Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
On Sunday it dawned on me that I might quickly run out of opportunities to see Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D. Flicks of that sort make it to big markets like NY and LA, but rarely B'more. Only a couple spots in DC were showing it in 3D, so I jumped in the clunker Sunday and tore down the road to Georgetown.
I left a half-hour early thinking that would give me adequate leeway, but cruddy internet directions and a woefully undersigned section of K Street in DC made me about 10 minutes late. I missed the opening chunk of the show as a result, but was immediately spellbound by the fantastic stuff on screen.
I've seen a few books of Chauvet cave images--I own a couple--and though the photographs are stunning there is simply no comparison to the 3D experience. You can see clearly in Herzog's doc how cleverly these ancient artists used the contours of walls to suggest depth and movement, and how grottos and niches feature surprising little vignettes in a frozen narrative; for example, a zebra will frolic in solitary bliss on his own wall, but just on the lip of the niche in which his image plays are several lurking lions peering around the edge. In flickering light many of these paintings seem to move magically.
Herzog is a loveable crank and I can think of no one better to confront the murky beginnings of modern consciousness. Terrence McKenna is dead, after all! Werner is surprisingly restrained in this film, and only goes wild at the end with some odd mutterings about mutant albino crocodiles. The interviews are mostly useful and informative, and there's a quirky sense of humor to the entire exercise which I found refreshing (the parfumeur who searches for caves by sniffing crevices in rocks is a particular fave. He's busy sniffing Chauvet to recreate its smells for a planned theme park with life-size exact models of the cave and its paintings). The 3D images of the caves are stunning, but sometimes the technology became distracting during interviews: it's hard to focus on an anthropologist discussing proto humanoids while birds flit around the canyon behind him in 3D.
I hope they release a DVD with director's commentary, because Herzog's commentary is always the bomb.