Director Werner Herzog has had a sad last couple of weeks, with the loss of his friends film critic Roger Ebert and documentarian Les Blank. Below, Herzog’s thoughts on Ebert on Charlie Rose (he joins critics A.O. Scott and Dana Stevens), with quote highlights.
Here is a recent remembrance of Blank in the New Yorker (TOH! contributor Joe Leydon’s interview with Blank in 1982 on “Burden of Dreams,” his documentary on Herzog’s chaotic Fitzcarraldo shoot, is here).
Herzog, now 70, is one of those rare directors who possesses a brilliant talent for narrative and documentary filmmaking alike, and remains both prolific and an adventurous world-traveler in his older age. His most recent big-screen entry, “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga,” which he co-directed with Dmitry Vasyukov, is an absorbing, season-by-season chronicle of hunters and trappers in the Siberian Taiga; alas, it had a run so brief, most cinephiles probably blinked and missed it.
That film debuted at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival, where Herzog is a much-valued guest and friend. This year, for the fest’s 40th anniversary, Telluride is naming a new state-of-the-art theater after the German director.
(On the small screen in 2012, Herzog debuted the nail-biting “On Death Row,” which stemmed from 2011’s “Into the Abyss”; our TOH! flipcam interview with him out of Telluride is here.)
Up next, Herzog has “Queen of the Desert,” starring Naomi Watts as explorer Gertrude Bell; Robert Pattinson plays T.E. Lawrence.
Herzog on Ebert as more than a critic:
“I never really saw him as a critic, there was much more about him. Very early on, I understood [Ebert] was a national treasure… I think with him, a whole epoch ends… He was after illumination, something about truth in cinema, and that’s how I connected with him. We always had the feeling there was something much deeper than just movies.”
On Ebert being “a good soldier”:
“I was called by him once a ‘good soldier of cinema,’ and I gave it right back at him… I said, ‘Roger, you are plowing on, you are holding out an outpost that many others have abandoned. You are still doing the intelligent discourse about cinema… And of course now you are disabled, you are the afflicted one, you are the wounded soldier.'”
On Ebert’s legacy:
“He’s staying on with us. There are guiding principles that he defended, and we as filmmakers do defend what his spirit was.”