(2009) director Werner Herzog
When I first read about My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, I was intrigued. Executive produced by David Lynch and directed by Werner Herzog, it tells the story of a man who, losing his mind while starring in a performance of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, a play about a man who slays his mother, winds up slaying his own mother with a samurai sword in some mixture in his mind between myth, theater, and reality. When I first read about it, I was intrigued. But it didn’t take more than a breath or two more to recall that Werner Herzog, while a groundbreaking director perhaps in the 1970’s, and a guy who has made some interesting films even more recently, also has proven himself a consumate hack as a director in my assessment of late.
From his wantonly bad (though entertainingly mad) The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (2009) to his interesting yet at times hackneyed documentaries (My Best Fiend (1999), Grizzly Man (2005)), Herzog is invariably attracted to interesting material, but when it comes to actually making a film of it, it’s more often than not, a complete pile of rubbish. The direction, in almost every respect, is amateurish, silly, and annoying. And where The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans had at least the Nicolas Cage going ape-shit element, this film really only has its concepts and story, which are denuded of value throughout by the film itself.
Apparently, Herzog convinced Lynch that making movies on the cheap, telling stories that are interesting, no big budgets, was worth backing. And, again, it’s not wrong at that level. Perhaps Herzog should produce films himself, not direct them. Like I said, he’s got an eye for interesting stories.
I’ve been meaning to revisit his earlier work, the stuff that put him on the map, the intense, strange and challenging films of the 1970’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) or Stroszek (1977). Actually, I have his film Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970) in my rental queue at the moment.
I guess there is a good reason I waited for DVD for this one. And I guess I should think more than twice before queuing up any more of his films in anticipation of really liking them.