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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Produced by: Erik Nelson
Adrienne Ciuffo
Dave Harding
Julian Hobbs
David McKillop

Written by: Werner Herzog

Narrated by: Werner Herzog

Music by: Ernst Reijseger

Cinematography by: Peter Zeitlinger

Editing by: Joe Bini
Maya Hawke

Studio(s): Arte
Creative Difference
French Minister Of Culture
History Films
Werner Herzog Filmproduktion

Distributed by: IFC Films (USA)
History Channel (TV)

Release date(s): September 13, 2010 (TIFF)
March 25, 2011 (United Kingdom)
April 29, 2011 (United States)

Running time: 89 minutes

Country(s): France
United States
United Kingdom

Language: English

Well, well, well, after a long leave of absence (partly due to laziness and otherwise part to the shit boring time that is exams), I return to the mantle of self-proclaimed number one film critic. I have seen a few new movies so they will be reviewed, and to Jack's complete lack of surprise, the Shutter Island review is still on the way. There is an epic tale to be wrote about this saga, seeing as how you sent that message to me over a year ago. Other new reviews coming up will be Cedar Rapids and Attack The Block. Also, going to be attending Strand Cinema a good bit in the next few weeks, so expect possible reviews for Fast Five, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover Part II and X-Men: First Class. With a low amount of sequels last year, they have come back in full force.

So, first film is Cave Of Forgotten Dreams by Werner Herzog. Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am a massive Herzog fan, so it will come as no surprise that I managed to get tickets to the Northern Ireland premiere of the film at the Queens Film Theatre. There was also a post-screening press conference played after which was fun. I consider Herzog to be one of the great masters of cinema, inducting him as a director in my 2008 Hall Of Fame. Also, for 2010, his film Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans won the Kenneth Loach Award for Best Drama Film, got him a Best Director nod, the film a Best Picture nod and Nicholas Cage the best performance he has had in years. So yes I like Herzog. Here, he returns to the documentary form and for Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, he received special permission from the French culture minister to film inside the Chauvet Cave, carefully preserved and forbidden entry from the general public.

To start with the good, it is Herzog, and he is one of those filmmakers that is able to take a central concept/idea and build it into something wonderful from the ground up. Herzog's exploration of the cave paintings serves as a self-reflection on the nature of art itself. Also, he always seems to be able to find fascinating people who are very interesting in their own right as interview subjects for his documentary. Of course, one can perhaps remember his dialogues of sort's with Timothy Treadwell in Grizzly Man. In Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, we have the perfume smeller, who is almost like one of the characters that Herzog himself would write, and the scientist who was once a circus performer. These guys fit right in with the motley crew of Aguirre, Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, Bruno Stroszek and Kasper Hauser (and the cast of Even Dwarfs Started Small). Finally, Peter Zeitlinger's cinematography is wonderful. Being the first people to shoot a film in the cave, the crew of four (Herzog include) were imposed with the shooting schedule of six days of four hours each. Also, despite much of the movement of the camera being restricted, Zeitlinger manages to capture the essence of the cave and inform the audiences, a most important aspect of the documentary film.

Don't that just because I am finished on the pros that there isn't much. Far from it, it's just that I am changing the format, because I am annoyed at writing line upon line about technical aspects of the film being ok or alright. I'm just going to point out pros and cons. So let's get on with the cons. There are not a huge amount of flaws in this film, as Herzog is a director of efficiency and consistency. However, it is nowhere near to the standard's of his earlier documentaries La Soufriere, My Best Fiend and Grizzly Man. There are moments when the film really lags and it just seems to go on and on. It seems like the film would be more appropriate as a sixty-minute special on Discovery, though I did not seem the film in 3-D so I can't talk about this aspect. Also, Herzog's documentary have his imprint all over them. Despite the format, they are unmistakably 'Herzog' films. In the three name-checked documentaries, and to a certain extent God's Angry Man, this works, but in Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, it does at times cross the line of imposition and end up detracting from the film.

Nevertheless, despite these problems, I rather enjoyed the film. Shamefully, I fell asleep at one point, but not due to it being bad, but having about four-and-a-half hours sleep, it was my own fault. Herzog's Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, like all of his film's, is inherently fascinating in the development of it's concept. The interview subjects that he gathers are interesting to listen to. Finally, the cinematography of Peter Zeitlinger is really good, managing to inform us appropriately about the Chauvet cave despite the strong impositions.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Satisfied

P.S. Following on from Bad Lieutenant's iguanas, hello to the albino crocodiles, the latest in Herzog's recent trend of reptilian creatures featuring in his films

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