Werner Herzog Season – How Much Wood Would A Woodchuck Chuck? (1976)
Time to return to time gone by territory, yes, I know I’ve been slacking on the Herzog season but I think you can forgive me, after all I delivered not two, nor three but four full reviews last week so y’all can cut me some slack. Next on the BFI box-set mandated programme is another documentary which is relatively short, this time Herzog was attracted to the amphetamine mouthed livestock ringmasters housed in the so called ‘fly-over’ states , and the associated environment emitting what he memorably remarks as ‘the poetry of capitalism’. As well as the machine-gun speed wordsmiths the film is also fascinated with the punters and support staff who attend the annual world championship of auctioneers, just the sort of social competition you won’t find repeated in the urban enclaves of the East and West coast. Herzog was operating within his American fascination phase in 1976, peeking into the nooks and crannies of the great democratic experiment, and finding some odd behaviour and translucent traditions among the little covered rural heartlands of the great plains;
At forty-four minutes Woodchuck is not a particularly demanding piece of work in either length or ambition, a rather sleight and pleasant historical travelogue of tracts of America that filmmakers frequently overlook rather than some penetrating insight into the human condition. The characters are colorful and amusing but not patronized by Herzog’s inquisitive gaze, even as they spew this almost impenetrable alien language which does seem to rise to near religious hysterical annotations in a quite bizarre manner. Truth be told after fifteen minutes of various auctioneers murdering the English language this actually gets a little tedious, and attention may drift to the rather gaudy fashions and grooming decisions which these strange natives from another century garb themselves in. It night have been nice Mr. Herzog if you’d given us some idea of exactly what distinguishes one auctioneer from the next, is it speed? Intonation? Accuracy? A combination of all these elements? They all seems to bellow out their incomprehensible argot in an identical fashion, but as I said this is perhaps more of a glancing mood piece than any serious sociological study. A respite perhaps, a calm before the storm, as we have a lynchpin film in Herzog’s entire lunatic oeuvre to tackle next, the notorious Storsezk which I have to say I’m really looking forward to revisit as I haven’t seen it in years. Until then here’s a recent interview to pad this out a little;
In other news, having got my new assignment dragged into the 21st century of youtube I spunked a celebratory £30 in the local HMV today, picking up some of the best film on Blu of the past couple of years. Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Gravity got Under The Skin and caused the Last Of The Mohicans. Or something. How does this relate to Werner Herzog I hear you ask? Well, according to my research a certain Klaus Kinski spent the Second World War in Colchester as a POW, I bet he has a model prisoner…..