How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck... (1976)
"How much Wood would a Woodchuck chuck... - Beobachtungen zu einer neuen Sprache" (original title)

TV Short  |   |  Documentary, Short
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Herzog examines the world championships for cattle auctioneers, his fascination with a language created by an economic system, and compares it to the lifestyle of the Amish, who live nearby.

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Title: How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck... (1976– )

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Herzog examines the world championships for cattle auctioneers, his fascination with a language created by an economic system, and compares it to the lifestyle of the Amish, who live nearby. Written by <mikewittr@aol.com>

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September 1976 (West Germany)  »

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How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck...  »

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obviously repetitive, but it has its moments, primarily as an act of rhythmic poetry
2 June 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

They talk so fast that you need ears like a super-hawk to really decipher what they're getting at, but it's this speed at going about selling goods that interest Werner Herzog so much. He's said in interviews that it's almost like "the poetry of capitalism", as these high-stakes auctioneers, selling off cattle within a matter of seconds, are in a unique little world unto themselves and their small audience, mostly full of small town yokels and Amish. This doesn't make his documentary on them particularly exceptional, however, as it's a little too long and a little much without a lot of human interest; we don't know who most of these ultra-fast talkers are. It is, however, quite funny at times to see them go this fast, perhaps in a sort of detached way (then again, how can one who's never been to a cattle auction know anything about what it's like to see mouths go at a mile a minute).

It's great to see when he's interviewing one guy and he starts explaining how he auctions, and at first in regular speed soon as a sort of reflex goes off into his ultra-fast speaking voice. I also liked getting into the groove of the competition, as it were, seeing how despite it being still at lighting speed with numbers and calls it can be understood which ones are the slower ones. Although Herzog fares a lot better using the auctioneer in his fiction film Stroszek- Scott McKain is the one featured in the scene where Stroszek's items are sold off in an immediacy that is purely staggering and, as it's so unexpected following the pace of that film, is one of the most hilarious scenes of the 70s in cinema- it's a fine little portrait of a group that is somewhat representative of the fun that's missing in more run of the mill acts of commerce. You're not going to see this kind of auction at an art gallery in midtown New York, only in a Herzog film.


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