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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

God's happy man: dinner with Herzog

Tom Hall, director of Programming at the Sarasota Film Festival, shares memories of his dinner last month with Werner Herzog after he arrived for a retrospective of his nonfiction work: Herzog arrived at the festival right on time. I was off greeting another filmmaker at a private reception when I received a phone call; having just arrived, Werner was sitting down to dinner, would I care to join him? liebsterfiend3457.jpg There are very few questions one faces in life that require absolutely no reflection, and this was one of them… I almost instantaneously found myself short on things to say. There is a dilemma that we all face in that crucial moment… how does one talk about life and the world around us without deferring to the source of our admiration? … I had read many interviews with Werner that were difficult and somewhat surly as he answered banal questions with funny, honest, and often curt answers. Would he be the same in person? It didn’t take much time to find out. Werner was a warm, generous person, animated and full of life… [D]inner arrived, and with it more wine. Herzog took a copious slice from his steak, a generous drink from his wine glass, and began telling us more stories about his life that are best reserved for Werner himself to tell; the stories of the 3 times he had been shot at (once as a rambunctious teenager who, attempting to shoot a duck, was mistaken for a serial killer, once in the middle of a civil war, and recently by an air rifle during an interview for the BBC)… We even got Werner’s thoughts on Godard (I won’t spill the beans). As we approached the end of the evening, Werner told me how much he appreciated what I had done with his documentaries in the program and how pleased he was to be at our festival. Before I could respond with anything more than a simple ‘Thank you’, our group was departing and we both had many hands to shake in thanks.” [More at the link.]

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster