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Rosalina. Woman.

You constantly revile me with your singular lack of vision. Be aware, there is an essential truth and beauty in all things. From the death throes of a speared gazelle to the damaged smile of a freeway homeless. But that does not mean that the invisibility of something implies its lack of being. Though simpleton babies foolishly believe the person before them vanishes when they cover their eyes during a hateful game of peek-a-boo, this is a fallacy. And so it is that the unseen dusty build up that accumulates behind the DVD shelves in the rumpus room exists also. This is unacceptable.

I will tell you this Rosalina, not as a taunt or a threat but as an evocation of joy. The joy of nothingness, the joy of the real. I want you to be real in everything you do. If you cannot be real, then a semblance of reality must be maintained. A real semblance of the fake real, or “real”. I have conquered volcanoes and visited the bitter depths of the earth’s oceans. Nothing I have witnessed, from lava to crustacean, assailed me liked the caked debris haunting that small plastic soap hammock in the smaller of the bathrooms. Nausea is not a sufficient word. In this regard, you are not being real.

Now we must turn to the horrors of nature. I am afraid this is inevitable. Nature is not something to be coddled and accepted and held to your bosom like a wounded snake. Tell me, what was there before you were born? What do you remember? That is nature. Nature is a void. An emptiness. A vacuum. And speaking of vacuum, I am not sure you’re using the retractable nozzle correctly or applying the ‘full weft’ setting when attending to the lush carpets of the den. I found some dander there.

I have only listened to two songs in my entire life. One was an aria by Wagner that I played compulsively from the ages of 19 to 27 at least 60 times a day until the local townsfolk drove me from my dwelling using rudimentary pitchforks and blazing torches. The other was Dido. Both appalled me to the point of paralysis. Every quaver was like a brickbat against my soul. Music is futile and malicious. So please, if you require entertainment while organizing the recycling, refrain from the ‘pop radio’ I was affronted by recently. May I recommend the recitation of some sharp verse. Perhaps by Goethe. Or Schiller. Or Shel Silverstein at a push.

The situation regarding spoons remains unchanged. If I see one, I will kill it.

That is all. Do not fail to think that you are not the finest woman I have ever met. You are. And I am including on this list my mother and the wife of Brad Dourif (the second wife, not the one with the lip thing). Thank you for listening and sorry if parts of this note were smudged. I have been weeping.

Your money is under the guillotine.


I have always found Mr. Herzog’s self-mythologizing rather obnoxious, as I do the manner in which he inserts himself  into his documentaries, which often beneath the ostensible subject matter appear to be more about Werner, heroic filmmaker, than about anything else.  He seems to think if he is next to person X or situation Y, it rubs off and makes him equivalent, to, say, a ski jumper.    If the above, taken from here on the net, is actually true, then he’s certainly gone off the far deep end of his own ego.   A humble piece of advice:  clean up after yourself, Mr. Herzog.

Here his writing is clearly more to himself and his imagined wit and wisdom, that to the lowly, apparently hispanic, and probably poorly paid cleaning lady.

(Note: in German a “herzog” is a kind of prince – guess it’s gone to his head.)


  1. I think the letter is part of the mock Herzog-style movement – like this gem, a reading of Curious Geoerge in a Tuetonic style…

    • As I said, “If it is real” then… The Teutonic voice in the YouTube isn’t quite convincing as Herzog. The letter seems closer. I guess I am far from alone in being uh irritated by Werner’s posturing. Bothering to make parodies takes time and energy, so I guess the prince managed to “get under the skin” of a number of people.

    • Sotirios Papavasiliou
    • Posted August 11, 2012 at 9:20 am
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    Whether the letter is real or not, parodying Herzog is both fair and overdue. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins has been doing a decent impression of him lately. With his sanctimonious mythic platitudinizing (and his accent, of course), Herzog makes for some low hanging comedy fruit.

    But there’s a more serious issue with him, within his very “visionary” film making, if it can be called that. At what point does the visionary become completely anti-social–that is, closed to the world and incommunicable to all? Why cinematically privilege such characters of obsessed solitude, characters incapable of (or uninterested in) social growth and awareness? Which is also to ask, what are we supposed to learn as audiences from these depictions of monomania? (Other than that it never ends well).

    Herzog’s most celebrated film, Aguirre, tells us little beyond its surface-only portrait of obsessive dictatorial ambition. And that little else is usually construed as political allegory, which is really just a cheap comparison to fascism and is misleading of the complications of history. Really, we’re just staring at a mad actor who, like his director, is comically devoid of humor. And, for all his perseverance (not a compliment, in his case), self-mythologizing and financing skills–devoid of a lot else. And much to our loss as an audience, I’d argue.

    There’s more challenge (for audiences too) in the communicative, expressive, and lived difficulties of the characters in any given Ozu or Mike Leigh film. Not to mention the actual social stresses of, say, Dreyer’s Joan of Arc, a visionary who receives no privileged subjectivity, no tower of solitude to obsess in away from the world. It’d be too much for me to question any person’s humanity and spirituality, let alone Herzog’s, but I’ve come to find those qualities as absent in his films as are humour, mystery, and interesting women. Which is why I don’t see him in the “visionary company” of a Bresson or Tarkovsky, nor in the midst of the struggles of realists like Cassavetes and Rossellini, or capable of the cerebral, but sublime ambiguities of Resnais and Marker (RIP). Despite the legendarily arduous production of the films, it’s so much easier being a Herzogian loner–or just watching one. For all the travel to “exotic” locale, there’s such stasis with Herzog’s films.

    And he’s certainly no Jon Jost, who can join any of the above, in any category actually. Forget Aguirre. If you want a portrait of ambition with depth–with messy social repercussions and complications, and without existential grandstanding–made by a director with some actual cinematic style, order a copy of Sure Fire from Jost. A “rogue” director not in name but in deed. Sadly, apropos the recent shootings, it’s yet another of Jost’s work that’s prescient. But it’s no simple social issue film, nor will you find in it easy metaphors or self-serving allegory about “American decline.” Nor are any of the actors overblown grotesques made to simply gawk at. Maybe I’m not really selling the film . . . .

    And maybe I’m wrong with all this Carney-esque talk about privileged subjectivity in movies. Checking out the new Sight and Sound “greatest” poll–Vertigo, Kane, Taxi Driver, Godfather, etc.–maybe cinema IS all about celebrating unreachable towers of solitude. As such making us an audience praying voyeuristically in tacit consent, glad to be alone and in the dark. So–how do you say rosebud in German?

    P.S. Too bad about TIFF, Jon. They’ve gone Hollywood with their emphasis on red carpet star premieres, basically serving to extend the PR of the most marketed of films to begin with. Room is made, I’m sure, for “indies” and foreign films just sexy and/or violent enough to sell. Still, I think Vancouver (VIFF–where they’ve screened Benning), which is coming up, is worth a try: they specialize in Asian films every year, so maybe Narcissus might have a chance? Have to ask, though: does anyone get eaten by a grizzly bear, or is there a coked-up sex crazed cop in it?

    • Sotirios Papavasiliou
    • Posted August 11, 2012 at 10:42 am
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    I wrote the above without reading this Rosenbaum piece, on Herzog and Kinski:

    A choice quote: “What’s the difference between behaving like an artist and acting like a pompous jerk? [Herzog’s documentary about Kinski] ‘My Best Fiend’ repeatedly raises this question about Kinski, but it tries to avoid raising the same question about Herzog.”

    He makes many a similar point, but I should note, Rosenbaum is no Carney fan; a dedicated champion of Hitch and especially Orson is he. Also, he’s speaks well of Aguirre much more so than I do. Having said that, he’s done well for “unseen cinema,” including Cassavetes (and when it wasn’t popular to do so). I can’t complain and won’t, though I’ve been pricked by his vicious response to Ray Carney’s writings and efforts. I wish he would engage with Carney’s devaluation of the “visionary” cinema of Hitch, Welles, Kubrick, and Lynch. They advocate so much in common, whether it be Mark Rappaport, Sara Driver, Elaine May, Michael Roemer–or Jon Jost. Alas.

    Also, they both wrote the most comprehensive take downs of Woody Allen. Sometimes you can learn a lot from bad filmaking . . . .

    Speaking of which, I met Herzog once, when he came to Vancouver’s Cinematheque. I asked him about his methodology of editing in his films, and he replied he didn’t think of it much and spent little time doing it. You can see that in the films.

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