Monday, August 15, 2016

Werner Herzog's look at the Internet age: LO AND BEHOLD, Reveries of the Connected World

As someone who runs hot (Into the Abyss) to lukewarm (Cave of Forgotten Dreams) regarding the work of Werner Herzog, TrustMovies would call his new documentary, LO AND BEHOLD, Reveries of the Connected World, one of his better endeavors. In it, this peripatetic filmmaker, whose interests seem to be about as vast as our universe, concentrates on some of the ways our world has changed and continues to change thanks (and sometimes not) to the impact of the Internet.

Herr Herzog, shown at right, is present here, as so often, not only in the visuals he's chosen to shoot but in the interviewing and narration he supplies. He questions his subjects but lets them go on into whatever tangents might interest them (and him, and us). He has divided his doc into something like ten chapters, beginning with The Early Days -- in which he gives us the chance to meet and enjoy web pioneer Ted Nelson, whose remembrance as a child of the way water worked around his fingers is quite lovely and profound -- to his final chapter, The Future, in which he notes how all our movies and TV shows got the future so wrong. No flying cars, space travel or aliens -- but something nobody quite managed to imagine back then: the Internet!

It's this kind of notion -- charming, surprising, observant and wry -- in which Herzog excels. In between the beginning and end of his new film, the filmmaker covers all kinds of odd and interesting stuff. One chapter is devoted to the dark side of the Internet, with one particular family and their terrible history shown front and center.

We also see and wonder at people today who can (sometimes must) avoid the Net: those allergic to cell phone towers and frequencies. We are made privy to what might be the end of the Net, as well (solar flairs, anyone?). We meet some smart hackers (Kevin Mitnik is one of these), hear and see Elon Musk talk about possible life on Mars (his view is thoroughly demolished by one smart woman), meet some intelligent robots and watch them work, and even hear from the man who invented the self-driving car.

It's all thoughtful and fun and occasionally scary and moving, too. Overall, this is one of Herzog's loveliest, most discursive (in a good way) and far-reaching works.

From Magnolia Pictures and running a just-about-right 98 minutes, the movie opens all across the country on Friday, August 19. In New York City, look for it at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center; in Los Angeles at Landmark's NuArt, and here in South Florida at the Bill Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables and the Lake Worth Playhouse in Lake Worth. To see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and t heaters listed, click here.

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