+ "Grizzly Man": "Herzog’s first authentic found-footage movie," Michael Atkinson calls it, and for the most part critics are enraptured by the director’s portrait of Timothy Treadwell, a man who for 12 and a half seasons lived in alarming proximity to the grizzlies in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, until he and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by one of them. This is the greatest of Werner Herzog‘s recent spate of documentaries, which have been trickling out over the past year and include "The White Diamond" and "The Wheel of Time." Treadwell is the typical Herzog figure (many mention "Fitzcarraldo"): "the director has a fondness for stories about men who journey into the heart of darkness, both without and within," as Manohla Dargis puts it, and all but Ella Taylor agree. Taylor, who still enjoys the film, finds that:
while Grizzly Man is never less than a fascinating portrait of a troubled Peter Pan who couldn’t function in human society and tried to remake the animal kingdom into his own private Hanna-Barbera cartoon, it fails to establish Treadwell as much more than a serious headcase, let alone a titanic figure.
Taylor also thinks that Herzog buys into Treadwell’s self-aggrandizement: "For a formidable intellectual, Herzog can also be a shocking drama queen." Ebert disagrees, saying that the film "doesn’t approve of Treadwell, and it isn’t sentimental about animals." Ebert and Taylor are also split on Herzog’s treatment of Treadwell’s death, the audio of which was recorded, though the lens cap on the camera remained on. Herzog chooses not to include the audio track, but instead to listen to it, via headphones, on camera and react to it, a choice Ebert finds effective and Taylor affected. At any rate, most would agree with Andrew O’Hehir, who calls Herzog "the best and strangest documentarian in the field today."
+ "Pretty Persuasion": If you like your comedy like you like your coffee: black, maybe with an artificial sweetener or two (Splenda?), you might like this, seems to be the consensus. Or maybe you’ll just find it misanthropic and juvenile. This week’s indieWIRE/Reverse Shot trio is torn. Lead reviewer Suzanne Scot:
Films such as "Clueless" and "Election" (to which "Pretty Persuasion" owes its well-intentioned roots, even if it fails to flower) succeed on repeat viewings for precisely the same reasons "Pretty Persuasion" fails on its first and serves to make its white-trash cinematic cousin "Wild Things" seem classy by comparison.
Kristi Mitsuda, following her, finds it over-the-top fun, while Michael Joshua Rowin points out that for all its shock value the film is "oddly moralistic." Andrew O’Hehir is impressed by Evan Rachel Wood’s balls-out performance and the film’s glorious ruthlessness, but also thinks that "[Director Marcos] Siega seems determined — maybe a little too determined — to get his movie banned in the Bible Belt." Ben Kenigsberg is far less fond: "Much as it wants to be a satire (smugly self-aware, the movie posts a definition of the term on a blackboard), Pretty Persuasion is at heart an exploitation film." And Stephen Holden, who otherwise finds the film hilarious, thinks that it goes disappointingly soft at the last minute.