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Publicity with Purpose: The Spectacle of ‘Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe’

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe depicts exactly that, but the short documentary is much more profound than its blunt title suggests.
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
The Criterion Collection
By  · Published on December 14th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video on the documentary/promotional event Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.


They just don’t make ’em like they used to. And by ’em I, of course, mean Les Blank‘s short documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Many a film can boast that it does what it says on the tin. But few, in my estimation, are as captivating, curious, and compelling as Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

“Surely not!” you guffaw. Why would an acclaimed documentarian agree to gnaw on his own boot? The answers to these questions being: (1) Yep, and (2) Because Werner Herzog is a man of his word.

Not only does the film‘s title make good on its promise, but it is also the result of what I can only describe as “doubling down to make a point.” The film is the result of a declaration made by Herzog that if his ex-student Errol Morris ever completed the film Gates of Heaven he would — say it with me — eat his own shoe.

And, of course, Herzog keeps his promises. Not only that, but he is a good pal: using the spectacle, filmed live in front of an audience, to promote Gates of Heaven, which was still seeking distribution.

In typically Herzogian fashion, the director also uses the event to discuss the performative nature of insubstantial advertising and the difficulty of filmmaking itself. Ultimately, as the video essay below suggests, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is much more profound than its blunt title.

Watch “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe – How To Promote A Film“:

Who made this?

You Have Been Watching Films is produced by United Kingdom-based writer Oliver Bagshaw. The channel provides video essays on an assortment of films including examples from cult, documentary, experimental, and classic strains of cinema history. You can subscribe to their YouTube channel here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).