Werner Herzog has been quoted as saying, "If I had to climb into hell and wrestle the devil himself for one of my films, I would do it." So it makes sense that when talking about Herzog, it's impossible to do so without considering the painstaking lengths he undertakes to make his films. The beloved German filmmaker has often risked his life—and those of his crew—to get what he wants. Several of these legendary exploits include dragging a ship over a mountain (Fitzcarraldo), attempting to film the eruption of a volcano (La Soufrière), and hypnotizing an entire cast (Heart of Glass).
But Herzog's greatest feat may be his adaptability in dichotomy. He makes two basic types of films, the first being the historical dramatic feature. These most often utilize the raw enigma of Klaus Kinski as some doomed messiah/devil trapped in an inferno of his own making. Herzog's second type of film is the documentary. Herzog treats the latter with as much love as the former, often utilizing "recycled" film footage and embellishing fact with his own perspective, as he did in last year's excellent Grizzly Man.
Cinema 21's Werner Herzog mini festival runs three days (July 21–23) and features some of Herzog's most impressive work, including new prints of the classics Fitzcarraldo and Nosferatu the Vampyre. The fest also boasts Wild Blue Yonder, Herzog's "documentary" that's essentially a sci-fi film that combines the monologues of an alien (Brad Dourif) with footage from NASA and arctic expeditions. Also included are the documentaries Wheel of Time, which follows Tibetan monks using individual grains of sand to create massive mandalas, and Lessons of Darkness, which utilizes astounding footage that sails over the firestorm-engulfed landscapes that were the Kuwaiti oil fields after the first gulf war.
Even better? There are rumors that Herzog himself may be on hand. But whether or not they'll be introduced by their maker, don't miss this opportunity to see some truly beautiful and passionate films.