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GRIZZLY MAN (R) (2005)

Lions Gate Films

Official Site

Director: Werner Herzog

Written by: Werner Herzog

Features: Franc G. Fallico, Amie Huguenard, Timothy Treadwell

Rating:


“Treadwell” was not Timothy Treadwell’s birth name, but his rechristened moniker when he arrived in Hollywood, aspiring to stardom. He got a stint on Chuck Woolery’s “Love Connection,” but beyond that frustration beckoned. For black-humored ironists, his new last name proved to be an unfortunate misnomer: After spending 13 years championing the protection of grizzly bears, he and his girlfriend were consumed by one. He trod poorly, in the end.

For 13 years, Treadwell spent significant portions of each year, camping (mostly alone) among the bears of Alaska and taping hundreds of hours of footage of them, to be shown to others later in the service of various environmental causes. His ill-fated consumption came about from an unplanned return to the wild. Returning from his annual expedition, he was hassled by a fat flight attendant, and instantly resolved to return to the wild; the company of humans enraged him. The anthropomorphic implications of the title aren’t wasted by Herzog, who theorizes that Treadwell’s intense immersion in bear habitats stemmed from raging discontent with the human world.

Herzog is himself a famously obsessive and frequently self-endangering filmmaker (most infamously when he lowered himself into a volcano that was predicted to explode soon for La Soufrière), so for him to take Treadwell’s hours of footage and make a film out of them is a logical leap. Herzog deconstructs Treadwell’s unedited footage, showing at first those moments which were clearly intended for a mass audience—with Treadwell playing the knowledgable, friendly nature host, and breathtaking close-up footage of the bears—and then gradually incorporating footage clearly intended for no one’s eyes. Treadwell starts off looking like the kind of lovable eccentric who’s invited onto “Letterman” when no one famous is available. By the time we see footage of him hurling obscenities at Park Services for creating such unreasonable rules for the bear reservation as stipulating that everyone must keep at least 100 yards away from the bears, it’s clear how deeply damaged Treadwell is.

Consisting roughly 2/3 out of Treadwell’s own video footage, along with narration and commentary from Herzog, the rest of the film consists of Herzog’s usual (anti-)documentarian tricks. Famously uninterested in any attempts at verite, Herzog has never scorned staging scenes or interviews. Even though he appears to play it fairly straight here, you have to wonder about the interview with coroner Franc G. Fallico, who displays uncommon dramatic gusto in discussing the autopsies of Treadwell and his girlfriend (the dramatic blue lighting, Fallico’s wide-eyed expression, and his speculation not just on the injuries of Treadwell but the thoughts of his final moments won’t allay any suspicions).

Like any 103 minutes spent in the company of a monomaniac discussing his pet subject, Grizzly Man can grow wearisome. Herzog has basically made a novel out of a minor footnote of a man. Yet the urge is understandable: Treadwell is a horrifically fascinating fuck-up, a man who bonded with dumb creatures who weren’t really bonding with him at all. It’s the story of a man literally consumed by his passion, something Herzog surely knows a bit about.

—Vadim Rizov

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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