Werner Herzog and Abel Ferrara want to know who’s “Bad.”

Werner Herzog and Abel Ferrara want to know who’s “Bad.” (photo)

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So the long-awaited “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” — the Werner Herzog movie whose absurdist trailer has been an Internet favorite for months now — is finally dropping at the Venice and Telluride festivals and, predictably, people are generally underwhelmed. This is what happens when people more familiar with Herzog’s reputation than his frequently uneven work get something less consistently outrageous than they expected and — okay, maybe it’s not all that. (Though I doubt it.)

As a result, the media narrative is shifting back one last time to the Herzog-Abel Ferrara feud. You know the deal: Ferrara is angry about the remake of his 1992 crime story, the disrespect shown to his creative labors and — most importantly — that he didn’t get paid very much for the rights and had no say in it. Herzog, for his part, thought it was hilarious and claimed never to have seen the original film or even know who Ferrara is, comparing him to Don Quixote. And now Ferrara and Herzog are together at Venice together, and Herzog is, for once, erring on the side of restraint: “I hope that he will see my film while he is here,” he announced yesterday. (And apparently he knows something of Ferrara’s reputation, since he suggested sorting it out over whiskey.)

Let’s just say this story is stupid and leave it at that. I’m not really surprised that when it’s time to go potentially mano-a-mano, Herzog wants to make things right; he’s not lacking in bravery (and, in an unlikely fight, our money would be on the robust Herzog over the, uh, erratic Ferrara), but he doesn’t seem mean-spirited. And continually using Ferrara as grist for easy press-pleasing quotes just seems rude. The truth is that Ferrara probably wouldn’t care at all if he’d: a) been paid however much he believes he was deserved to be paid (which would never happen) or b) Herzog hadn’t, conversely, made much more than Ferrara did for the first film. (So Ferrara claims anyway.)

But the other thing is, Ferrara has to be wondering why Herzog still has a financially viable career and he doesn’t. Ferrara played by the rules: when there was a market for movies that were arty as long as they were exploitation-y, he made “Ms .45.” When it seemed like a good idea to do a big-budget studio movie, he made “Body Snatchers.” In a time when every movie sells easier if it has a “name,” he roped in Willem Dafoe and Bob Hoskins to star in “Go Go Tales” and still can’t get distribution. Meanwhile, the patently wacky, often unsummarizable Herzog makes one movie a year, except for when he skips a year and then puts out two. Where’s the justice? Play by the rules, get screwed; follow a muse literally no one else fully understands, and voila! — success. I can’t answer it, but I suspect there’s more behind Ferrara’s grumblings than simple proprietary pride.

[Harvey Keitel in “Bad Lieutenant,” Bad Lieutenant Productions, 1992]

Jackie That 70s Show

Jackie Oh!

15 That ’70s Show Quotes to Help You Unleash Your Inner Jackie

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Carsey-Werner Company

When life gets you down, just ask yourself, what would Jackie do? (But don’t ask her, because she doesn’t care about your stupid problems.) Before you catch That ’70s Show on IFC, take a look at some quotes that will help you be the best Jackie you can be.

15. She knows her strengths.

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14. She doesn’t let a little thing like emotions get in the way.

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13. She’s her own best friend.

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12. She has big plans for her future.

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11. She keeps her ego in check.

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10. She can really put things in perspective.

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9. She’s a lover…

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8. But she knows not to just throw her love around.

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7. She’s proud of her accomplishments.

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6. She knows her place in the world.

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5. She asks herself the hard questions.

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4. She takes care of herself.

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3. She’s deep.

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2. She’s a problem solver.

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1. And she’s always modest.

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Is it time for a return to noir?

Is it time for a return to noir? (photo)

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Earlier this year there was a spate of trend pieces on what the recession would mean for film. Would Hollywood slim down? Revive lighthearted comedy? The recession’s officially slowing (or over, according to the IMF), but that doesn’t mean predictions have to, and the latest involved more movie doom and gloom for all. So says the Telegraph‘s Matthew Sweet — not the power-pop musician, but rather a polymath British historian who’s also written a few “Doctor Who” radio plays. Sweet has a new BBC documentary coming forth about film noir, and, naturally, he’s like to argue that we’re ripe for a new wave.

Actually, what he’s really like is for Werner Herzog to do the arguing for him, and Herzog is happy to claim his “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” isn’t an exercise in the kind of Herzogian eccentricity his fans love, but “a new step in film noir.” He explains: it’s not a question of “techniques of light or a particular kind of story… it’s a cultural mood.”

If, as Sweet argues, noir incubated itself during the dark days of “blackout conditions and power-rationing imposed after Pearl Harbor” and expanded post-WWII in McCarthy-era paranoia and economic despair, our own hard times seem to demand something similar. And so he believes we’re in for a new era of movies terminating at “the moment when there’s nowhere to run; the moment when the possibility of a happy ending vanishes; the moment when the lights go out.” Or worse, we’re left with a dangerously unhinged Nicolas Cage as our most reliable guide to post-Katrina New Orleans.

Weirdly, the two examples Sweet provides himself are TV shows: “The Wire” and “Battlestar Galactica.” These are shows about societies, not individuals, on the brink. The archetypal noir protagonist is the opposite, a man out of time and place, unable to keep up with a world that’s conspired to leave him behind. The despairing endings wipe out one person but leave society standing, oppressive or otherwise. “The Wire” and “Battlestar Galactica” don’t work that way: they’re about entire worlds this close to absolute entropy and extinction. They don’t start well and end in despair: everything’s screwed-up from the word go.

If by “noir,” Sweet means movies and TV shows that acknowledge the possibility, even the inevitability, that nothing will turn out OK… then for now we’re just left with TV shows. On ones like “The Wire,” you get to have things both ways: characters to survive to become even more cynical than they started, and others to become sacrificial lambs. There’s no market for stylized downfalls of the individual anymore, and certainly the era of the femme fatale seems to be over. The new noirs will let their anti-heroes live, but they’ll never go down in a blaze of glory; like “The Wire”‘s Jimmy McNulty and Cage’s bad lieutenant, they’ll be just as bad as what’s around them. The tragedy of the new noir isn’t that the anti-hero is out of place in society; it’s that he’s exactly in place.

[Photo: “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” Millennium Films, 2009]

Herzog/Lynch > Herzog/Ferrara.

Herzog/Lynch > Herzog/Ferrara. (photo)

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The cracktastic footage and ongoing directorial snippiness have made “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” Werner Herzog’s maybe remake of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 drama, one of the most anticipated films set to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival (though it’ll first premiere at Venice).

And who could outdo Bavaria’s finest but the man himself? The recently unveiled trailer for the other Herzog film on the Toronto slate, “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done,” looks, if anything, even odder and more promising than the sight of Nicolas Cage getting high with Xzibit.

That’s Michael Shannon playing a character loosely based on Mark Yarovsky, a San Diego man whose after being cast in the lead role of “Orestes” was inspired to stab and kill his mother with an antique saber. David Lynch favorite Grace Zabriskie plays the ill-fated parent, and Lynch himself served as an executive producer. But what makes the spot so hypnotic is the utter Hollywoodness of its production, with an interchangeably slick voiceover intoning about “an unexpected crime… on a quiet street…” and lauding the Oscar qualifications of the cast while seemingly not being able to notice the passing visuals of a tuxedoed dwarf and Udo Kier with ostriches.

If you desperately crave Herzog’s attention (and who doesn’t?), he’s judging Shooting People’s latest film competition.

[Photo: “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done,” Unified Pictures, 2009]

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