It's hard to say which event in midtown Manhattan on Thursday night was cooler: New German Cinema legend Werner Herzog in conversation with director Jonathan Demme at the Times Center, or the two crazed climbers who attempted to scale the New York Times building right next door just a few hours earlier. In some ways, the two occurrences worked together: It was later announced that one of the climbers did it in order to raise awareness about global warming, a relevant issue for anyone interested in Herzog's latest film, the remarkable Antarctica odyssey Encounters at the End of the World. Like most of Herzog's documentary work, it's a brilliant amalgam of gorgeous imagery and Herzog's personal philosophies. Not a scientist himself, he spends time in their company down south, seeking to understand their behavior ("Is this a big moment?" he asks when they nonchalantly announce the discovery of a new bacterium).
Demme, admitting that he and Herzog had just met earlier in the evening, opened the conversation by reading an effusive letter to Herzog written by Roger Ebert after the critic discovered that the director dedicated Encounters to him. Herzog seemed displeased that Ebert printed the letter ("Those things should stay between two men") but had only praise for his friend. "I salute him, a good soldier of cinema," he said. "We have very few left."