Werner Herzog to Speak with Artist Tom Sachs at Frieze L.A. About Their Film 'Paradox Bullets'

Tom Sachs

The pair's Q&A will follow tonight's Paramount Theatre screening of their short film starring artist Ed Ruscha.

As unlikely as it seems, there’s one thing the movies Up in Smoke, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Fitzcarraldo have in common. They were the only VHS tapes in artist Tom Sachs' house while he was growing up in Westport, Conn. "Of course, Fitzcarraldo was the one I was least interested in as a teenager. But as time grew on, it was the only one that had lasting power. It had an impact on my thinking that was more profound than even the great writing of Amy Heckerling," jokes the artist in a discussion with The Hollywood Reporter.

Sachs' short film, Paradox Bullets, starring artist Ed Ruscha, will screen tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre on the studio lot as part of Frieze L.A. — followed by a discussion with Sachs, the film's narrator, Werner Herzog, and director, Van Neistat, to be moderated by Frieze's Jennifer Higgie.

"My personal friendships with Ed and with Werner, conceptually they're my parents. Cause I've known Werner since before I was born. He's kind of always been the writer through whose voice I write. In other words, he's kind of the voice of the studio in a lot of ways, or has been over the years," Sachs explains. "For Ed, he's the kind of artist who wrote his own forms, created his own art movement. There's no greater living artist than Ed, and he's a conceptual artist and he's a pop artist. And these are two kinds of movements that have been influential and impacted my own way of working."

Ruscha may not look much like Fitzcarraldo star Klaus Kinski, but his character in Paradox Bullets is not entirely unlike Herzog's quixotic protagonist bent on building an opera house in the Amazon. In the new film, after hiking in the desert, Ruscha returns to his car to find it has been ticketed and booted. His phone dies and, with his car keys missing, he's unable to charge it until he gets the engine running. Guiding him through the ordeal is the soothing voice of Werner Herzog, who lays out rules such as "Do the easy things first," explaining why — then follows with a contradictory point, "Do the hard things first," with an opposite explanation.

"School teaches us that one plus one equals two," offers Sachs. "It's an expression of Apollonian thinking, of logic, of math and science and beauty. But the Dionysian is equally important. The opposite is equally valid and that’s harder to reach because it’s not always about following things in a logical way, but more in an intuitive way."

Sachs is known for an eclectic practice featuring bricolage sculpture and conceptual art. He recently reteamed with Nike on a Mars sneaker, and often collaborates with Van Neistat and his brother. His films are mainly industrial shorts describing a process, usually with tongue firmly in cheek. Ten Bullets, a 2010 guide to work standards within the studio, serves as a sort of prequel to Paradox Bullets.

At Frieze L.A., Salzburg-based Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is showing the boot on Ruscha's car, a device designed by Sachs, as well as two paintings, one of them a Chevy logo from the movie's car. Outside the Paramount Theatre throughout the day Feb. 15, Gagosian Gallery has placed the car for fans coming to and from the screening to ogle.

"When we were doing the voiceover, Werner had some really great lines — 'The opposite is equally valid,' that's Werner's line, and it sums up our whole project. It's great to have the big boss at the end, summing it all up," Sachs says. "There are things we don't totally agree on, things like the beginning is too long. He prefers to get his cowboys out of the gate fast. You want to bring people into your story early. Filmmaking is a world of contradiction. There are no rules."