Call me an artless heathen but I’ve never really been down with much of Herzog’s work at all. Whether or not a lot of his comments in interviews are tongue in cheek, he just comes across as totally condescending. His comments about Abel Ferrara while being interviewed about the Bad Lieutenant remake (insert “reinvisioning” or another beating round the bush euphemism of your choice here) had me spitting blood. His dry German “wit” rubs me like a cheese grater.
I forget who said that Herzog’s films are the “enemy of the short attention span” but they were dead on and maybe that’s why I don’t dig on them as much as some folk. There was a time where I lapped up arty festival styled flicks like Herzog’s but now I’m part of the lowest common denominator (as I’m sure the man himself would point out) preferring trash, sleaze, mindless violence and other cheap thrills. But hey that’s just me, the dude has a legion of critics and fans riding his dick so he must be doing something right.
Stroszek is a notable exception for me when it comes to Herzog’s output and my change in taste and disdain for the director aside I had a blast revisiting it. I first caught this film on the big screen at a film festival seven or eight years back and it really struck a chord with me. I loved the quirkiness of the characters and found the vision of America through foreign eyes unique and interesting (most of the foreign films I’d seen up until that point had been set in their native countries). I found Wim Wenders’ film The American Friend (Der amerikanische Freund) similarly interesting how it reversed the roles having an American experiencing German culture. Both films definitely make interesting companion pieces to each other with their cultural and artistic (both films tip their hats to classic American cinema) themes. Criticism of America’s culture and politics is fairly rampant in today’s climate but Stroszek was one of the films to pave the way and set the trend. I’m quite fond of seeing the status quo of society questioned, and its faults pointed out so I got a kick out of Stroszek thematically.
The film revolves around Bruno Stroszek (Bruno S) who has been recently released from prison and a down and out prostitute Eva (Eva Mattes). The couple flee Berlin to avoid any more run ins with Eva’s pimps. Accompanying them on their journey is Bruno’s rather eccentric elderly neighbour Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz) who they decide to follow to Wisconsin. Bruno and Eva are of course fish out of water in the shitkicker (and the journey to it) town and the film uses this to illustrate the absurbty of American culture, and weaves a rich story both characteristically and visually. I believe the part of Bruno was specifically written for Bruno S who was a schizophrenic musician friend of Herzog. Bruno S really makes the character memorable with an excellent performance as do the rest of the cast. If you’re a fan of naturalistic acting this film will definitely appeal to you. Stroszek is a poignant and thought provoking film that I’m sure has something to appeal to everyone. I’d recommend it highly to those after something a little different than what they would normally watch. Supposedly this film is the last thing Ian Curtis of Joy Division watched before he committed suicide which may or may not be of interest to you.
Stroszek is easily one of Herzog’s more accessible films especially for its spontaneity, quirkiness and scathing political commentary. A wild ride with a great cast be sure to check it out now that it’s available locally.
Was it enough to change my opinion of the man? Nope. I’ll stick to watching flicks like the real Bad Lieutenant, Driller Killer and Ms 45.. I acknowledge Ferrara’s importance and existence even if Herzog doesn’t.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio commentary with Director Werner Herzog and Norman Hill
DIRECTOR(S): Werner Herzog | COUNTRY: Germany | YEAR 1977 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Umbrella Entertainment | RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes