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Quickie Review “Cooking with Werner”

So, if the internet offers the fast food equivalent of comedy, and most of what I have had is bland McDonalds, Will Maier’s new “Werner Herzog” cycle is definitely the Weinerschnitzel. I didn’t think that extended metaphor would work, and it didn’t, but it is all to say you have to check out his new webisodes, they are brilliant! Maier’s two episodes, “Cooking with Werner” and “Auto Maintenance with Werner” are both very funny and get to the heart of eccentric filmmaker Werner Herzog’s personality, one part genius and two parts crazy. Let’s just say that it has always been my dream to meet Herzog (at least since I sat through the cringe-worthy Grizzly Man), now I just want to meet Will Maier doing Herzog.

Maier’s first episode “Cooking with Werner” features a studio audience, a test kitchen, and an aproned Herzog chiding fellow director Jim Jarmusch to deliver him “the real honey of the African killer bees” for a grilled cheese, you know, “for the ecstatic truth.” Herzog travels to the wilds of Peru, where he is jailed, mistaken for Martin Scorsese, and exposed to other hardships in his search for “the real honey.” My favorite part? The cameraman dies and Herzog tells the audience, “This is not significant.” If you have seen the Fitzcarraldo making-of doc Burden of Dreams, you would know this is not far off from how Herzog treats adversity on set.

The “Auto Maintenance with Werner” is similarly over-the-top funny. In this episode, frequent collaborator Klaus Kinski shoots Herzog with an air-rifle and they embark on an episode-long chase, until, of course, Joaquin Phoenix falls off a cliff in a car and must be saved. As Herzog reminds us, “These roads have claimed the lives of many a Hollywood idol, James Dean, Sam Kinison.” Luckily for Phoenix, Herzog is there to save his life, just one of his many duties as a German uber-director. And the good news? Most of the events depicted here come from real life, as the disclaimer to this episode tells us, “The following is based upon TRUE events in the life of German filmmaker Werner Herzog.”

Maier’s Herzog is ultimately a parody but not a caricature. Although the lines may be silly, the seriousness of the impression is not. And again, unlike many parodies today, this one is much more respectful than dismissive. In fact, if Herzog ever sees this, I am certain he would laugh along; he might even decide to create a very meta-doc about Maier, the making of the webisodes, and the meaning of the name Herzog, he could call it Herzog on Herzog on Herzog. OK, that joke may not have worked for the vast majority of you, but go watch these webisodes. The next one promises to be on speed-dating and I cannot wait to see how Maier, as Herzog, manages this one.

Cooking with Werner

Auto Maintenance with Werner