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Culture Watch: 'Dreams From Underground' by Julian Bell, New York Review of Books

May 25, 2011 |  7:00 am

Chauvet cave lions French Ministry of Culture and Communication "Dreams From Underground"

Julian Bell, New York Review of Books, June 9 issue

The lively images of lions, bison, panthers and other animals inside the Chauvet caves in Southern France are at least 32,000 years old -- the world's oldest known paintings. Writing in the New York Review of Books, painter Julian Bell puts Werner Herzog's new 3-D documentary, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (currently in theaters), in the context of other Herzog films such as "Grizzly Man" (2005) and "Encounters at the End of the World" (2007) as sublime explorations of what limits there might be to being human.

Ambivalent about the uses Herzog sometimes makes of the 3-D technology -- "'Avatar' colliding with M.C. Escher," he writes -- Bell is also uncomfortable with the filmmaker's inability to maintain some silence in the face of these astounding works. Still, he's mesmerized by Herzog's new pictures of the old pictures -- and he raises some provocative questions about the art on the walls.

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: Chauvet cave drawings. Credit: French Ministry of Culture and Communications.