Herzog documentaries

filmmakers, with many respected movies - both fiction and documentary - to his credit. But he's paying a price for his mastery of different forms. His last full-length picture, ''Fitzcarraldo,' suffered from tension between conflicting aims.

On one hand, Herzog had a story to tell, with its own logic and rhythm. But he also wanted to linger on the fabulous images and landscapes his camera encountered, studying them for their own sakes. Fancy and fact wrestled throughout the movie, and the finished product was unresolved.

Herzog's most recent documentaries, ''Huie's Sermon'' and ''God's Angry Man, '' don't suffer from such a split focus. Both are straightforward movies, carefully conceived and finely crafted. They also have similar subject matter, peering into byways of American religious life that most viewers may never personally encounter. They are revealing, instructive, and terrifically entertaining films.

''Huie's Sermon'' is a direct, no-nonsense visit to a black church in Brooklyn, where an energetic pastor turns his sermon into a theatrical whirl of rhythmic, incantatory speech and music. Herzog adds his own sadly ironic comment at times, by moving his camera into the desolate streets of the church's neighborhood. But he concentrates mostly on the minister and his congregation, examining them with a cinematic approach that might be labeled toe-tapping sociology.

''God's Angry Man,'' one of the most riveting and revealing docu-mentaries I've ever seen, focuses on a California television evangelist named W. Eugene Scott, who evidently specializes in appeals for money. Herzog interviews him and shows long, almost unbelievable excerpts from a fund-raising telethon for Scott's church.

Talking quietly about his personal and professional life, Scott seems a genuine and even vulnerable person. On the tube, though, he becomes a Mr. Hyde of the airways - coaxing, cajoling, exhorting, pleading, and whining for ''cash pledges,'' turning pouty and silent when all else fails, and generally behaving like the long-suffering daddy of the most thankless kids in town.

It's all for a cause, naturally, and Scott seems to believe in his calling. Herzog artfully captures his public bravado and private anxieties, dissecting the preacher entirely in terms of his own words and gestures. It's a cinematic tour de force - probing the core not only of Scott and his operation, but of the huge, unseen audience that needs and puts up with this odd surrogate father.

Herzog's documentaries run through Aug. 2 at the Film Forum, where ''The Mirror'' wil begin a two-week run Aug. 17.

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