Feature Friday: “Little Dieter Needs to Fly” (1998)

Time has revealed Werner Herzog’s greatest artwork to be himself; his movies are always about himself more than anything else. So what makes Little Dieter stand out is that its subject, Dieter Dengler, for once trumps Herzog at his own game, making the director take backseat. (You might argue that Klaus Kinski did the same thing, but Kinski always looks to me trapped in Herzog’s films, even the really great ones. Plus, as great as Kinski was, you can always see that he’s acting. That’s not a problem per se—Kinski was a great actor—but Dengler is less acting than simply being, and it’s beautiful to see.)

Herzog later remade this as Rescue Dawn (2006), starring Batman. I haven’t seen it and I always confuse its title with Saving Grace (2007), which I always confuse with Grace Is Gone (2007). Confusion is sex.

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Paul Scheerbart’s Perpetual Motion Machine: Some Thoughts on Literature & Energy

Two texts are now sitting on my desk.  They are still and inert — like rectangular paperweights.  I would like to activate them, to mingle their pages.  I would like to set them, if only momentarily, into motion.


The first text in front of me is a little gem of a book: Paul Scheerbart’s The Perpetual Motion Machine (Wakefield Press, 2011), translated by experimental poet Andrew Joron.  In late 1907, Scheerbart — a visionary German author and artist who wrote, among other things, poetry, essays, theater pieces, and a prodigious amount of fantastic fiction (he called them “astral novels”) — set out to devise, in his laundry room, a perpetual motion machine.  Das Perpetuum mobile, which was originally published in 1910 along with 26 charming diagrams, is a roller-coaster account of Scheerbart’s failed but energetically inspired attempt to set such a machine into motion; it is a fascinating record, as Joron puts it, “of a two-and-a-half-year-long tantrum of the imagination.” Continue reading