German filmmaker Werner Herzog was honored in Brookline, Massachusetts, February 8, with the 2018 Coolidge Award, given each year for originality and excellence in the field of cinema. Herzog has produced, written and directed more than 60 feature and documentary films in a career that began in the early 1960s. He is also an accomplished screenwriter, author, actor and opera director.
The award is given each year by the Coolidge Corner Theatre, a Brookline landmark operating since 1933 and, today, providing a rich array of art-house and independent films, musical performances and cultural offerings. Launched in 2004, the Coolidge Award has honored actress Meryl Streep, the late director Jonathan Demme, film editor Thelma Schoonmaker and many others. The event is a fund-raiser for the Coolidge Theatre.
A centerpiece of the event was a discussion between Herzog and Herbert Golder, professor of classical studies and editor-in- chief of Arion, A Journal of Humanities and the Classics at Boston University. Golder’s recent widely acclaimed film, Ballad of A Righteous Merchant, documenting Herzog at work on a feature film co-written with him, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, is playing now in festivals.
Design Within Reach, an event sponsor, provided furnishings for the stage, styled by Cecilia Silva, an account executive at the nearby DWR Cambridge Studio. She also styled the stage last year when Jane Fonda was honored, and the year before for Viggo Mortensen.
The men were seated each on a Comolino Armchair upholstered in Kalahari Leather, with an Edge Coffee Table in front and Edge side tables on each flank. A Bullet Planter and Chilewich Basketweave Floor Mat completed the furnishings.
The late film critic Roger Ebert, writing in Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, said Herzog “has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons, or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.”
His protagonists often face impossible challenges, such as the main character in Fitzcarraldo (1982) who must portage a steamship over an isthmus in his quest to conquer rubber production in the Amazon basin. In filmming on location in Peru, Herzog took on the task as part of the film’s veracity, only with a ship weighing 320 tons rather than the 30 tons from the historical account.
In that, and in much of his other work, the ambitions portrayed on screen often seem to reflect the auteur’s own passions.