June 19, 2007

the grounded fireflies are little stars that are dying

Maggie Michael, Worse for the Better 7 (anchor), 2005

* From Harper's July 2007 edition:

-- Estimated amount in state taxes Wal-Mart avoided last year by renting stores from shell companies it created: $403,000,000

-- Percentage change since 1994 in Barry Bond's shoe and jersey size, respectively: +24, +18

-- Price from an Illinois company to turn the cremated ashes of a loved one into a 1.5-carat diamond: $24,999

-- Amount that a Colorado state prisoner is paid to work a day as a field hand at a local farm: 60 cents

-- Amount the prisons are paid by farmers for each inmate's daily work: $77.20

* Bob Dylan stamps.

* From a 2004 Index interview of Werner Herzog. excerpt:

DOUG: What is your starting point for making a film?

WERNER: If I don't have something physical to work with, then I don't feel comfortable. That's still how I work today. Only thirty hours ago, I was twelve feet away from a bear while filming in Alaska. You have to physically assess the situation to be in the right place at the right time. It's like holding an outpost. You have to be the good soldier. You have to be unafraid — even physically — in order to make films that touch a deep truth inside us.
DOUG: Perhaps the distinction between documentary and fiction in filmmaking no longer exists. It is all fiction now.

WERNER: For me, the border between feature films and documentaries has always been blurred. Fitzcarraldo is my best documentary and Little Dieter Needs to Fly is my best fiction film. I don't make such a clear distinction between them — they're all movies.

DOUG: Does that mean that anything that's filmed becomes fiction?

WERNER: Well, you're touching on a very deep question. Probably the only non-subjective cameras are the surveillance cameras in supermarkets. Even then, you're filming from a certain perspective. In the film Incident at Loch Ness by Zak Penn, there's a scene in which I describe the most frightening film footage from the last decade.

DOUG: Incident, in which you play yourself, is a pseudo-documentary about the hunt for a mythical monster. What footage do you talk about?

WERNER: The footage was recorded with a surveillance camera in a shopping mall in England. You see shoppers strolling around. And then, in the middle of everyone you see two ten-year-old boys leading a toddler by the hand. At that moment, they're abducting the child, who they ended up murdering in the most unbelievable way. They are about to commit the most gruesome murder in recent English criminal history. But the image caught on camera is the most unobtrusive, most unstaged, most average shot you could possibly take with a surveillance camera in a shopping mall. And all of a sudden, it becomes the greatest of all horrors — the horror lurking in our everyday environment.
DOUG: I see a similarity between Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and your 1970 film Even Dwarves Started Small. In both films there's a sense of anarchy, a feeling that the tension and volatility in front of the camera is also really happening behind the camera. The camera seems to join the dance of madness. Scenes are fired off like bullets and fill the screen with anarchy and violence. These films have no relationship to staged drama.

WERNER: Theater is dead. It's lived off its own substance for two hundred years at least. Forget about it.

DOUG: I thought you directed a few theater pieces?

WERNER: Only one, Woyzeck, written by Georg Büchner. I worked with a fragment of the play. It's probably the most intense use of German, my own language, that you can find. I was fascinated by it. And having Klaus Kinski and Eva Mattes on stage together gave it a texture that went beyond theater. But forget about theater. There is something not right about it. It's had its day and it's night now. You see, I like to read plays but I don't like to watch them onstage. I can't stand actors on a stage. It just makes me cringe. Whether they're good or bad, it just makes me cringe.

* "Even if you're improvising, the fact that beforehand you know certain things will work helps you make those improvisations successful. It really helps to have a certain amount of knowledge about musical structure." -- John Cale


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