Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe


One thing leads to another. We watched Fitzcarraldo, and then the documentary about the making of it, Burden of Dreams, and this little 20-minute documentary was thrown in for free on the DVD. As a way of motivating Errol Morris to find a way to make his first feature film, Werner Herzog swore he’d eat his shoe if Morris could complete it. The result was Gates of Heaven … and now we’re going to have to watch that. (No problem; I’ve always wanted to, Morris is very good, having done The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War, and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.)

I’d already begun to like that brilliant madman, Herzog, and my respect for him only went higher as I watched this. He doesn’t just eat his shoe in front of Errol Morris, he makes a big production out of his humiliation, actually enjoys the experience. He goes to Chez Panisse, the restaurant in Berkeley that invented “California cuisine.” (I ate there once; it was very interesting and very good, but shoes weren’t on the menu.) The genius behind the place, Alice Waters, helped him prepare the shoe with garlic and spices and stock and boil it for 5 hours. The result was … well, it’s still a shoe, isn’t it? Tough as shoe leather, as they say. But Herzog cut it up and ate some of it on the stage of the UC Theater in front of an audience who seemed to enjoy it a lot. Naturally, there are short cuts from the most famous shoe-eating film ever (and there’s a ton of them, right?), Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, and a cute little song about a guy called Whiskey Shoes. This is a gem.