This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


“Encounters at the End of the World,” “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”

“Encounters at the End of the World,” “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (photo)

Posted by on

It was only a matter of time, after Werner Herzog used the under-the-ice Antarctic footage shot by scientists for his hodgepodge sci-fi meditation “The Wild Blue Yonder,” until this most peripatetic of world-class filmmakers realized that the Poles may be the only patches of Earth he hasn’t yet roamed through with his camera. Herzog’s documentaries, from “Land of Silence and Darkness” (1971) to “Grizzly Man” (2005), are all subjective and full-disclosure, all the time; there is a reality in these films, but it is Herzog’s, and that’s why we’re here. “Encounters at the End of the World” (2007) is perhaps more personal than most — he does not propose any motive for his trip to Antarctica other than his own curiosity, and eventually becomes, by nature, impatient with the large science base he finds there, saying outright that he wants only to get out into the field and find something wondrous that isn’t man-made.

The film won’t turn casual filmgoers into die-hard Herzogians; what they will find is the most poetic and idiosyncratic of Discovery Channel documentaries. Herzog, like many unique filmmakers, is an acquired addiction, and you need a large shot in your bloodstream before succumbing and enjoying the more modest doses. But the fanboys/girls among us encounter here a Werner becoming increasingly cynical and bitter about human banality in his old age. (Thank heavens — what a depressing time it would be if Herzog softened and became gentler in his autumn years.) The South Pole base’s aerobic gym is, for him, an “abomination.” The signs of civilized human activity on Earth have always irritated him; now they nauseate the man, in no uncertain terms. But he still loves people, especially outcasts, and the South Pole acts, as someone says, as a kind of catch basin for oddball wanderers of all types, where “all the lines on the map converge,” and Herzog finds “the Ph.D.’s washing dishes and linguists on a continent without languages,” the Bosnian who keeps his life packed in a bag for an instant escape, the seal researcher who’s forgotten how to converse, an alarmingly nomadic woman who can pack herself into a suitcase, and so on. The absurd image of a training session in which a line of adults attempt to find their way across the daylit camp with “snow blind” buckets over their heads is of endless fascination. Warnings about global warming are built in, of course, making Herzog’s age-old disgust at modern society seem like prophecy. But Herzog is more interested in the remoteness as it stands in contrast to the human inhabitants; he keeps cutting to the mournful silent footage of the Shackleton expedition, ruing the occupation of the Pole and the loss of the global maps’ mysterious “white spots.”

11242008_encounters2.jpgHerzog derides the cute documentaries “about penguins,” but cannot ignore the birds; typically, he finds one that determinedly marches out into the wasteland to its doom. The surreal underwater footage of fields of poised star fish and perambulating clams also find pride of place, along with the audio discovery of Ross seal calls, which sound like nothing so much as psychedelic synthesizer experiments. It’s easy to take Herzog for granted, because his films are so organically expressive of his impulsive interests. But is there another filmmaker alive you’d rather follow to the world’s four corners? Is there another that dares to go, and frame the world for us in a way that gives it meaning?

Watch More

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

Posted by on

The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

Watch More

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

Posted by on

Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Watch More

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

Watch More