Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 267: My Best Fiend (1999) - Rank 4/5


If I were to walk into my classroom tomorrow and ask my students to name a director and actor that frequently collaborate together, I'd probably find myself looking out across the same sea of blank stares that greet me every time I pose a query like "What function does a ribosome carry out in the cell?" Now, regardless of the question, there are those bastions of saving grace, and undoubtedly those few would respond: "Johnny Depp and Tim Burton." Go back and time ten years ago and ask me and you'd probably get: "Leo G. Carroll and Alfred Hitchcock," shortly before my ass is beaten for knowing too much about movies...by my mother. I kid. But for those who develop a penchant for what Werner Herzog has to offer, cinematically speaking, they soon learn that there is no duo more infamous than the German auteur and the rabid Klaus Kinski.

"My Best Fiend" is a dark, yet anecdotal documentary chronicling the foibles of the pair as they collaborated on one maddening production after the next. Herzog helms the project as he revisits some of the pivotal locations of his films, as if conducting a life journey. In a way, I don't suppose that description is far off. Herzog handles his subjects (himself and his deceased colleague) with more grace and tenderness than one might expect. It's as if the film is a partial vindication for the oft misunderstood Kinski.

Don't assume for a moment, though, that the production is laden with saccharine. Herzog recounts moments of Kinski's notorious temper, such as a two-day period where Kinski stayed locked in the lavatory and tore the room asunder. And, as one would assume, Herzog does retell (and clarify) the classic story of his alleged "directing by gun" on the set of "Aguirre: The Wrath of God." However, Herzog doesn't digress into the sensationalistic either. The documentary strikes perfect harmony between the gentle man and the anguished actor to instill the sense of awe for Kinski - a sense of awe that Herzog conveys that he, too, once felt for his past friend.

Watch the Trailer

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