Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Allowed exclusive access inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France, director Werner Herzog has some incredible footage in Caves of Forgotten Dreams.  It's a wonder and kind of miraculous that this footage exists at all, not just because of site restrictions, but because up until recently, no one had any clue as to what was inside.  Filmed in remarkable 3-D, we see the caverns, the scope and detail of this mysterious site.  Inside there lies painting believed to be the first of its kind in human history, perhaps dating back as early as 33,000 years ago, and the effect, at times, is positively chilling.  That there is a link here between our most primitive past and perhaps even more primitive future.  It's one of the few movies in recent months (perhaps even years) that on a fundamental level feels like it should be obligatory viewing.  And yet, and I apologize in advance for my upcoming fussiness, it still comes across flat and a bit stiff, like an amazingly well-filmed Discovery Channel documentary.  There's precious little sustenance and fair amount of dilly-dallying.  Most of this comes courtesy of it's director\auteur\star Herzog.  For perhaps the first time in his eclectic, meandering, and often exhilarating career, this might of have the best time to show less of his personality.  There's lots of ponderous, off-kilter moments that instead of being enlightening, comes off arch and over-satisfied.  Herzog narrates the film as he journeys with it, and with his thick German intonation it's often difficult to tell what kind of tone he's trying to set: is he going for the dramatic or the ironic?  Often it feels like a bit of both, and it loses its meaning.  There's also a few too arbitrary, over-fussy shots that distract the phenomenal surroundings, alongside the dithering professional talking heads that Herzog travels the caves with, all of whom form a multi-national club of bores.  The discovery is amazing, the film is okay...and it concludes with albino crocodiles... B-

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