Friday, February 12, 2010

MR. HERZOG’S UNFORGIVING NEIGHBORHOOD




“This is George. He lives in a obscene, overwhelming jungle where murder is the norm. And also, he could not help it—he was a murderer too.”

So begins Mr. Herzog (Werner) in his telling of the classic story Curious George, accompanied by the original illustrations by H.A. Rey. Rey’s text, however, has been interpreted by the famously fatalistic director, who, as you might remember from Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams (which documented Herzog on the set of Fitzcarraldo), tends to find murder and obscenity and vileness around every bush and tree. (Imagine for a moment, if you will, a summit meeting between Herzog and Lady Bird Johnson.) Also know that this is not actually Herzog, but a merely passable vocal impersonation-- the actor nails the hard “g” of the word “jungle” as it rolls with a combination of bitterness and tenderness off that Germanic tongue. But the comedy is in “Herzog’s” vision of what lays on the surface, or just beneath the surface, of Rey’s comical narrative. My favorite moment comes after the precocious George “lays waste” to seven firemen who eventually haul him to a bleak jail cell where he is imprisoned, with only a pair of mice eating cheese in the corner as company. “But is it really George’s fault,” queries the artist who poetically chronicled the demise of Timothy Treadwell in Grizzly Man, “or is the Man in the Yellow Hat’s fault for taking an agent of chaos out of the wilderness and trying against all hope to civilize him?” George makes a daring escape with the help of a portly gentleman (who seems to appear out of nowhere) and here “Herzog” can’t help but observe, as George’s friend takes a pratfall: “And what does the fat man get for his troubles? Nothing but a broken jaw and to be laughed at by mousies.” In Mr. Herzog’s unforgiving neighborhood, Man will always find himself at the indifferent mercy of Nature, even when it comes by way of the padded end of a cute little monkey’s paw and the derisive giggles of cheese-munching rodents.

****************************************

Many thanks to Andy Torres and Terry Morgan for passing this along and brightening up just another Friday morning!

****************************************