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My Best Fiend [1999]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is film director Werner Herzog's deeply personal account of his time spent with Klaus Kinski, the actor, who died in 1991. It is in German with English subtitles.

If Werner Herzog ever needed a muse, he found one in Klaus Kinski - the director and the actor had strangely parallel lives, first meeting when Werner was 13; they happened by chance to both live in the same house together (with many others).

Herzog revisits the building, and guides the present occupiers round their home, relating memories of Klaus' famous rages - they are politely bemused, and so is the viewer. It is only as the film progresses that we begin to see what Werner hopes to try to reveal - it is a desire that he can only hope to achieve, as he is clearly still working out the dynamics of their relationship; it is not so much the answer that he seems to be searching for, as the quest that this documentary represents continually raises more questions with every answer that he finds - he wants to capture the force of nature that Kinski represented.

By all accounts, Kinski was a madman - prone to explosive bursts of rage, it wasn't unusual for his capacity for fury to fuel screaming diatribes of eight hours or more - so why, I found myself constantly asking, does the ice-cool Herzog keep on returning to work with him? He had a reputation for behaving like a spoilt child, and his tantrums were the stuff of legend. He drove Herzog so close to the edge that he seriously planned to kill him.

He revisits other locations - particularly of the three films that they made together - all infamous for being nightmarish experiences fr cast and crew alike. In Fitzcarraldo , they managed to haul a riverboat over a mountain. For real. At the end of this documentary, Werner looks at a black and white photograph of this steamer half-way up this impossibly steep rocky slope, and says to his companion: "this is an incredibly powerful metaphor - but I don't know what for". Perhaps it is for the creative process, and for the intangible magic that they shared together: the creative process needs to struggle, to strain against something, if it is to acquire its full force. Kinski and Herzog were two sides of a unique coin - they forced each other out of their normal zones, into something new.

I'm not keen on the mystification - deification, it almost seems at times - of actors who are prone to hissy fits of colossal proportions, but this goes beyond that into the investigation of the creative process itself; the chemistry involved, and the dedication to the shared artistic vision that has to be there. It is so intense for these two that it goes beyond dysfunction into something quite frightening but undoubtedly magical at times.

If you're familiar with either two's work, if you're involved in any creative process, you'll find this documentary fascinating, inspiring, beautiful - but nightmarish.

It defies description - recommended, of course!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2012
The volatile relationship between Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog is the stuff of movie legend. This documentary dispenses with the myth and instead tries to draw a more nuanced picture. Yes, there were apocalyptic rows between the two men but there was also a deep, profound friendship; an understanding between two people that is rare.

Kinski emerges as a more complex character that his mad man persona allows with a warm, even shy persona. The interview with Claudia Cardinale is particularly revealing. Meanwhile Herzog's analysis of Kinski is measured and multi-faceted. I've heard it said that this documentary was Herzog's revenge on Kinski - but that's an interpretation I find hard to credit.

If you're expecting a traditional, cradle-to-grave biopic you may be disappointed. This is more idiosyncratic film mostly pivoting around the making of Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo (though the two men's other collaborations do appear). It is also as much about Herzog himself as it is his best fiend. The result is profound and moving.
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