Yesterday morning, amid the solicitations for Viagra in my email box, was a pleasant surprise: a notice that I'd won free tixs to a pre-screening of Grizzly Man, the new documentary by Werner Herzog.
Jeffé accompanied me, and I had to brainchild that we should both write reviews afterwards and I would post them today. He has a Rotten Tomatoes screen name; I just put "Because of Winn Dixie" on my recently opened Netfilx queue. So this morning, he sends me his review, which is just excellent (see below.) I truly did enjoy the movie, and also Timothy Treadwell's oddly schizophenic character study/personality that seemed to be a mixture of Andy Warhol and The Littlest Elf...he was entrancing. But I feel that Jeffé's words really cover the nitty gritty of this docu-pic and anything that I add will seem superfluous.
Although I will add one thing: last night I was chatting with Dad-orelli after I got home from the movie and I mentioned the topic and how Treadwell refused to arm himself with a gun and ultimately died because of it. In his ever-eloquent way, my father, a man who had a handgun sitting on his leather ottoman the last time I went to visit him and who shoots squirrels in his rose garden out of his living room window with a bb gun while wearing Hanes tighty whities, proclaimed:
"Well, that was a real asshole decision!"
German director Werner Herzog has been persistent in his pursuit to explore the human paradox of passion vs. madness (and the grey area between) in one's pursuit of objectives and their inevitable self-destruction. With his two most famous films, Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, Herzog portrays two obsessed dreamers striving for fortune and glory in the jungles of South America. One, Aguirre, lusts for the lost city of gold to his doom while the other, Fitzcarraldo, struggles against insurmountable odds to realize his dream of bringing high opera to the deep dark parts of the Amazon.
In Herzog's newest endeavor, Grizzly Man, he brings to the screen the interesting story of Timothy Treadwell. Defying the National Park Service and every expert in the field, Treadwell went to live with Grizzly bears in the wilds of Kodiak Island, Alaska. For thirteen summers, Treadwell camped among the bears vehemently insisting that he was protecting his "friends" from poachers and other dangers while his "enemies" claimed he was only upsetting the order of things by acclimating the bears to human contact and putting them at further risk to poachers.
In theory, you have to see the logic of the experts. However, after seeing his tale brought to life you realize that it was not possible for Treadwell to do anything else, to be anything else. Treadwell's aimless life was on a dangerous downward spiral of drugs and alcohol. Then he arrived in Alaska and his life's work was realized. Does it matter that his work almost certainly pressed him to the brink of insanity? That he would undoubtedly die at the claws of those he loved more than anything else in the world? Not to Treadwell. I speak of Treadwell in the past tense because he did indeed meet his end in a huge Grizzly's jaws. Staying at his camp long after his friends moved on to their winter mountain slumber, Treadwell and his girlfriend were attacked and killed by a desperately hungry rogue bear outside their tent. The harrowing part of the ordeal is that the camera was running. The lens cap was on but the audio was hauntingly clear. Herzog himself listened to the audio but would not put it in the documentary. He pleaded with the caretaker of the tape, a former girlfriend, to destroy the tape. "One's death is something sacred, secret."
It's an engrossing tale with gorgeous shots of Treadwell with his friends, bear and fox, and their picturesque surroundings. Herzog leaves it for you to decide if Treadwell's endeavor was geared by madness or passion. Herzog's personal reasons for continually revisiting this lesson are clear. Herzog himself and his long-time leading man, Klaus Kinski, were widely considered megalomaniacal madmen for their "tenacious" attempts to make their films. In one telling scene in Grizzly Man, Herzog narrates a crazed rant of Treadwell's by saying knowingly, "I've seen this madness before." To view Herzog's own madness, check out My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski and Burden of Dreams, Les Blank's documentary of Herzog's insane persistence to make Fitzcarraldo.
I highly recommend Grizzly Man and all of the films noted above.