Shock Corridor Cinema: Werner Herzog Program. Stroszek (1977) + Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)
A critical and eccentric figure of the German New Cinema of the 1970s, Herzog's narrative films are imbued with the struggles of the outsider, a tension bound by a passion that is often more gregarious than it is sentimental. Stroszek lies somewhere between Going Down the Road and Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, the latter's bleak portrait of the American cultural landscape is inescapably influenced by this Herzog film. Stroszek' narrative features a trio from Germany's marginalized lower class (a street musician, a prostitute and an elder) as they attempt to locate both refuge and the American Dream in the US. Only a Herzog film would have such characters end up in Wisconsin. Conflicts abound, the characters find themselves at odds with both the cultural landscape of America's dairy land and the economic exhaustion that small town America seems embroiled in during the late 1970s. Herzog's treatment of this German/American polarization is one of tenderness as the film's gaze is neither "one of condescension nor appraisal", most notably realized in the performance by the film's star, Bruno Stroszek, a simpleton whose lovely minimalist acordian music seems to articulate more of the character's psychology than anything he (chooses to) recite from the film's script.
In large part, Stroszek's cult following surrounds its central actor, Bruno Stroszek, an orphaned street musician who suffers from mental illness and employed by Herzog after the director learned of him through a student film that exposes the busker scene in Berlin. Also of film lore note: this is the movie that Joy Division's Ian Curtis was apparently viewing the night in which he took his own life. Certainly one has to consider what supplements Ian Curtis may have consumed on this fateful evening because Stroszek has a unique way of planting optimism in the most hardened pessimist - perhaps the film's greatest achievement.
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.
A humorous short that documents Herzog publicly eating his shoe to honour a friendly wager he made with now famous documentarian, Errol Morris. shot and edited by Les Blank.
* NPR audio interview with Herzog of which the filmmaker discusses Grizzly Man, his infamously cantankerous relationship with leading actor Klaus Kinski and his adorning admiration for Stroszek star, Bruno Stroszek can be heard at: