Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Roger Ebert’s death and in memory of the late, great film critic who articulately taught us all to love and appreciate film, Fandor’s Kevin B. Lee has put together a great video essay on Werner Herzog’s classic “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” (1972), with snippets from Ebert’s Great Movies review. (Watch below.)
“Aguirre,” an imaginative retelling of ruthless Basque-Spanish conquistador Don Lope de Aguirre’s (played by the untouchable Klaus Kinski) treacherous journey down the Amazon River in search of El Dorado, was Ebert’s favorite Herzog film. It placed high on his Sight & Sound poll of the greatest films of all time.
Ebert and the German auteur were longtime friends, so it’s no surprise that in Ebert’s memoir “Life Itself,” Herzog gets a full chapter. It’s a must-read for film fans, rife with moving anecdotes about their relationship and shared love of cinema. Here’s an excerpt, in which Ebert recalls first meeting Herzog at the 1968 New York Film Festival:
I keenly remember how I felt, sitting on the floor next to his chair. Here was a young man unlike any I had ever met. He spoke clearly and directly of unusual ideas. He wasn’t pitching or promoting. It was clear to him what his mission was. It was to film the world through the personalities of exalted eccentrics who defied all ordinary categories and sought a transcendent vision. Every one of his films has followed that same mission. Every one, I believe, is autobiographical–reflecting not the facts of his life, but his spirit. He is in the medieval sense a mystic.
Later this month, Ebertfest kicks off with a terrific lineup honoring the founding critic. It will open with the moving documentary “Life Itself,” from “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James. (Here’s our Sundance interview with Steve James.)