My Best Fiend

on May 17, 1999 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   The match between actor Klaus Kinski and director Werner Herzog was one made in hell. But it also resulted in five distinctive collaborations, including "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" and "Nosferatu the Vampyre." "My Best Fiend" is Herzog's contentious remembrance of the late actor but, while fascinating, it really doesn't add up to much.
   Herzog, who had known Kinski for decades, was constantly battling with the incredibly mercurial performer, who just may have been the most egotistical actor in the history of the cinema. We get provocative glimpses of their fights, most notably on the set of "Aguirre," a film about madness that drove its creator, Herzog, crazy as well. While filming in the Peruvian jungle, Kinksi rails about the bad food on set and threatens to kill a technician, and in general educates us as to why he was so convincing as the lunatic Aguirre. However, "My Best Fiend" makes its main points--that Kinski propelled Herzog to do his best work and that Herzog himself was able to relate to the actor's insanity--early on and then repeats those observations over and over again. What's missing, for the most part, is more about Kinski himself, his history and his softer side, which we briefly see at the film's end. Kinski did make 160 films in all but rarely made an impression in them. But we don't even get a satisfactory explanation as to why Herzog alone was able to harness Kinski's limited range and utilize him to such effect.    Starring Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. Directed by Werner Herzog. Produced by Lucki Stipetic. A New Yorker release. Documentary. English- and German-language; subtitled. Running time: 100 min.
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