Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fred Astaire "Shadow Dance" Finds Place in Herzog Film

In his latest film-making endeavor, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, German director Werner Herzog takes us back to the early Paleolithic era as he examines cave paintings and engravings found in the famed Chauvet Cave, located in France, which were first discovered in 1994. Herzog brings his unique talent of direction to a new level with this production as he delivers a 3-D presentation that draws the audience into the cave itself, there to see the artwork as its creators first intended so many tens of thousands of years ago.

What makes Herzog’s documentary really so special to Fred Astaire enthusiasts, though, was his use of Fred Astaire dancing footage from 1936’s Swing Time. Herzog wanted to show the audience what the prehistoric artists themselves would have seen as they created their works in the ancient cave.

"Arguably, for for me, the greatest single sequence in all of film history [is] Fred Astaire dancing with his own shadows,” said Herzog in a recent interview on National Public Radio. “And all of a sudden he stops and the shadows become independent and dance without him and he has to catch up with them. It's [such a] quintessential movie. It can't get more beautiful. It's actually from Swing Time. And when you look at the [Chauvet] cave and certain panels, there's evidence of some fires on the ground. They're not for cooking. They were used for illumination. You have to step in front of these fires to look at the images, and when you move, you must see your own shadow. And immediately, Fred Astaire comes to mind — who did something 32,000 years later which is essentially what we can imagine for early Paleolithic people."

Read the NPR story here.

See a clip of Fred dancing with his shadows in Swing Time here.

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