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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Blu-ray. Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Also Two Disc Blu-ray/3D Blu-ray combo) (Four Stars)
Germany/France: Werner Herzog, 2011 (MPI Home Video)
Perhaps 30,000 years ago, or less, in the age of the paleoliths, a man or woman, or a group of them, stood before the walls of the cave of Chauvet, in France, and, probably by torchlight, drew or painted a group of pictures on the walls, of the animals they saw in the world outside.
Their hands were agile and gentle. Their eyes were sharp. Their labors were tireless. On the walls, they made something beautiful: graceful color drawings of  horses and lions and bears. Of cows. A panther. A rhino. They did it, whoever they were (or whoever he or she was), because, like all artists, they wanted to preserve a life, or create and preserve a sense of life.
They wanted to fashion a horse who would run long after the original had died and crumbled into earth. They wanted to make a lion who would roar long, long after they were gone. They wanted to celebrate the world they loved and that fascinated them. They wanted to rob death of its power to steal that world and take away our loved ones. Their motives were aesthetic, and also, in a way, religious. They succeeded, more than they would know know or could ever imagine. But then, imagining was part of their vocation. They were artists.
Perhaps 20,000 years ago, there was an avalanche or cataclysm of some kind in Chauvet. The caves were buried and the galleries were sealed, kept by mischance from the vagaries of weather or the erosions of time. No one could destroy the paintings, but no one could see them either. The caves are still there, now unsealed since their discovery by archeologists and explorers in 1994. More important, the paintings are still there. You can see them!
Not in real life, because only a handful of archeologists are granted access to those caves, and only a few at a time. But the great German filmmaker Werner Herzog (Aguirre: The Wrath of God), who talked and “pleased” and probably pleaded and was granted rare access to capture the work on the walls with his camera, a 3D camera, will take you there, along with his cinematographer Peter Zettlinger. They will show you the oldest art on earth, in three dimensions that, for once, are justified, and it should fill you with wonder.


Chauvet cave paintings

Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a marvelous documentary about the cave paintings of Chauvet, will be seen by only a handful of the current audience for, say the Harry Potter movies, or War Horse, or Puss in Boots or the new 3D Star Wars. Yet it may prove the most valuable, and, one hopes, most lasting, of all the 3D films we’ve seen so far.

Certainly what it shows is of immense interest and enduring importance. But Herzog also, through the care and love and artistry of his framing, and the lovable pretensions and slightly cracked poetry of his narration, creates a human link to that past. One feels, really, that if it were 30,000 years ago, Werner H. would be there at the wall with his paints, making a picture of a horse. One does not at all feel that about the majority of the other people who make movies these days. Some of them would be eating, some would be copulating, some of them would be counting their banks of gems and pebbles, some finding food for their family.

Some, like the hairy dancing apes in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, would be swinging a bone to crush a skull. But Herzog, I’m sure, would be painting a horse or a panther and then describing it in a lovably pretentious way, or going off to watch some more of life, and then paint some more of it, breathe life onto the walls of a cave.

30,000 years from now, there may be no more movies, or at least none of the ones we know, including 2001 and War Horse and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Despite all the care taken today by the French government and academia and the archeologists (led by Chauvet director Jean-Michel Geneste), there may be no Chauvet, or other caves and cave paintings. There may be no Earth, or only the blackened remnants of one. Yet, whatever there is, if Earth and art still exist in some way, one hopes that there will be someone somewhere to preserve some of the horses that were painted by the artists who loved them and wanted to give them eternal life. Or thereabouts. And maybe a Werner Herzog to make pictures of the pictures.

Pieter Breughel the Elder’s The Harvesters

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Chloë Sevigny

“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier