How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck (Werner Herzog)
Werner Herzog's genuine fascination with the more esoteric aspects of life has made for some great Cinema, none more so than his wonderful 1976 short, How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck... (named after a particularly tortuous tongue twister). Filmed in Pennsylvania, at the World Championship of Livestock Auctioneers, Herzog's film documents the extraordinary talent of the cattle salesmen who can literally auction off livestock in a matter of seconds. Herzog called it the "real poetry of capitalism", and the skill on show here - the speed and rhythms of calling out the prices of the lots, the acute alertness for catching secret offers from the crowd (who bid with an almost subliminal wave of the hand, or a ripple of fingers) is quite simply amazing. The speech patters here are so accelerated, Herzog defined it "extreme language". This may well be one of Herzog's funniest and most life-affirming films, and perhaps in honour of his subjects, the director eschews his usual narration and lets the talkers do the talking. Herzog would return to the Midwest and the world of auctions for a brief moment in his 1977 film, Stroszek.
"Within two or three hours, two and a half million dollars and a thousand head of cattle changed hands..." Werner Herzog