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Grizzly Man


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I don't think the question of drugs, mental illness, and lifestyle choices has a simple either/or solution, for Timothy Treadwell or anyone else, for that matter. It's more a matter of synergy, and one of these three factors can readily potentiate the others.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 2 weeks later...

I watched BURDEN OF DREAMS last night, the acclaimed documentary about the making of Herzog's FITZCARRALDO. Such a strong connection between his reflections on the malevolence of nature in the two films (which he comments on in the commentary track, in fact).

I certainly gave more cred to the ideas as he expressed them in GRIZZLY MAN, much more considered and seasoned. Of course, he's not only had a couple decades to mature his perspective, but of course in BOD he's extemporizing in the middle of the jungle at some point during a four year film shoot, while the GM text he's carefully composed and is probably reading. Still, I found myself nodding in agreement listening to his GRIZZLY MAN monologue, and laughing out loud at the hyper-Teutonic melodrama of his younger words, which come off as something like self-parody;

"Of course we are challenging nature itself. And it hits back. It just hits back, that's all and that's grandiose about it and we have to accept that it is much stronger than we are.

"Kinski always says it's full of erotic elements. I don't see it so much erotic, I see it more full of obscenity. It's just

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Mimic all that with a German accent and the fun increases tenfold.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Mimic all that with a German accent and the fun increases tenfold.

Essential.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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  • 2 weeks later...

: The promotional rhetoric shifted from a man who lived with bears to a

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 year later...
I don't think the question of drugs, mental illness, and lifestyle choices has a simple either/or solution, for Timothy Treadwell or anyone else, for that matter. It's more a matter of synergy, and one of these three factors can readily potentiate the others.

I'm reluctant to go down this road again for fear of being pegged a "Reefer Madness" type of guy, but here's some further evidence:

Study: Marijuana may increase psychosis risk.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 6 months later...

Keeping up with my trend of seeing films two to three years after release, I caught Grizzly Man yesterday. Just read through the thread. Interesting to read the thoughts on Herzog's inclusion of the Park Service rant (we didnt' see any park service employees). It didn't bug me, but I thought it was kind of interesting that Herzog edited out the part where Treadwell "crossed the line". I don't know how much more he could have crossed the line, but oh well, thanks Werner for sparing my virgin ears.

(Of course another way to read it is to know that Herzog recognized that Treadwell was on a manic rant and not entirely responsible for the vitriol he was spewing, and spared his preserved memory of that indignity).

The doc seemed to be as much about Herzog as about Treadwell--fascinating to see how he was crafting the footage in opposition to Treadwell's harmony of nature worldview. To me, a gut wrenching cut from Herzog (his face never shown, just like Treadwell's gf) listening to the tape to the bear fight, saying "Hey, this death tape is too horrific to listen to; destroy it!" and "But watch this bear fight and you can imagine what happened to Tim and Amy."

Anyone else think the coroner was too enthusiastic about being on film--he was totally coached to be over the top (and I love how Herzog leaves a couple of beats at the closure of the coroner's description of the tape where he's no longer wild eyed and vivid, just sort of questioning, looking past the camera for approval).

Treadwell, though, what a maroon! I give him more credit than his fellow Alaskans--I think he realized the danger of his lifestyle, just had this consistent mental lapse that he was above the danger. But its not like he thought it wasn't dangerous--in fact, I think he gives himself props for just *how* dangerous it was.

The only other thing I thought of--I guess the Blair Witch concept isn't so far-fetched. After all, I wouldn't have thought of turning on my video camera while I was being eaten by a bear. In fact, I probably would have forgotten to charge the battery.

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Buckeye, I'm so glad you posted this. I recently just saw this for the first time on TV and I've been mulling it over. Brian Godawa blogged/reviewed this a couple of years ago and I remember he had some pretty harsh things to say about Treadwell that I can't really argue with now that I've actually seen it.

I do have more sympathy for Treadwell now though and I believe Herzog was sincere in showing of Treadwell's love for nature, idealistic and naive though it may be. The inclusion of the bear fight seemed like an obvious choice since frankly, that's what bears do. The moment that stood out to me was Treadwell standing in the river and reaching out to pet a bear who then quickly turns his head and almost jumps at him.

I especially loved the song "Coyotes" by Don Edwards. It's the country western/ yodeling song that the pilot sings along to towards the end. I never heard of Edwards before but now the song is among my favorites on the ipod.

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The moment that stood out to me was Treadwell standing in the river and reaching out to pet a bear who then quickly turns his head and almost jumps at him.

I especially loved the song "Coyotes" by Don Edwards. It's the country western/ yodeling song that the pilot sings along to towards the end. I never heard of Edwards before but now the song is among my favorites on the ipod.

Yes, that song was a great moment, esp. when the pilot sings over the lyric with "now Treadwell is gone". I was struck by the lack of grief most people showed, from the outright sneer the one guy gave early on, to the friend (co-exec producer, I noted) not really showing much emotion until Herzog listened to the tape. But its almost like what happens when someone dies after a long illness, relief sets in that the suffering is no more. So also for Treadwell, so clearly a troubled man, by whose death no one was caught off guard.

I don't recall the exact moment you refer to above, but there were a number of close encounters--the cub swinging at the camera, the female bear in the creek, and there was a bear at the end he went swimming with.

I thought it was really odd how Herzog communicated that Treadwell saw the bear as his savior (which he clearly did, telling his story of how he got into the whole thing after his drinking problem) and yet saw himself as a savior of the bears, their master and conqueror. At the end, neither was true--he was tolerated for a period of time, and nothing he did changed the wildlife mgt policy of the legalized hunt or the process of illegal poaching. Double whammy.

Treadwell crossed the borderline--wanting to escape his human-ness, he succumbed to one of our most basic frailties--we're both predator and prey, foremost through our ability to create tools extending our reach far beyond our grasp and our inadequacy in the face of the force of the natural world when we've been stripped of those same tools.

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I thought it was really odd how Herzog communicated that Treadwell saw the bear as his savior (which he clearly did, telling his story of how he got into the whole thing after his drinking problem) and yet saw himself as a savior of the bears, their master and conqueror. At the end, neither was true--he was tolerated for a period of time, and nothing he did changed the wildlife mgt policy of the legalized hunt or the process of illegal poaching. Double whammy.

Treadwell crossed the borderline--wanting to escape his human-ness, he succumbed to one of our most basic frailties--we're both predator and prey, foremost through our ability to create tools extending our reach far beyond our grasp and our inadequacy in the face of the force of the natural world when we've been stripped of those same tools.

Another telling moment that stood out was during his "I'm the savior of the bears." speeches. He actually says "Am I great man? I don't know.". Remember, no one else is around to ask or imply that he's a great man. You couldn't write a more perfect line of absolute false humility.

The best, most condemning witness against Treadwell had to be the native American at the bear museum. He rightly points out that his culture (ie. man) has respected the boundaries between man and animal for thousands of years and Treadwell crossed that line. His reluctance to come out and say this to Herzog on camera only added to his credibility for me.

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  • 1 year later...
I don't think the question of drugs, mental illness, and lifestyle choices has a simple either/or solution, for Timothy Treadwell or anyone else, for that matter. It's more a matter of synergy, and one of these three factors can readily potentiate the others.

I'm reluctant to go down this road again for fear of being pegged a "Reefer Madness" type of guy, but here's some further evidence:

Study: Marijuana may increase psychosis risk.

Our "Legalization of Marijuana" thread is closed, so I'm putting this news here, again, although we've ventured far from the movie:

Even as stronger varieties are being bred and marketed, medical research is linking cannabis use to behavioral and cognitive changes reminiscent of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and anxiety disorder. And yet we find ourselves arguing about whether pot is addictive or a gateway drug or should be legalized. We are collectively losing our minds.

Yup.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 6 months later...

The folks at Big Hollywood spend so much time moaning and griping about politics and whatnot that it comes as a real treat when one of them finally posts a sustained work of film APPRECIATION. Case in point: Leo Grin's four-part review of Grizzly Man.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 years later...

Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, 2009, pgs. 191-192 -

... Herzog (whose voice-over perfectly matches The Simpsons's hard man, Rainier Wolfcastle) is an infamous egomaniacal, auteur nutjob (i.e., a great European director) with a bent for the Germanically literal.  (To pay off a bet he once made a movie called Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.  It did not disappoint.)  Herzog is hard-core.  He's not interested in your interpretation of why American nutjob Timothy Treadwell lived among bears.  Who cares what you think?  Herzog has his documentary in hand, explaining that what we have here "iz on astone-ishing story of beauty and depth."  He's not wrong.  The footage itself is mostly Treadwell's, but the film is a discordant duet of two voices: Herzog's old-world Schopenhaurian pessimism versus Treadwell's new-world optimism (which, Herzog believes, masks a deep despair).

 

Herzog calls bears a "primordial encounter."  Treadwell calls them Mr. Chocolate and Aunt Melissa.  Herzog believes Timothy was "fighing against the civilization that cast Thoreau out of Walden."  According to Timothy's parents, the motivation was more prosaic.  Not to give the specifics away, but "failed TV actor" is at the root of the crisis.  Still, Herzog is determined to spin grandeur out of poor Timmy.  And fabulous though it is to hear Herzog shouting about the "ooltimatt indifference of nature," it's Timothy's saying to a fox, "I love you.  Thanks for being my friend.  I like this - do you like this?" that brings real joy.  All you need to know about indifference is right there in that fox's face ...

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Zadie Smith wrote:

: To pay off a bet he once made a movie called Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

 

Well, technically it was a Les Blank film, not a Werner Herzog film, but anyhoo.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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