Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Two Great Documentaries

I just finished watching Grizzly Man, a documentary by Werner Herzog about Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent his summers living among the Grizzly Bears of Alaska. A fascinating character, Treadwell died before deciding which of the hours of footage he shot would be shared with us.

Herzog gives us the chance to see what an amazing man Timothy Treadwell was, especially his relationship with the foxes who would play with him, let him pet them and even bring their young right to his tent, but we're also allowed a look at what a paranoid and desperate man he was. Prone to wild mood swings and a crippling amount of empathy for everything around him, Treadwell cracks on camera repeatedly. He saw himself as the sole protector of the Bears and the world as his enemy. One amazing scene captures him in his tent screaming at god for rain, and he is furious! In another scene he is moved to near tears at finding a dead bumble bee.

Herzog's best move is in letting the story unfold using mostly Timothy's footage. Outside interviews with friends, family and other people involved in the life and habitat of the Alaskan bears help us to gain perspective but mostly Timothy tells the story himself. Herzog comes across the audio only recording of Treadwell and a girlfriend being killed by a bear, and he opts not to use it, instead using only a clip of himself listening to it. While probably depriving the film of a sensational selling point, this is a classy decision and what's really going on this movie is so much more powerful than a snuff film.

Last night I enjoyed End Of The Century, a documentary on The Ramones. What a fascinating set of characters, all of them, Tommy, Marky, Dee Dee, the very sensitive Joey but for me the most intriguing was Johnnie. His complete inability to feel anything but disgust is overwhelming. He is Bert from Sesame Street if Bert were a leather jacket wearing pioneer of Punk Rock. As he blesses George Bush and God while being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I damn near fell over.

The doc features plenty of live footage, wonderful old photos and great interviews with the band members who are reluctant to dish ALL the dirt but end up opening up every can of worms put before them thanks to the patience and persistence of the interviewer, much to my voyeristic glee. Especially entertaining is Dee Dee's foray into rap in the eighties! It aint pretty.

I watched The Filth and The Fury, about the Sex Pistols a week ago and was disappointed. End of The Century went much further in satisfying my craving for a great punk rock documentary.

2 comments:

Michelle said...

Great thoughts on Grizzly Man. Was easily my fave film of 2005. Can't imagine any director handling the complexity of Treadwell's character with greater respect and skill than Herzog, although I've mixed feelings about the scene wherein we watch Herzog in semi-profile listening to Treadwell's audio...a little sensationalistic in its own way, although maybe the only way to do it.

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

Thanks. Yeah, it's a pretty great flick.
I was alright with the scene you mention. I think most film makers would have used the audio.