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Curtain Up: The Wrath of Werner


By Randi Schmelzer

Published Jan 1, 2009 8:04 AM

Photo courtesy of the Hammer Museum.

Werner Herzog is not a man who breeds ambivalence.

One of cinema's most enigmatic — and controversial — director/writer/producers, Herzog creates films that feature a hybrid of anguished eccentrics, endless landscapes, oppressive interiors and screeching stringed instruments. From his breakthrough Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) to his classic Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and the documentary Grizzly Man (2005), a trip through Herzog's universe can be a daunting experience.

For many cinema enthusiasts, though, the German-born, 66-year-old auteur director is a creative visionary who has created a fascinating mythology: Is he a megalomaniac prophet or a simple storyteller? Is he manic or misunderstood? And how did he become so enraptured with Klaus Kinski?

Soon, the answers to these questions may finally be revealed: On Feb. 20, as part of UCLA Live's annual Spoken Word series, New York Public Library director of public programs Paul Höldengraber will engage Herzog in an intimate discussion about his work and his life.

The conversation will be followed by "Requiem for a Dying Planet," inspired by the music and imagery in Herzog's documentaries The Wild Blue Yonder and The White Diamond. "Requiem" is a hypnotic live performance featuring cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger, Senegalese singer Mola Sylla and the Sardinian shepherd choir Cuncordu e Tenore de Orosei.

UCLA Live presents "Requiem for a Dying Planet: Discussion and Cine-Concert with Werner Herzog." Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 at 8 p.m. Royce Hall, UCLA. $48, $36, $28; $15 UCLA students. Call (310) 825-2101 or visit