Monday, March 07, 2005

Capsules: Facing/Faking Reality with Herzog and Nessie
Call it the aftershock of The Blair Witch Project if you like (not that anyone's thought much about that film lately): With Incident at Loch Ness director Zak Penn (a screenwriter on such big-budget projects as X-Men 2 and Elektra) turns the Blair Witch aesthetic into a witty commentary on self-referential filmmaking, Though it flirts with self-indulgence, Incident is redeemed by the fact that the man at the helm of the film-within-a-film crew is Werner Herzog, no stranger to grand projects and artistic ordeals. Herzog plays himself – engagingly, as always – venturing to Scotland to make a film about the susceptibility that allows people to create myths like the Loch Ness Monster. As Herzog talks about the will to believe in the nknown, the film also investigates a more familiar form of mythmaking: When the crew begins to notice strange things in the water, Herzog’s immediate suspicion is that it’s the work of Penn, trying to make the project more commercial. . Echoing the brilliant Burden of Dreams, Les Blank’s documentary about the making of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, Penn’s film plays on film-set emotions and Herzog’s reputation as an eccentric and driven visionary, bogging down only at the end when his shaggy-dog story of a film crew reaches the point of its payoff. And even then Herzog’s warm presence adds much,to the film’s credibility, lending a streak of authentically romantic vision to what might otherwise have been a colossal in-joke.
(Incidentally, Burden of Dreams will be released in May in a shiny new DVD edition from Criterion!)
And speaking of mockumentaries (is that what we were doing?), the long-delayed Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch, finally seeing the light of day thanks to anticipation of the Broadway opening of Spamalot, is a mixed blessing at best. Though there are amusing new interviews with Bonnie Raitt, Steve Martin, Conan O’Brien and others, the film is essentially a remake/re-edit of the classic All You Need is Cash, making liberal use of the earlier footage but not really doing much to expand the original Beatles parody in any noticeable way. If you’ve never seen All You Need is Cash, you’ll probably take a more generous view.

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