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RIP Michael Glawogger, Radical Director Who Died a Workingman's Death at Age 54

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! April 23, 2014 at 12:16PM

Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger, who worked under-the-radar and pushed himself to the brink as a documentary and feature filmmaker, has passed away at age 54 in Africa. He died from Malaria while working on his latest film.
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Michael Glawogger
Michael Glawogger

Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger, who worked under-the-radar and pushed himself to the brink as a documentary and feature filmmaker, has passed away at age 54 in Africa. He died from Malaria while working on his latest film.

Glawogger's final finished feature was "Whores' Glory" in 2011, a stylish and gritty documentary triptych on prostitutes from Mexico, Thailand and Bangladesh. But he also worked on "Cathedrals of Culture," a 3D architecture doc, alongside Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders.

Throughout his prolific career, Glawogger sought to capture the rhythms of lives both ordinary and extreme in far away places, most notably in his 2005 masterpiece "Workingman's Death," about manual laborers in far-flung corners of the Earth, and 1998's cross-cultural portrait "Megacities." All of his documentaries look closely at globalization and its resonance, but they are also incredibly cinematic.

Gorgeously lensed -- and typically on celluloid, which he preferred to digital -- his radical, genre-busting films are like no documentaries you've ever seen. But Glawogger also dabbled in narrative features, as in 2009's "Kill Daddy Good Night," which examines the consequences of war and its effects on three families (clearly, he loved working in threes).

In person, Glawogger was a gruff, suffers-no-fools type who wasn't afraid to tell you if your question didn't interest him. He especially wasn't interested in talking about the "craft" of filmmaking but, rather, he loved sharing his extraordinary encounters with the world. You could almost say he was more visual anthropologist than filmmaker. Glawogger never cared for tidy conclusions or reassuring answers, and he worked tirelessly up until the very moment of his death.

Read The Hollywood Reporter's take here and watch clips below, including the especially moving New York segment of "Megacities." Stream "Workingman's Death" on MUBI, and "Whores' Glory" on Netflix.

This article is related to: Obit, Michael Glawogger, Michael Glawogger, News


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.