Werner Herzog on Michael Moore (by proxy): If only detractors of Michael Moore--especially verbal excrementalist Christopher Hitchens--applied the same scrutiny to the utterances of George W. Bush or the talking heads at Fox News as they do to Fahrenheit 9/11. Because news is the realm where such arguments of fact belong. If a documentarian flubs the facts, call him to the matt, but if his interpretation of fact displeases his critics (as seems to be the case here), that's a different matter altogether. I'll say it slowly: Documentary films are not journalism. While news purports to be "objective," documentary films present facts subjectively presented within the context of a point of view. Even a stolid documentary on the mating rituals of peahens arises from such a vantage point--certain facts are emphasized, others minimized, others left out of the frame altogether.

In 1999, legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog presented his manifesteo "Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema" on stage at the Walker Art Center. His first six points have great relevance for the discussion on Moore's film.

The others, not so much.

1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.

2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. "For me," he says, "there should be only one single law: the bad guys should go to jail." Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.

3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.

4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.

5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.

6. Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures amid ancient ruins of facts.

7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.

8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: "You can´t legislate stupidity."

9. The gauntlet is hereby thrown down.

10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn´t call, doesn´t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don´t you listen to the Song of Life.

11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.

12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species - including man - crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

No comments: