TIFF 2009 MUST SEE LIST: Werner Herzog Double Header

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mysonmysonwhathave

#5: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

#6: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Werner Herzog films aren’t exactly hard to come by – he regularly releases several in a given year – but his two features at this year’s TIFF are notable for both being non-documentary works, which have been relatively scarce in Herzog’s recent years. (His last was 2004’s excellent Rescue Dawn. Before that, it was 2001’s much-derided Invincible.)  Even stranger is that one of them is a quasi-remake of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, a film that Herzog claims never to have seen (and whose director he claims never to have heard of). Its star is Nicolas Cage, whose recent stretch of stinkers is almost unparalleled considering some of the great work he’s done in the past. The trailer, below, is frankly insane, and Variety’s review suggests it’s in step with the film: “The film is offbeat, silly, disarming and loopy all at the same time, and viewers will decide to ride with that or just give up on it, according to mood and disposition.” In any case, the trailer produces some pretty solid laughs, and that has to be worth something.

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While less controversial, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done might actually be the safer bet. Based on the true story of a man who murdered his mother with a sword (!), My Son features a stellar cast, toplined by the very watchable Michael Shannon (last seen as the sole saving grace of Revolutionary Road, as well as being a top-shelf nutcase in William Friedkin’s underrated Bug), as well as Chloe Sevigny, Brad Dourif, Willem Dafoe, Grace Zabriskie, and Udo Kier. The story that inspired it is almost ludicrously Herzogian in its outlandishness, so it seems like a good fit, and the trailer is promising. And did I mention David Lynch produced it?

All I know is: I wouldn’t bet against Herzog, who rarely produces a bad film, and is fully capable of greatness even when he’s just coasting on his charms (see: Encounters at the End of the World). I’ll be shocked if at least one of these isn’t brilliant.

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