Girly Man

Grizzly Man is the documentary about Tim Treadwell, who spent summers camping among grizzly bears in Alaska and finally got eaten by one. The documentary is mostly his own footage that he shot over several summers.

I expected Treadwell to be a Grizzly Adams sort of mountain man. He is anything but. Treadwell is a cross between the blond guy from Queer Eye and a wanna-be Crocodile Hunter. Treadwell is a failed Hollywood actor who claimed to come in second in the tryouts to play Woody on Cheers. He is surprisingly effeminate and flamboyant for someone who spends summers in the Alaskan wilderness, and for someone who claims at length on camera to be heterosexual. He is clearly self-obsessed, and vainly preens on camera to no end.

The maker of the documentary is Werner Herzog, who is not content to let the film speak for itself. He breaks in repeatedly with blindingly obvious commentary and uncalled-for opinion in a thick German accent. The film is at times very funny: we're laughing at Treadwell, not with him. In this way, it's a lot like the brilliant documentary American Movie where the protagonist is the film's central running joke. In Grizzly Man, however, it seems that Herzog is not in on the joke. He's dead serious, and a parody of self-serious nihilistic Germans, when pontificating on his disagreements with Treadwell's philosophy of life.

In spite of Herzog, though, the film is a success. The heavy-handed narration doesn't kill the central joys of watching the beautiful grizzlies and the tragically funny Treadwell.

UPDATE: Radio reviewer Ken Chiampou came up with the same Queer Eye comparison (though he bred Queer Guy with Owen Wilson, not Steve Irwin) -- and had a similar take on the movie overall.


tenyearnap said...

Good morning W. C. Thank you for leaving the link to your movie review on my aol-blog ("passer domesticus").

I enjoyed your movie review, especially the "wanna-be Steve Irwin" observation. I guess one of the differences between Irwin and Treadwell is that Steve shows his "crocs" the respect their huge jaws deserve and that The Croc Hunter has truly assisted crocodile preservation attempts worldwide. Another is that Irwin's wife, Terry, is portrayed as having a large part in the Croc Hunter story. Treadwell's "I'm here all alone in the wilderness" self-portrayal was a LIE as he was accompanied by a number of women over those 13 summers.

I've seen Steve Irwin cry over a dead crocodile and over his wonderful dog. I thought that his openly displayed emotions were touching and I was glad for my little boy to see a "grown man" have deep feelings for nature and his dog. When Treadwell gets teary, however, it just comes off as mentally ill. I hate to say that about someone who obviously did have a big heart. But medication rightly-prescribed can be a lifesaver.

Thank you for your link. I enjoyed reading the movie review and will check out your journal soon.
Comment from tenyearnap - 9/4/05 9:09 AM

Looker said...

I disagree with you on only one point: that Herzog is not in on the joke. He's the one who chose which footage to use, after all. Herzog's deadpan narration is a staple of all his documentaries, but just because it's deadpan doesn't mean he has no sense of humor--he just has a German sense of humor.

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