: see the film, visit the website or miss these  extraordinary paintings of lions, bears, owls and even rhinos!  
    According to Jonathon Jones, who writes about art for the Guardian and Jonathon Jones on Art, (read this blog for smart no BS commentary) “entering a painted cave is a lot stranger than seeing photographs of cave art – it is a spatial experience, and the paintings haunt you not as disembodied images but as part of an eerie magical world of rock and darkness. This is one of the reasons Werner Herzog's film Cave of forgotten Dreams is worth catching in 3D while it's still showing in cinemas. Herzog's use of 3D is not just poetic in itself but also a genuinely unique opportunity to explore inside the Chauvet cave."   Mr. Jones just gave away the next reason to view the film.
3D glasses by Samsung and Real
     Reason # 4 - It's in 3D  
      This is going to sell you or it's not. Simple as that. 
    Some love 3D, others complain about it. There is evidence that it is more tiring to the eyes and some viewers experience headaches after seeing a 3D film. 3D cons: there are fewer theaters equipped for 3D projection. Ticket prices are higher. You have to wear those dorky glasses. All good reasons some theater goers do not get overly excited about 3D. 
    Others will probably go see Cave of Forgotten Dreams just for the 3D novelty factor. My reason for seeing Avatar and yes, I liked it and did not get a headache. For some, 3D actually blurs the boundary between the film and reality. Hmm. Avatar, real? The way a funhouse is real, maybe. 
    But, Herzog is not a guy given to gimmicks and cheap thrills; though he is fascinated by surreal obsessions, other-worldliness and crossing that jagged divide between sanity and insanity without ever flinching.
      Reason # 5 - Roger Ebert likes it.
      The guy knows film and has a Pulitzer prize for criticism among his accolades (first film critic to receive a Pulitzer.) Find yourself a critic whom you respect and read them regularly. For me, it's Ebert. He works and writes like a man with minutes to live, and despite his horrible cancer, I pray that he will be with us for many years. And he regularly reviews documentaries. In case you missed his blog about the film...

    "Herzog says that in general, he dislikes 3-D. But he believes there are occasions when 3-D is appropriate, and this film is one of them. I saw it with bright, well-focused digital projection. Apart from a one-shot joke at the very end, he never allows his images to violate the theater space; he uses 3-D as a way for us to enter the film's space, instead of a way for it to enter ours. He was correct to realize how useful it would be in photographing these walls. To the degree that it's possible for us to walk behind Herzog into that cave, we do so." 
     Bonus Reason -Good Tomatometer ratings-96% approval (all approved critics) and 100% approval from top critics!! rotten tomatoes
      5+ good reasons to see the latest Herzog documentary film. If you have another, please comment. If you saw it and have criticisms to offer, please do.         
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

What I Meant to Tell You

Recently, I served as a juror for a film festival and had a chance to see What I Meant to Tell You: an American Poet’s State of the Union.

I have briefly mentioned this film before, but it deserves a entry of its own.
I had maybe 20-25 films to watch and wasn’t overly excited about seeing a documentary about a poet. Really? Another poet?  More obscure references, opaque musings with and without rhymes. Almost had me wishing for another surfer film.

Ah, poetry.

Life and Times of a Jar of Peanut Butter
by Mad Cat Lady(with thanks to
Small children stick a knife in me
Then lick it and put it back
I am sometimes used immorally
Or lasciviously consumed by the fat

I want to like poetry. I do.
I like to play with the bad poetry generator the pangloss website. Supply the first line and the computer will finish the poem. 
I gave it: Stopping at the mall on a sunny day.
And the computer thoughtfully filled in:
There's never a fight on Monday night at the Brass Dragon Saloon;
Yet it's Scratch and Save day at the Bay;
who then tried to feel my swollen balloons
Did I mention that the film was directed by the poet’s son? Sigh!
The DVD package promised that I would soon be watching conversations between the poet and a TV actor. Yippee. A poetry documentary featuring a TV actor – a guy who played “Mr. Big” in Sex and the City - talking to a poet. Yawn.

Now that I have really built this thing up for you, please do watch the trailer. But first, let me tell you that I now love this feisty old poet and his talented son, the director, and have even developed a brand new crush on “Mr. Big.” That is to say, Chris Noth.

The poet is Peter Dufault and he is an amazing poet who has been writing poetry for over sixty years.  Dufault’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and many other journals throughout the world. 

He has spent much of his life writing about the threats to our environment and Constitution. Yeah, he’s a tree-huger. He also was an air force bomber pilot during World War II. He writes that we need, “...from what Abe Lincoln called the better angels of our nature, to realign with our collective reverence for the Supreme Law of the Land, and for the Land itself.”

The director, Ethan Dufault, explains that poets are "the custodians of our collective capacity to imagine and re-imagine our place in the world, both personally and politically."

Much of the film is an ongoing poignant conversation between father and son and their on-camera sharing is neither sentimental nor commonplace. It’s a beautiful thing. See it with your father. 

For more information about the film, go to:

I leave you with a poem by Peter Dufault


Kestrel too?  Dwindling now?
That small falcon somehow
quarried out of a rainbow
in its saffron and ash-blue
blazons--and nary a one
seen yet, and the year half-gone?

Watching two of them once
tumbling among canyons
and crags of summer cloud,
I felt top-lofty, proud
to be in the same world with them.
But I suppose, even then,
it had been moot how much
longer they could live with us.

(From “To Be In The Same World”  Worple Press  2007)

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Waste Land - Trailer of the week

I must confess, I just saw this Academy Award nominated documentary, and it is wonderful. Truly.

I really do like the idea of of "found objects," also known as other people's junk that they toss to the curb. I especially like when this junk finds itself into art and starts a new life of purpose and beauty.

I hate to think of waste and a land of waste is a simply horrifying concept, so I put off watching this documentary about the lives of people who earn employment picking through the garbage in the largest landfill in the world.  (No longer in NY, thanks to the closing of Fresh Kills) This gargantuan dump is located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro as is known as Jardim Gramacho, and the pickers are proud catadores. If you want to see true grit, you will watch this doc and spend a day with these people.

But there is so much more to this documentary. There is Vik Muniz, and there is art. The most amazing transformative art that will make you feel good and thank God for every blessing bestowed on you. If you do not see these poor catadoes with new eyes after watching Waste Land, you probably could use reeducation, and I know just where this should occur.

Watch the trailer.


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Friday, June 3, 2011

Three NEW DOCs to be released theatrically

 Good news for documentary lovers! Nine new documentaries are scheduled for theatrical release this summer.  While this is an unusual occurrence, it clearly shows that more audience goers want to see first-rate documentaries, and it is becoming profitable for theater owners to oblige them. Three caught my eye because they feature two animal beings and the only insect I hold affection for:  honey bees, horses and elephants.  I’ll give you the opening dates and if they are not playing in our city or town, call the theater manager and suggest they do. 

On June 8, One Lucky Elephant opens to a limited release. Directed by Lisa Leeman, it features the relationship between Flora, an orphaned African elephant, and her adopted father, David Balding. Flora became part of Balding’s family and though she performed in his small circus, she was always more of a daughter than employee.  As they grew older together, Balding sensed that Flora needed the company of other elephants and set about to make it so. 

On June 10, we may have an opportunity to see a honey of a film, Queen of The Sun and yes, this is the one about bees. It opens just in time for National Pollinator Week (June 20-26)

Queen of The Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? looks at the causes behind Colony Collapse Disorder; an occurrence where honeybees permanently disappear from their hives. This doc talks to scientists struggling for the survival of the bees and bee-friendly philosophers who don't mince words in laying blame on our monoculture. 

I love character-driven stories and biodynamic and organic beekeepers are among the most interesting characters you can come across. Biodynamic beekeepers believe in learning about the nature of bees before handling and cultivating them. They dance with the bees.SAVE THE BEES people. Watch the trailer.

Finally we have Buck, directed by Cindy Meele, which opens June 17 in a limited engagement.
I have only seen the trailer folks, but I have always loved cowboys, so I was primed to fall in love with the horse whisperer named Buck Brannaman.

 Watch the trailer and fall in love too.