itwonlast

In Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a 1979 documentary by Les Blank, the German director proceeds to cook and publicly eat one of his own shoes (not the  Chaplin’s Gold Rush licorice kind) after losing a bet to his friend and future acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris.
Herzog had met Morris a couple years earlier at the Berkeley Pacific Film Archive. Morris, who had yet to make his first film, shared with Herzog a fascination with social outcasts and deviants and, inspired by Hitchcock’s Psycho, had flown to Wisconsin to conduct a series of interviews with the infamous serial-killer Ed Gein. Morris and Herzog had agreed to visit Gein’s hometown in the summer of 1975. There, armed with shovels, the two intended to secretely visit the local cemetery to determine whether Gein, as legend had it, had dug up his own mother in the course of his gruesome activities. Herzog showed up but Morris flacked out and stood him up (Herzog didn’t open the grave).
The two however remained in contact and the next year Herzog invited Morris to join his crew on the set of Stroszek. Morris used the modest salary he received there to fund another speculative research (the Ed Gein project was for all intents and purposes dead an buried…). But that one too was eventually abandonned as Morris embarked in yet another project, this time about California pet cemeteries.
It was around that time that the bet was made. Tired of watching his friend wasting aways his potential, Herzog promised to eat his shoe if Morris ever managed to follow up on one of his projects and actually made a film. And Morris did.
And that’s how one day in April 1979 —the day of Morris’ Gates of Heaven local premiere—, Herzog found himself landing at SFO airport (supposedly wearing the shoes he was wearing when he made the bet)   and heading to Chez Panisse, the famed Berkeley restaurant (and has it happens, the hangout for the Pacific Film Archive crowd). There, Herzog set out to cook the shoe under the supervision of the restaurant co-founder Alice Waters, while the rest of the kitchen staff was going about their evening business. The reconstituted recipe is as follows

Unlace and stuff each inner cavity with a whole head of unpeeled garlic, two peeled red onions, and several bunches of parsley. Season with a dozen or more generous shakes of hot sauce. Reinsert laces and use them to truss shoes. Place the stuffed shoes in a large metal pot. Add equal parts liquid duck fat and hot water to cover shoe tops. Add up to a dozen whole sprigs of rosemary and additional hot sauce if desired. Salt to taste. Cook over moderate heat for approximately five hours.

Waters recalls how the stewing shoe “smelled absolutely horrible” and that five hours of cooking did absolutely nothing to soften the leather. Herzog had to take poultry scissors to the upper to manage to cut it into edible pieces, he wisely discarded the sole explaining that “one does not eat the bones of the chicken.”
At the public shoe-eating, Herzog suggested that he hoped the act would serve to encourage anyone having difficulty bringing a project to fruition. “I thought film could cause revolutions or whatever and it does not. But films might change our perspective of things. And ultimately in the long term, it may be something valuable. But there is a lot of absurdity involved as well. What we do as filmmakers is immaterial. It’s only a projection of light and doing that all your life makes you just a clown. It’s an almost inevitable process. To eat a shoe is a foolish signal, but it was worthwhile. And once in a while I think we should be foolish enough to do things like that. More shoes! More boots! More garlic!”

In Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a 1979 documentary by Les Blank, the German director proceeds to cook and publicly eat one of his own shoes (not the  Chaplin’s Gold Rush licorice kind) after losing a bet to his friend and future acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris.

Herzog had met Morris a couple years earlier at the Berkeley Pacific Film Archive. Morris, who had yet to make his first film, shared with Herzog a fascination with social outcasts and deviants and, inspired by Hitchcock’s Psycho, had flown to Wisconsin to conduct a series of interviews with the infamous serial-killer Ed Gein. Morris and Herzog had agreed to visit Gein’s hometown in the summer of 1975. There, armed with shovels, the two intended to secretely visit the local cemetery to determine whether Gein, as legend had it, had dug up his own mother in the course of his gruesome activities. Herzog showed up but Morris flacked out and stood him up (Herzog didn’t open the grave).

The two however remained in contact and the next year Herzog invited Morris to join his crew on the set of Stroszek. Morris used the modest salary he received there to fund another speculative research (the Ed Gein project was for all intents and purposes dead an buried…). But that one too was eventually abandonned as Morris embarked in yet another project, this time about California pet cemeteries.

It was around that time that the bet was made. Tired of watching his friend wasting aways his potential, Herzog promised to eat his shoe if Morris ever managed to follow up on one of his projects and actually made a film. And Morris did.

And that’s how one day in April 1979 —the day of Morris’ Gates of Heaven local premiere—, Herzog found himself landing at SFO airport (supposedly wearing the shoes he was wearing when he made the bet)   and heading to Chez Panisse, the famed Berkeley restaurant (and has it happens, the hangout for the Pacific Film Archive crowd). There, Herzog set out to cook the shoe under the supervision of the restaurant co-founder Alice Waters, while the rest of the kitchen staff was going about their evening business. The reconstituted recipe is as follows

Unlace and stuff each inner cavity with a whole head of unpeeled garlic, two peeled red onions, and several bunches of parsley. Season with a dozen or more generous shakes of hot sauce. Reinsert laces and use them to truss shoes. Place the stuffed shoes in a large metal pot. Add equal parts liquid duck fat and hot water to cover shoe tops. Add up to a dozen whole sprigs of rosemary and additional hot sauce if desired. Salt to taste. Cook over moderate heat for approximately five hours.

Waters recalls how the stewing shoe “smelled absolutely horrible” and that five hours of cooking did absolutely nothing to soften the leather. Herzog had to take poultry scissors to the upper to manage to cut it into edible pieces, he wisely discarded the sole explaining that “one does not eat the bones of the chicken.”

At the public shoe-eating, Herzog suggested that he hoped the act would serve to encourage anyone having difficulty bringing a project to fruition. “I thought film could cause revolutions or whatever and it does not. But films might change our perspective of things. And ultimately in the long term, it may be something valuable. But there is a lot of absurdity involved as well. What we do as filmmakers is immaterial. It’s only a projection of light and doing that all your life makes you just a clown. It’s an almost inevitable process. To eat a shoe is a foolish signal, but it was worthwhile. And once in a while I think we should be foolish enough to do things like that. More shoes! More boots! More garlic!”

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    he should have worn chucks…
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