This has nothing to do with action sports (or adventure travel), but Werner Herzog’s new documentary about the lost cave paintings of Chauvet in France sounds amazing. Discovered in 1994, Chauvet contains the earliest known cave paintings – hundreds of artworks dating from around 32,000 years ago. This site is so fragile that tourist are not allowed to visit. In fact, hardly anybody is allowed to visit – just a few scientists each year to catalogue the artworks in the darkness. With all that in mind, Herzog managing to talk the French into letting him take a 3D film crew down there was yet another artistic coup in a long career of them.
Legends abound about Herzog: that he once walked from Munich to Paris to ‘cure’ his old friend Lotte Eisner’s illness. That he and Bruce Chatwin stayed up for talking for two days straight when they met for the first time in Australia. That he and Klaus Kinski almost killed each other while filming the Wrath of God. That time when he was shot while being interviewed. It’s a lengthy list.
His output is also hugely varied, from Grizzly Man, an impressionistic documentary about Timothy Treadwell, who spent years living with a group of grizzly bears, to Rescue Dawn, a Hollywood action flick starring Christian Bale. And his faithful in his own artistic code is complete. Herzog’s central idea about the spiritual power of walking (‘The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot’) is essentially an update of St Augustine’s solvitur ambulando (‘It is solved by walking’) maxim but it has proved to be inspiring to a surprising number of people. Apparently, it’s what he and Bruce Chatwin spent a lot time chatting about (Chatwin was also keen on nice big gesture treks), and it has also inspired this pair of recent homages.
This, More Shoes, is the first – a documentary by Lee Kazimir about his Herzog-inspired 5000 km schlep from Madrid to Kiev.
The second one is Rogue Walk, a slightly less ambitious 26 mile wander from Harlem to New Jersey by director Treasa O’Brien.
Werner Herzog sounds like my kind of artist. Visionary, true to his artistic vision wherever he finds it, and inspiring to peers and followers. The world needs more like him.