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CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (director/writer: Werner Herzog; cinematographer: Peter Zeitlinger; editors: Joe Bini/ Maya Hawke; music: Ernst Reijseger; cast: Werner Herzog (Narrator); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Erik Nelson/Adrienne Ciuffo; IFC Films; 2010-in English and French with English subtitles)
“A dazzling visual work.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Werner Herzog’s (“Heart of Glass”/”Grizzly Man”/”Stroszek”)first film in 3-D.Herzog’simportant history lesson documentary is a dazzling visual work on the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in the Ardèche, in the south of France, which contains some of the earliest cave paintings.The cavemen used the caves to paint animals and for religious ceremonies, never living in the caves. The Chauvet Cave was discovered in 1994 by three French cavers, Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel Deschamps and Christian Hillaire, when they followed an air current coming from the cliff and dug their way into the cave. The cave was sealed off by a fallen rock face which preserved it in its original form for the last 20,000 years. It shows artist’s palm prints on the walls, drawings of animals such as horses, bison, bears, lions, woolly mammoths and even a panther from a period starting some 32,000 years ago. The cave also features stalactites and stalagmites.

The French government granted Herzog and a skeleton crew four hours per day for one week’s access, but did not allow them to touch what they see or walk off the narrow passage ramp. Herzog also interviews researchers ranging from a perfumer to archaeologists and paleontologists.

The overwhelming material and all the restrictions placed on the maverick filmmaker doesn’t allow him a chance to do his usual Herzog eccentric shtick or freewheeling antics. Herzog as the mostly straightforward tour guide allows this filmto possibly serve as a promo for a replica cave being built near the site as a tourist attraction.Whatever, it’s a worthy film. Perhaps as insightful and entertaining as a trip to the Museum of Natural History.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”