In Ramin Bahrani’s new short film Plastic Bag, Werner Herzog voices….a discarded plastic bag. Herzog has out-Herzogged himself, again.
“The film traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag…searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world.” Herzog Bag eventually finds peace in the Pacific Garbage Patch. Perfect.
This involves many of my favorite topics, all at once: Herzog, plastic, Herzog’s intonations, film, Herzog’s accent, the ocean, absurdity, environmentalism, existentialism, the garbage patch. An unexpected constellation of neurons fires…extremely pleasing…
Herzog Bag on the Garbage Patch: “I loved going in circles, in circles, in circles.”
Early one Sunday morning, I decided to get a coffee and take a walk down to the Wharf, before all the tourists showed up. I ended up on Pier 45, which is home to the submarine U.S.S. Pampanito and the liberty ship Jeremiah O’Brien, both historic World War II-era vessels now open to the public.
I sat on the edge of the pier, dangling my feet over the side. Sipping my coffee, I watched the pelicans fly low across the water, always in groups of 5, or 7. I was comparing them favorably to seagulls when the Jeremiah O’Brien let out a loud blast of steam. I dropped my coffee and nearly fell off the pier.
I hadn’t realized that the old ship was still running. I walked over to to investigate, remembering when it used to be anchored at Fort Mason. At the time, I was in junior high and my friend’s stepfather worked as a mechanic on the ship. Handsome but alcoholic and angry, he didn’t seem to like his job, or much of anything. He was a volatile force that I did my best to avoid. I still couldn’t look at the Jeremiah O’Brien without thinking of him, and feeling slightly uneasy.
Near the gangway was a portable ticket booth, occupied by a white-haired man in overalls. “What’s going on?” I asked, pointing to the ship.
He smiled broadly. “Once a month, we fire up the engine, to keep it running smooth,” he said. He leaned toward the opening in the glass, “Would you like to go aboard?”