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Bears and Bulls

By coincidence I recently managed to catch two acclaimed documentaries of 2005 over the weekend. Grizzly Man was broadcast on the Discovery Channel, and I’m reviewing the DVD of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room for Mindjack Film. Both revolve around men who became so myopic and deluded in their lives’ missions that their worlds come crashing in on them. The Enron film is quite slickly produced and enthralling (and the story is still being played out with the head honchos currently on trial!). I was also captivated with the unique way director Werner Herzog tells the story of Timothy Treadwell in Grizzly Man. As the film unfolds, it becomes obvious that Treadwell (who died of a bear mauling in 2003) saw himself as something of a Crocodile Hunter with bears, the star of his own magnificent adventure in the Alaskan wilderness. In reality he was a class-A fruitcake. While interviewing Treadwell’s friends and acquaintances, Herzog occassionally leaves the camera on too long, which underlies that fact that people instinctively perform in that setting whether they’re conscious of it or not. In sum, you get a well rounded portrait of a supremely odd, complex guy. Both are definitely recommended!

6 Thoughts on “Bears and Bulls

  1. I, too, saw Grizzly Man over the weekend and even with my 3 year old daughter running around chasing cats I really enjoyed it. It was worth it just to hear Werner Herzog pronounce the word “squirrel”.

  2. funny, one of my colleagues was just telling me about this(grizzly man) movie today – and then i come home and find you writing about it. i think it’s a sign.

  3. Heh. As it so happens, I have both Grizzly Man and Enron out from Netflix right now. We’ve been sidetracked by season three of The Wire, though, so we haven’t got to the documentaries yet.

  4. Although the bear footage and musical soundtrack are great, Treadwell came off (like you said) as a fruitcake…and that’s putting it lightly.

    Although Herzog tries to paint Treadwell as some great “bear educator” he didn’t supply me with any real evidence…other than one snippet of video with Treadwell looking frantic in a grammar school classroom, and of course the annoying “me, me, me” video of Treadwell babbling into the camera ad nauseum (OK, dude…we got it…you love bears…you reeeally love bears)

    Plus, how did Treadwell make the grand leap from burned-out Venice alcoholic, drug-using beach bum to daring bear-rescuer of the Alaskan plains? This important transition is not explained.

    If Treadwell really was a hero to the bears, then I would have liked real evidence…but there are huge gaps in Herzog’s tender, sugary bio-pic.

    However, what REALLY bugged me about the Discovery Channel’s behind-the-scene “extras” is that Treadwell’s friends kept saying how much he wanted to be a rock star and that “Grizzly Man” had finally turned him into the rock star he’d always wanted to be.

    OK, so what was he, folks? A brave defender of bears…or a rock star?
    I find it hard to fathom that Treadwell is now both.

    I think the movie does prove that your average Alaskan bear has a lot of patience…it’s hard to believe they put up with his shenanigans for 13 years…the one that got him was probably fed up (pun intended) with his incessant and embarrasing babbling

    thanks, Matt

  5. In both docs the protagonists are so myopic in their vision: Treadwell with the bears and the Enron folks with the money.

    They had the kind of “genius” needed to really succeed — but only when tempered with some kind of balance.

    Those balancing forces were missing (reality in the case of Treadwell; ethics in the case of Enron) so the tragic results come as no surprise.

    In the case of Grizzly Man, no one really suffered but Treadwell and his companion. With Enron, people died because of what they did. I still find that last fact hard to let go.

  6. I haven’t seen either of the documentaries that you mentioned, but I plan to. Herzog has been one of my favorite film directors for many years.

    A documentary that is uplifting is The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It’s a jewel of a film. Thumbs waaaay up!

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