While the public opinion remains somewhat divided on the merit of Jonathan Demme’s latest, the Diablo Cody-penned rock n’ roll dramedy “Ricki & the Flash,” it’s hard to dispute the director’s legendary standing in the last half-century or so of American cinema. After bursting onto the scene with a series of idiosyncratic, deeply personal comedies that shed light on the forgotten back roads of America, (the marvelous “Melvin and Howard” and the deeply weird “Something Wild” are highlights) Demme brought his decidedly singular vision to the mainstream in pictures like “Philadelphia” and his Oscar-winning serial killer masterpiece, “The Silence of the Lambs.” His recent output has been more mixed—“Rachel Getting Married” is fantastic, “The Truth About Charlie” is not so much—but Demme is and was a titan in the American movie scene.
As such the prospect of Mr. Demme sitting down to chat with notorious wild man/genius Werner Herzog should send readers of this site into delirious, spasmatic fits of pure movie-lover’s delight. Herzog is a man who needs no introduction. He’s one of the last remaining rebels of the art form, with everything from “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” to his gonzo remake of Abel Ferrara’s “Bad Lieutenant” to serve as evidence. The talk with Demme was recorded at New York City’s Museum of Moving Images at around the time that Herzog was promoting his documentary “Encounters at the End of the World” and it is indeed a genuine thrill to see two such masters of the form square off and chop it up.
As the host/mediator of the talk, Demme is smart, agreeable and immensely respectful of the other director’s rather intimidating body of work. Herzog, meanwhile, is his usual droll, eloquent self, with a few dollops of his trademark cruel humor thrown in for good measure. Among the subjects discussed are Herzog’s refusal to identify as German, (he’s Bavarian, fyi) his thoughts on peers like Fassbinder and Wenders, his brotherly love for fellow “soldier of cinema” Roger Ebert and what he calls the “primal fear” that he experienced watching “Silence of the Lambs” for the first time. So what are you waiting for? Get in on the movie-nerd bliss and check out the talk, in its entirety, below. [The Film Stage]