God’s Angry Man & Huie’s Sermon

Sunday, August 14, 2016

One screening only!

1981, 46 minutes

1981, 40 minutes

“THE way some writers keep notebooks about subjects that interest them and that may, one day, serve as the bases for works of fiction, is the way that Werner Herzog, the German director (Fitzcarraldo, La Soufriere), sometimes makes short documentary films. These Herzog ‘notebooks,’ however, are complete in themselves—small, self-effacing works of art.

Two such films, the 40-minute HUIE’S SERMON and the 46-minute GOD’S ANGRY MAN, both made in 1980, open a limited engagement today … The subject of each is an American man of God of the sort that might be expected to fascinate this fine, eccentric European film maker, one of whose obsessions is the study of the obsessions of others.

HUIE’S SERMON is set almost entirely in a black church in Brooklyn not otherwise identified, though I assume it’s Baptist. The film is a direct recording of one lively, upbeat Sunday service, from the processional, ‘Step to Jesus,’ through the minister’s sermon, ‘God Still Has Control.’ Huie, the preacher, begins conventionally enough but he quickly builds to a hand-clapping, amen-saying climax that finds many of the parishioners on their feet as Huie’s enthusiasm takes hold. Mr. Herzog clearly appreciates Huie’s delivery and his stage presence, which is a mixture of television pitchman, stand-up comedian, gospel singer, cheerleader and heavenly coach.

Not so clear is Mr. Herzog’s feeling toward Dr. W. Eugene Scott, the subject of GOD’S ANGRY MAN. Dr. Scott, a white, Southern California evangelist, is seen conducting his business on his daily television show and being interviewed by Mr. Herzog in his limousine and in the lonely splendor of his house, which, he emphasizes, is owned by his church… On his television show, Dr. Scott talks mostly about money, urging his viewers to send in funds and pledges of funds to support his ministry. When the funds don’t come in fast enough, he takes a vow of silence, staring at the camera with mute disgust until the proper total is reached. (In May of this year, the Federal Communications Commission revoked the license of Dr. Scott’s television station in Glendale, Calif., because he refused to reveal how the funds he collected over the air were being used. However, he is still available on other television stations.)”

-Vincent Canby, New York Times

Images ©Werner Herzog Film

Part of the series Ecstatic Truths: Documentaries by Herzog

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