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I can't help but like Klaus Kinski. Sure that's easy for me to say,
having only encountered him on film, but despite (or probably because
of) the madness, the anger and the raving, there's something magnetic
about the man. He's like no other actor out there. No one else was so
crazy, so passionate and so captivating. He was certainly one of a
However, despite my regard for him as an actor, I can't say that I envy those who had to work with him. Raving fits, shootings and murder plots aren't par for the course when it comes to the majority of movie shoots. Hell, they're not normal by any standards. But then again, Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog are far from ordinary people. Both had their madness one explicit and one masked and both went to extraordinary lengths to get what they wanted.
I think the piece in the film that best illustrated their shared madness was the story behind Kinski's 'autobiography'. Now to have biography that is largely fictional is nothing new, as people always rewrite their lives, but to have the person that you're insulting have you help insult them is rather extraordinary. It suggests a sadomasochism and a perversity in their relationship. But it also suggests a twisted affection. They hated each other and yet loved each other. No matter how hard they tried they couldn't stop gravitating towards one another.
And it seems that this strange attraction was there from the beginning. After the amazing 'Jesus' footage, the film opens with Herzog reliving his early childhood experiences with Kinski. Just listening to the stuff is amazing. Apparently, before he moved into the halfway house that Herzog used to live in, Kinski used to live naked in an apartment that was filled with leaves. But then once he did move, he proceeded to ruin bathrooms, knock doors down, assault theatre critics ("I was not excellent! I was not extraordinary! I was monumental! I was epochal!"), and my favourite thing of all, rave at the woman who gave him free board, free food, and who did his laundry, for not ironing his shirts neatly enough. The man was a maniac. Yet I can imagine the young Herzog watching these displays in awe. If only someone could harness this energy.
Well, as Herzog's films prove, he certainly harnessed it. But as you'd expect, it was never smooth sailing. Kinski continually caused havoc on set and the bizarre incidents piled up higher and higher. But although listening to Herzog recount these incidents is fascinating enough, the footage itself is amazing. We only get to see snippets of the 'Fitzcarraldo' documentary, but the 'mild' raving fit that is shown illustrates what Herzog was dealing with every day. Sheer madness! In the footage that is shown it's an argument over food, but it really could be anything. Indeed, Herzog often says that Kinski would erupt for the smallest of reasons. But to see Kinski in action is amazing. He's like an animal.
Yet despite the madness, the film also manages to convey Kinski's warmth. There's some wonderful footage at a film festival in America where Herzog and Kinski embrace and joke with one another. In light of what comes before it's really surprising, as it seems impossible to imagine such moments between the two. But when you see it you can't help but come to the conclusion that the two men really did have a deep affection for one another. As well as the hate, there was a lot of love between the two. I also loved the Pongo footage from the 'Fitzcarraldo' documentary. Again you get to see the kindness that Kinski possessed, as he bandages the camerman's hand.
But although the film reveals a lot about Kinski, Herzog still remains something of an enigma. It's clear that he loved and hated Kinski there's one scene where Herzog is talking to a photographer and he suddenly looks overwhelmingly sad, almost like a widower but we're never really allowed to get into his head. In fact, there's one bit where he says that Kinski thought that he was mad but he assures us that he's 'clinically sane'. But as he stands there, holding onto a tree, he does look quite mad. And for all we know he may well be, or may well have had his madness, as what sane person could tolerate Kinski's pestilence?
But mad or not, it doesn't matter. The films that Herzog and Kinski made together are amongst the best in the world, and Herzog's documentary is a captivating, amusing, disturbing, and ultimately, moving tribute to his colleague and friend. The final minutes, in particular, I loved.
Werner Herzog's brilliant documentary about his friend Klaus Kinski
gives us an insight into the troubled life of this great actor who gave
his all to whatever films he elected to appear in. Mr. Herzog offers a
different account on Mr. Kinski, who could be infuriating in his
egomania, which seems to be at the center of the story. However, one
only sees glimpses of the man who could be charming and who could be
generous to his fellow actors.
Having met Mr. Kinski on two occasions, we only saw a charismatic man in a relaxed atmosphere. It appears the pressures of making a film propelled the actor into a frenzy that comes out clearly in what Mr. Herzog is showing us in the documentary. Mr. Kinski was probably his own worst enemy because his sense of pride in the role he was portraying took the best out of him. Therefore the hysterics and the fights with his director and the crew, notably the aggression on Justo Gonzalez's head, while playing a violent scene that could have killed him.
On the other hand we catch some of the soft side of the actor as we hear a loving account by Eva Mattes, who played with Mr. Kinski in "Woyzek". Also Claudia Cardinale shares some vivid memories with the director as she recounts her experience with Mr. Kinski while filming "Fitzcarraldo".
The film is an important document, as it illustrates the spirit of a man that was unique in his own madness. Mr. Herzog's shows clearly this actor was a man possessed whenever he played a role in front of a camera. Because of the document we feel enlightened somewhat in having known the man that gave movie fans his best and more.
I like this documentary and recommend owning it. There are so many
scenes that one can jump to to find Kinski's leering face and saying
something fantastic. I believe that he somehow opened up his third eye
and could no longer see most of the world that we live in. ----Or am I
being fooled--- either way, Kinski has left his mark or should I say
scar across the face of theatre and film. My only wish is that someone
somewhere compiles a volume set of his greatest scenes ranging from a
star performance in a well considered artful Herzog film to all of his
'B' movie bombs.
I still enjoy hearing Herzog imitating Kinski and saying, "I was Monumental I was Epical!!!!" ---and his description in the beginning of the doc. when he throws a tantrum that lasts for several days, destroying everything in the bathroom to the point where you could pass every bit through a tennis racket.
That is power. Watch it and believe.
'My Best Friend' is one of the most fascinating documentaries I've ever seen about movies and acting. Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski only made five movies together, but what extraordinary movies they are! Kinski made many, many movies, many of them absolutely awful (though all worth watching even if only for him). In fact it's difficult to think of any other actor of his undoubted talent who slummed it quite as much as he did. Herzog is regarded as one of Germany's greatest ever directors and made many fine movies without Kinski, but the two together were really something special. Just watch the astonishing 'Aguirre: The Wrath Of God' if you want to be floored by total genius! Much of this documentary deals with the trials and tribulations of that movie's troubled shoot, but their other four collaborations are also discussed. Their relationship was a complex one and really hard to get your head around. At times they literally tried to kill each other, but then there's footage included that shows their obvious warmth and affection for each other. You could say that this documentary provokes more questions than answers, and if you are looking for a straightforward explanation of Kinski's behaviour and what Herzog REALLY thought about him then maybe you could regard this as a failure. Anyway, I was enthralled and I think any fan of Kinski must regard this as essential viewing. From the opening footage of a raving Kinski on stage proclaiming he was Christ to the final moments of a butterfly flitting around his face this is mesmerizing stuff, and not to be missed by anyone with every a remote interest in this unique actor. Highly recommended!
I first caught this film midway through, when it was on IFC. Not only did it stop me in my tracks, but I looked up to see when it would next be on so I could set the VCR. Though Herzog attempts to portray himself as the cool and reasonable half of this dastardly duo, his own megalomania and ego shine through. This documentary catches on film the fine edge between brilliance and insanity, and the result is simply stunning. This is not a biography of Kinski but rather a kind of valentine to him that celebrates his (and Herzog's) mad genius.
Fascinating portrait about a fascinating personality - filmed by one of the best and most important German directors. Werner Herzog and his star Klaus Kinski, who have been friends and foes all in one, were responsible for some of the greatest German movies ever made like "Aguirre", "Nosferatu" or "Cobra Verde", which got their brilliance in the first place from their inimitable main actor. In this documentary you see some scenes from their common films, but the best moments are the rare footages, like Kinski´s notorious cholerical outbursts of rage for example. Werner Herzog was one of the persons who knew this genius and madman best - an extreme relationship between love and hate, what´s also reflected on the whole film: a love letter as well as a requital!
My best fiend is not a typical documentary maybe because Klaus Kinski was a rare actor,when you read his biography his life was a mess. Klaus maybe was most famous for his reputation than his career but in Werner Herzog films he became a legend,they did five movies some of them very impressive(Aguirre;Nosferatu...)Kinski with his eccentric personality seems to transcend his roles, we all think we know him:"he was a madman";"a genius";"a misanthropic" etc etc...but who really know him? Herzog?,maybe.For me Kinski was an enigma for that reason we are so intriguing and enchanted by him,in Germany he still the most adored actor;in U.S.A they dont know what to think of him but in the mind of cinephiles around the world he still remains as one of the greatest. Klaus Kinski turned down important movie roles,instead he did some bad films why?he just wanted to make all the films they offered him.He was a great villain not only in real life but in his films as "Jack the Ripper";Nosferatu;Aguirre,and he appears in "For a Few dollars more" as Juan "the hunchback" and even in Dr Zivago; Kinski also directed the film Paganini(Klaus thought of himself as the reincarnation of this famous violinist)He was an unique actor more indomitable than Brando and "My Best Fiend"(an amazing ducumentary)is just one piece of the puzzle on this complex artist.
The documentary made by Werner Herzog tells about the legendary
love-hate relationship between the director who was ready to climb to
Hell for his every movie and border-line insane genius actor Klaus
Kinski who might have been one of the creatures from Hell that Herzog
had to face. It is hard to imagine two people more different than
Herzog and Kinski: "...stone and waves, the coldest ice and hottest
flames have more in common, differ less" but they both were driven and
obsessed artists. Famous for his wild and ferocious talent and
temperament to match, Kinski was incredibly difficult to work with. He
wrote about himself, "I am a wild animal born in captivity, in a zoo
but where beast would have claws, I have talent". Kinski's talent was
fully realized in five films that he made with Werner Herzog over a
fifteen-year working period, starting with astounding "Aguirre, the
Wrath of God" (1973), and then following with "Fitzcarraldo,"
"Nosferatu" (1979), inspired by Murnau's silent vampire classic;
"Woyzeck" (1979), about a 19th century army private who seems mad to
others because he looks and acts so differently from them, and "Cobra
Verde" (1988). It is impossible to imagine any other actor starring in
these films and they are without doubt the best Kinski ever made (and
he made hundreds of films). Thanks to the Herzog's documentary we are
able to learn what exactly went on behind the stunning images and
unforgettable performances. According to Herzog, "people like Marlon
Brando are just kindergarden comparing to Kinski. He is mad and
unpredictable." They liked each other, they hated each other, and they
respected each other at the same time making plans to murder each
other. Kinski, who respected Herzog, and valued his friendship,
confessed to the director that in his autobiography he would describe
their relationship in not very flattering terms - otherwise, the crowd
would not read it. Herzog recalls how they both would sit together at
the bench after the shooting and discuss what Kinski would write in his
book. I am curious if they discussed and agreed upon the following
passage and if Herzog helped Kinski with some of the colorful
metaphors: "I absolutely despise this murderous Herzog! Huge red ants
should p**s into his lying eyes, gobble up his balls, penetrate his
a**hole and eat his guts."
Even after watching the fascinating documentary, it is difficult to fully understand the relationship between two giants but as Herzog admits, the only thing that counts is what we see on the screen and what we see is amazing.
This fascinating documentary is not really about a madman. It's about
two madmen. While it's quite obvious from the outset that Klaus Kinski
is a nutcase, it becomes more and more apparent that Werner Herzog
himself is a pretty crazed character as well. For anyone who has seen
Aguirre, the Wrath of God or Fitzcarraldo this will come as no
surprise, seeing as those two movies were pretty crazy undertakings to
begin with. Travelling down the Amazon on primitive rafts and dragging
steamboats over hills are not the sort of activities carried out by
normal film makers. Repeatedly making films with Kinski was perhaps an
even less sane idea but Herzog made five features with this most
demented actor. The films themselves are completely engrossing and
unique. This documentary is likewise.
Having read Kinski's autobiography 'Kinski Uncut' I was under no illusions of what I was going to encounter here. The book is a quite extraordinary account. Surely there has never been a star autobiography quite like this one? Full of aggression, madness and pornographic detail of his sexual exploits, this was the work of a deranged individual. Kinski didn't really focus on his film career, he concentrated much more on his sexual liaisons and was not shy at hurling insults around at famous people. For instance, he declined a role offered to him from Federico Fellini because the money was not good enough, he dismissed Fellini with the words 'Go and have yourself f---ed in the ass!'. I couldn't imagine Tom Hanks saying this to Steven Spielberg to be perfectly honest. In the book too, Kinski continually makes clear his severe dislike for Herzog. In My Best Fiend, Herzog suggests that both men worked on the insults together in order to make the book more sensational. I do have to wonder to the legitimacy of this claim, as it does seem strange. From what I have seen Kinski needed no assistance in coming up with insults to hurl at anyone, least of all Werner Herzog.
So, similar to Kinski's book, the account given by Herzog in this documentary is a highly subjective one. You really can never be sure the true extent of the truth, and you never will be. But My Best Fiend is a terrific film whatever the case. Herzog is incapable of being boring and he does capture the essence of the relationship between these two striking individuals very well. There are a number of other people interviewed too, who worked with these men on these films and this adds a great deal to the story. While there is some fantastic footage of Kinski to appreciate, from the pure unhinged insanity of his Jesus Christ Savior performance, to his intense ranting over a minor food-based complaint on the set of Fitzcarraldo, to the extraordinary gentleness of his interaction with a butterfly.
This film is a rarity in that it is one that can just as easily be enjoyed even if you have no knowledge of the films made by the two principal characters. Both men are just too unorthodox and the relationship so fraught that the story of their relationship is enough in itself. For fans of the movies themselves, this is of course, an absolute must.
My Best Fiend, a take on the working relationship and history between
filmmaker Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski (by Herzog himself),
puts on the facade of a documentary as Herzog interviews some of the
participants- actors and at least one crew member- in the productions
of the films (Aguirre, Woyzek, Nosferatu, Fitzcarraldo, and Cobra
Verde, only the first and third seen by me). But it's less that than a
kind of confessional from Herzog, a collection of anecdotes, horror
stories, and in general psychologically breaking through the general
perceptions regarding their collaborations as actor and director. Part
of that perception, of course, is totally correct. Herzog, always a
filmmaker wanting the utmost control of his stories about madmen
obsessed with goals that seemed impossible or in subject matter that
was marked as dark and disturbing as possible (without being too
graphic), had to contend with his own kind of 'character' in the form
of Kinski, who could be a little frightened being scared of a wasp one
moment, and the next acting like someone killed his child when in
reality the coffee was lukewarm.
Kinski, in most of the footage that is put forth in this film- even the footage that is basically taken right out of the Herzog works themselves- add to the profile of what this man might be. It's alternately funny and unnerving to see the one big outburst of his anger at a production manager on the set of one of the films, when as Herzog says 'compared to his other outbursts this was mild'. Equally jarring is seeing him doing some kind of Jesus-play or a weird sermon at the start of My Best Fiend, where he comes off like he's half a rock-star and half certifiable. But at the same time a little of the footage, along with some of the anecdotes, also give him the light of something of a schizophrenic, who on the one hand could be extremely demanding and ultimately ego-maniacal if not at the center of attention, and on the other could be the most professional actor this side of a Howard Hawkes picture. Interesting too is seeing the two interviewees who have the best things to say about Kinski- his female co-stars from Woczek and Fitzcarraldo. Maybe there's something of Kinski being the prototypical male as opposed to just being an escaped anger management patient. He's described as being sweet and kind and very polite to his co-stars of the opposite sex. But with the male ones, who knows.
The testimonials from Herzog build to something quite fascinating, not just as a subjective profile of an actor and a quasi-friend (err, fiend); it's also a movie about Herzog too, about how he sort of found out more about himself from having to tame the beast, so to speak. The near legendary story of Herzog threatening murder and suicide if Kinski walked off Aguirre, for example, perhaps showed to his star not exactly that his own director was as nuts as him, but that he took what he was doing just as seriously, if not more so, than he on a professional level. There's even an easy-going scene (the only one with both of the men speaking in English) where they seem most down to earth about why they work together so often. If there is anything that might be lacking from all of this it's that we get to see so much of certain sides of a few of their productions, while Nosferatu and Cobra Verde are either left out altogether or just mentioned in brief towards the end. There's also an unnecessary scene where Herzog is reminiscing over a gallery of photos of Kinski and himself. And the balance between telling one side or the other of the actor's persona seems to not always be shifted totally in proportion; by the end we almost want to see more and find out more than has been presented.
But what is in My Best Fiend is pretty close to priceless for die-hard fans of the director and actor, and as one who's getting more into the filmmaker's career (and finding Kinski to be Germany's much more crazy answer to Al Pacino- an actor with the intensity and passion and skill of twenty actors all in the eyes and mannerisms), it's a very good work to also be seen by people who have not even seen one of the five films by the director and star. It's a very bizarre, very on-edge, but ultimately fruitful collaboration that now has made for a kind of mix of expose, memorial, and elongated denouement. And it also is very funny as well.
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