Friday, July 10, 2009
Herzog Week: My Best Fiend
By Edward Copeland
The only time I visited Europe was in late 1991. Somewhere along the Italian Riviera, I spotted a newspaper in a language I couldn't read but with a headline that had enough words that I could recognize: Klaus Kinski Morte. My Best Fiend, in a sense, is less a documentary (of course Herzog doesn't like to distinguish much between features and documentaries, insisting Fitzcarraldo is his best documentary) about the late eccentric actor than director Werner Herzog's feature-length eulogy for his volatile friend.
Herzog first met Kinski as a teen when he shared an apartment with Herzog's family and Kinski already was an aspiring — and eccentric — actor then, prone to outbursts of rage. Years later, when his career was more firmly established, these became legendary and anyone amazed by the Christian Bale recording can see he had nothing on Kinski when you see some of the footage of the explosions Kinski unleashes on the sets of the films he made with Herzog.
If My Best Fiend has a weakness, it's that a lot of the footage is the same footage you will have seen if you've watched Burden of Dreams. Herzog does find more amusement than sadness when discussing his lost friend, especially when discussing Kinski's autobiography which Kinski admitted was almost entirely fiction because he thought no one would have any interest in reading the real story of his life or if he admitted he liked Herzog.
Herzog took a lot of grief for making five films with Kinski (Cobra Verde is the only one of the five I haven't seen), since his reputation as a troublemaker preceded him and most other actors and crew were reluctant to work with him.
Despite its portrait of a truly unstable talent, Herzog still clearly conveys his affection for Kinski and that shows through above all as does the late actor's talent, especially through the moving images that Herzog chooses to close the film.