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(Credit: Antje Verena)

Film

When Abel Ferrara wanted Werner Herzog to "die in hell"

German pioneer Werner Herzog is rightly regarded as one of the most important filmmakers of the 20th century. A leading figure of New German Cinema, Herzog is responsible for the creation of multiple cinematic masterpieces, including Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Stroszek, among others. Named by François Truffaut as “the most important film director alive,” Herzog’s works continue to move newer generations of audiences.

Although Herzog has developed quite a reputation for being quite versatile, it came as a surprise to many when he announced that he would be directing a remake of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 neo-noir classic Bad Lieutenant. Starring the likes of Nicolas Cage, Val Kilmer and Eva Mendes, among others, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a strange addition to Herzog’s illustrious filmography, but it did earn him several accolades.

While discussing the film noir aesthetics that were employed in the film’s visual narrative, Herzog said: “I think there are specific times where film noir is a natural concomitant of the mood. When there’s insecurity, collapse of financial systems–that’s where film noir always hits fertile ground. The whole thing was conceived and done before the financial collapse, so it was a premonition.”

He also commented on the contextualisation of the film, revealing that there were very different ideas at the start of the production process: “The project was not originally written for New Orleans. It was written for York, and all of a sudden the three main players–the producer wanted tax incentives; I said this is the ideal place, New Orleans after Katrina and the collapse of civility.”

Adding” “At the same time, unbeknownst to either of us, Nicolas Cage was pushing for New Orleans. It’s a very important place for him. He always liked the fluidity and the kind of music, and always hoped he could work there in a film like this and have it as an influence for his performance.”

While his decision to do a remake of Bad Lieutenant in 2008 shocked many of his fans, it did not shock anyone as effectively as the director of the original Bad Lieutenant. Abel Ferrera threw a hissy fit upon hearing the news, claiming that he wished those involved in the project a swift death. “I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they’re all in the same streetcar, and it blows up,” Ferrera said at Cannes.

When Herzog was informed of Ferrera’s comments, he revealed that he had no idea who Ferrera was. “I don’t feel like doing an homage to Abel Ferrara because I don’t know what he did — I’ve never seen a film by him. I have no idea who he is. Is he Italian? Is he French? Who is he?” Herzog asked. “Maybe I could invite him to act in a movie! Except I don’t know what he looks like.”

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