WERNER HERZOG HAS SPENT decades deconstructing the ossified categories of documentary and fictional film, incorporating real feats into feature films (most famously, of course, hauling a ship over a mountain in Fitzcarraldo ) and introducing fictional elements into documentaries. This would seem to make him of great interest to contemporary art circles, which have for the past decade and more been deeply invested in such endeavors. But although he has a large following among artists, Herzog’s status in the art world has always been shaky. He has never spoken a language, either verbal or visual, with which theoretically and politically inclined critics can feel comfortable. The double focus of his films, on landscape and on quixotic loners, is often seen as smacking of unreconstructed romanticism, and his notion of “ecstatic truth” presents two equally unpalatable terms to those who
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