``Werner took things from such a more mysterious and complicated perspective,'' Shannon said. ``It is not about why did this gentleman kill his mother. It's why does the possibility not exist in all of us ... how does the subconscious work, and what leads us down these dark passages.''

For four decades, no Werner Herzog film ever was accepted for competition at the Venice Film Festival. This year, there are two.

After the festival accepted ``Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orlean,'' which premiered on Friday, Herzog said he mentioned as an aside another film ready: ``My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.''

Festival director Marco Mueller ``was completely enthusiastic about it and said 'I need this film as well,'' Herzog said on Saturday.

``No festival this size will be so demented as to show two films of one man in competition. If you are going so wild, if you have such a wonderful wild life in you, yes, I accept.''

Herzog is doing them one better even, showing his four-minute short film ``La Boheme'' _ a truncated version of Puccini's classic opera set in Ethiopia.

``My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done'' _ which was announced as a surprise competition entry on Friday _ is a golden example of life imitating ancient Greek tragedy and becoming art.

Produced by David Lynch, the film is based on the true story of a southern California actor who kills his mother. And proving life can be stranger than fiction, Herzog said the real-life actor was known in some circles for playing the role of Orestes, who in the Greek tragedy kills his mother.

Herzog said that, when he decided to do the film, he visited the man after his release from a mental institution, where he had lived 8 1/2 years after being declared unfit to stand trial.

``From a distance, I could tell he was still kind of dangerous, still really insane,'' Herzog said. He recalled finding in the actor's small trailer home a poster of Herzog himself with a crucifix over it and a candle beneath. ``After that meeting, I never contacted him again.''

Michael Shannon stars as Brad Maccallum, an aspiring actor who lives with his mother in a house that is best described as a temple to flamingoes, or as Brad calls the long-legged pink birds: ``eagles in drag.'' Despite his apparent devotion to his mother, the idea of murder lurks. At one point while rehearsing the role of Orestes, Brad urges his girlfriend, played by Chloe Sevigny, to ``twitch your feet. I want to see my mother's feet twitching to heaven.''

Herzog cast Shannon before he won the Oscar nomination for another mentally disturbed character in ``Revolutionary Road,'' and said had no idea the actor had a history of playing offbeat roles, including a man convinced he has been infected with insects in ``Bug.''

Shannon said he liked that Herzog didn't try to explain his character's behavior.

``Werner took things from such a more mysterious and complicated perspective,'' Shannon said. ``It is not about why did this gentleman kill his mother. It's why does the possibility not exist in all of us ... how does the subconscious work, and what leads us down these dark passages.''

The movie, also starring Willem Dafoe as a homicide detective, was shot on location in San Diego, California, where the real-life murder took place, as well as in Peru, the site of Herzog's 1982 film ``Fitzcarraldo'' and where Brad goes on a fateful whitewater rafting trip, and in Calgary, Canada, and western China.

``The original plan was to go to northern Pakistan, which was prohibited because you cannot show up in these volatile areas with an American movie star,'' Herzog said.

The scenes in China are brief: close-ups of Brad looking at the faces, and faces staring back at him. The shots of the faces staring back were shot by Herzog himself, who said he still likes to pick up the camera.

``I shot face after face after face and moved in front of people in such a way so they would finally stare at me, look at me,'' Herzog said.

Herzog said he noticed tensions during the shooting. ``I saw a lot of police and I saw a lot of Chinese military around. And only a few weeks later there was the uprising of the Uighurs.'' The July uprising triggered violence in which hundreds of people died.

Herzog said he and Lynch teamed up for the film, despite their different directorial styles, after finding shared outrage over exploding production costs.

``And I said, like a manifesto, we should make films that cost only $2 million. But we will work with the best of the best of actors,'' Herzog said.

The Venice Film Festival closes on Sept. 12, with the awarding of the Golden Lion.

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