Werner Herzog Hails Jean Rouch's 'Les maîtres fous' as Best Documentary Ever Made

Werner Herzog praises Jean Rouch's 1955 documentary "Les maîtres fous" as possibly the best documentary ever made. The film explores the Hauka religious movement in Ghana, blending fact and fiction in a unique and influential way.

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Werner Herzog Hails Jean Rouch's 'Les maîtres fous' as Best Documentary Ever Made

Werner Herzog Hails Jean Rouch's 'Les maîtres fous' as Best Documentary Ever Made

Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog has declared Jean Rouch's 1955 documentary "Les maîtres fous" (The Mad Masters) as "arguably the best documentary ever made." Herzog, known for his extensive and eclectic body of work, praised Rouch's groundbreaking film for its unique fusion of fact and fiction in capturing the Hauka religious movement in Ghana.

"Les maîtres fous" is a 28-minute documentary, with an extended 36-minute version, that delves into the Hauka religious movement in Ghana. Directed by French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch, the film blurs the boundaries between documentary and fiction, showcasing how the native population engages in ritualistic military ceremonies reminiscent of French Colonial culture, but infused with a spiritual and psychedelic dimension.

In an interview with The Guardian, Herzog expressed his admiration for Rouch's work, stating: "It's about workers in Ghana: On weekends, they'd go out into the mountains and they drugged themselves by chewing some sort of lianas and do very, very strange rituals about the arrival of the Queen's high commissioner." Herzog was particularly impressed by the film's distinctive approach, noting that it was shot using a hand-cranked camera with a maximum shot length of 24 seconds.

Rouch's signature ethnofiction approach, which combines elements of documentary and fiction, has faced criticism from some African filmmakers who argue that it distorts reality. However, Herzog's high praise for "Les maîtres fous" underscores the film's lasting impact and influence on the documentary genre.

"Les maîtres fous" stands as a testament to Jean Rouch's pioneering vision and his ability to capture the essence of the Hauka religious movement in Ghana. Werner Herzog's endorsement of the film as possibly the greatest documentary ever made further cements its place in cinema history and highlights its enduring significance nearly seven decades after its release.

Key Takeaways

  • Werner Herzog calls Jean Rouch's "Les maîtres fous" (1955) "arguably the best documentary ever made".
  • The 28-minute documentary explores the Hauka religious movement in Ghana.
  • Rouch's film blurs fact and fiction, showcasing ritualistic ceremonies with a spiritual dimension.
  • Herzog praises the film's unique approach, shot with a hand-cranked camera.
  • The film's influence on the documentary genre has endured for nearly seven decades.