My Best Fiend  

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My Best Fiend (German: Mein liebster Feind - Klaus Kinski, literally My Dearest Enemy - Klaus Kinski) is a 1999 documentary by Werner Herzog about his tumultuous yet productive relationship with German actor Klaus Kinski.

Summary

The film opens with shots from one of Klaus Kinski's Jesus tours, in which he performed – after his own interpretation – the role of Jesus. Kinski harangues the audience for not paying attention to him, curses wildly, has the microphone taken away from him, and, screaming, steals it back. Kinski had to leave one of these tours in order to star in his first Herzog film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God. This was the first of five films that the two would make together, including Nosferatu the Vampyre (1978); Woyzeck (1978); Fitzcarraldo (1982); and Cobra Verde (1987).

Herzog presents selected pieces of Kinski's biography. He tours a substantially renovated apartment in which Kinski lived, looks at a film clip of the first time he ever saw Kinski, and presents a large amount of footage from the sets of their various movies. Herzog recounts the heated arguments and sometimes violent altercations between them, including the oft-repeated story of Herzog threatening to shoot Kinski should he leave the production of Aguirre. He also draws on footage from Burden of Dreams, a documentary of the making of Fitzcarraldo, a particularly difficult film for their relationship.

The Kinski that Herzog presents, however, is not solely the raving madman he is sometimes remembered as. Herzog has a deep respect for Kinski's acting talent. He also displays a tender side of Kinski. From interviews with two of the women who starred opposite him, Eva Mattes (from Woyzeck) and Claudia Cardinale (from Fitzcarraldo), one would get the impression that Kinski was a loving and gentle, indeed a calm man. The final sequence in the film is a series of shots of Kinski playing with a butterfly in the Peruvian jungle.

Herzog describes Kinski's death as the result of living so strenuously and fully ("like a comet" as he describes it). As he talks, the documentary shows the final scene from Cobra Verde, in which Kinski collapses in the surf as he tries to pull a large boat out to sea. The film, then, is something of an elegy to Kinski, Herzog's dear friend and sometimes foe.

Critical reception

The documentary was screened out of competition at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.


Janet Maslin of the New York Times admiringly called the film "[a] captivating documentary, a film that serves as an eloquent coda to their unforgettable creative partnership.". Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of a possible four, saying:

"As a meditation by a director on an actor, it is unique; most show-biz docs involve the ritual exchange of compliments. My Best Fiend is about two men who both wanted to be dominant, who both had all the answers, who were inseparably bound together in love and hate, and who created extraordinary work – while all the time each resented the other's contribution."

Jonathan Rosenbaum, writing for the Chicago Reader, was less enthusiastic, calling the film, "The art-movie equivalent to writer-director Blake Edwards's Trail of the Pink Panther.

"Edwards and Peter Sellers reportedly were at each other’s throats throughout their many collaborations on Pink Panther comedies—largely, it appears, because of Sellers’s hyperbolically neurotic behavior. Herzog and Kinski had a similarly volatile relationship, which ended only after Kinski died, in 1991. Herzog got his revenge by releasing outtakes of his difficult star, much as Edwards continued to fiddle around with unreleased footage of Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in Trail of the Pink Panther. Herzog offers a personal documentary about Kinski and himself—recollecting particular tantrums and outrages while speculating on their significance, revisiting the Peruvian locations of some of their joint efforts, interviewing former crew members, showing Kinski behaving vilely to everyone around him."




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "My Best Fiend" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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