Learning from films: Gates of Heaven

Gates of Heaven
Gates of Heaven
There's your dog; your dog's dead. But where's the thing that made it move? It had to be something, didn't it?

On Netflix, you can now stream the classic 1978 Errol Morris film Gates of Heaven. I've seen a lot of Morris' work, but somehow missed this one. Ostensibly, the film is a documentary about two pet cemetery businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. But there are many layers going on here, and I have more questions than answers at this point. If you're interested in people photography, Gates of Heaven is a must see. There were so many moments where I wanted to jump up and make a screen capture -- the subjects, framing, and backgrounds are superb. And the stories -- you couldn't make this up. Morris has the complete trust of his interview subjects. But is Morris' tongue located in his cheek, or is he sincere? Here's a great review where Roger Ebert explores some of these issues. And a short clip from the film:

This was Errol Morris' first film. Werner Herzog made a bet with Morris that if he could complete a feature film, Herzog would eat his shoe. Morris made Gates of Heaven, and Herzog fulfilled his promise by actually eating his shoe (cooked by Alice Waters). Below is a clip from the Les Blank film, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

I hope you enjoy Gates of Heaven, and look forward to hearing what you think. If you dig this film, you can also stream some other great Morris titles on Netflix including: Vernon, Florida, The Thin Blue Line, and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control.

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