5. TRULY TUESDAY: "MEETING GORBACHEV" ON HULU
Filmmaker Werner Herzog and his frequent collaborator, André Singer, originally produced this feature-length documentary for A&E's History network, but it's just become available on Hulu, and I highly recommend it. Over six months, Herzog sat down for three lengthy interviews with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who oversaw the dissolution of the USSR; the film itself is split between clips from these discussions, interviews with Gorbachev's colleagues and fellow world leaders of the era, and more general musings about the end of the Cold War.
Now, I understand that the idea of a documentary being narrated by Werner Herzog carries with it certain expectations. Many of his films, like "Grizzly Man" or "Encounters at the End of the World," contain a lot of deep and dark ruminations and esoteric language. So much so, that he's become a popular target for impressions and parody. "Meeting Gorbachev" contains a few of these kinds of sequences, where Herzog discusses historical events in a particularly personal or contemplative way. (The film spends a lot of time on German Reunification, a topic that's likely unfamiliar to many Americans but of central interest to the filmmaker.) But for the most part, the tone here is more briskly informative than philosophical. Much of the film would not feel out of place among the History Channel's regular primetime line-up.
Herzog is clearly a fan, and excited for a chance to meet a personal hero, and his enthusiasm drives the whole movie forward. (He didn't smile nearly this much while looking at the cave paintings.) Honestly, not a lot of added insight or fanfare is required to make Gorbachev himself an interesting subject, or his life a compelling narrative. He was an extremely unlikely politician, a farmer's son from a remote, rural corner of his country who'd trained as a lawyer. As well, he had an extremely unlikely journey, from die-hard lifelong Communist (in the film, he notes that he joined the Party on his first day of high school) to the leader whose legacy would be the dismantling of the Eastern Bloc. The film does an excellent job of putting this grand story into context and filling in all sorts of small, human details. It's even occasionally funny.
Title: "Meeting Gorbachev"
Where to Watch: Hulu
Running time: 91 minutes