Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The Wild Blue Yonder

The clips from Taxidermia, Svankmajer, Wild Tigers I Have Known, were all inspired by their appearance in the July 2007 issue of Sight & Sound. One of the other things I liked about that issue was the particularly perceptive overview of Werner Herzog's career by Mark Sinker in his review of "The Wild Blue Yonder". Sinker's comments are complementary, in my view, with Luc Besson's critical intentions in "The Big Blue", of exposing the danger of individualised transgression/transcendence, typically described as "ecstatic truth" by Herzog, namely, that it can easily lapse into anomie. I would extend this critique to argue that the deployment of a romanticised notion of Nature as the vehicle for attaining such experiences can lead to not only the slippery slope of the controversial intimations of posthuman sexuality broached in my "Marceline" post, but to the more broadly construed legitimation of a bioculture. Of course this may only inadvertently be the case, but the point Sinker makes is that a reconstructed notion of rationality would be indispensable to a science of politics if one is to be capable of debating these issues in a sensible, democratic, reconstructive fashion in the public sphere. This critical alternative casts Herzog's comments in "Grizzly Man" in a disturbing light, especially when he approvingly contrasts the production process of a unionised film crew, with the kind of unique imagery Timothy Treadwell was able to capture as a solitary documentary film maker. If one reads between the lines of Sinker's review, it is possible to distill a critique of this kind of perspective as generally representative of Herzog's body of work:

"Rewatch Grizzly Man in light of Herzog's rather uncritical nature worship (evident here also) and you do wonder if it isn't a wee bit animated by a certain glee and relief that rival misanthropist (and nincompoop) Timothy Treadwell gets eaten by bears, and now no one outflanks Herzog! ....More tangled self-subversion to get impatient at: isn't the director's persistent synecdoche for the flaws in human civilisation- technology, bourgeois rationality, the enlightenment- just his own undiluted scientific cluelessness, endlessly mistaking "I don't get this" for "I see through this"?...Herzog discovers in everything a powerful mystery, frightening, exciting, incoherent- and some of it is, and yes, we sometimes fail to know this- but unlike the semi-mythical child-man torture victim (i.e. "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser", whose abuse produced everything Herzog considers insight), the director has no good excuse (nobody isolated Herzog in a windowless dungeon throughout his childhood), and nowhere grounded to stand when he points the finger at the rest of us poor benighted not-so-wildlife. He has a genuine gift- non verbal ear, non literary eye- for the allure beyond the pedantically rational (for all that hints at shortfall), but in Herzog's version of The Emperor's New Clothes, it's always the child that's naked."

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