Tubegazing: Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man (Discovery, Friday night, 8 p.m. EST): This roundly hailed 2005 quasi-documentary examines the surreal work and cut-short life of Timothy Treadwell, a seemingly well-meaning and certainly misguided animal lover who spent 13 summers in the Alaska wilderness cozying up to bears before being eaten by one.

Treadwell's cloyingly childlike awe and foolhardy behavior - he frolics with foxes and chats up brutish grizzlies as if they were college mascots - is cast as disrespectful by at least a couple of the people director Werner Herzog interviews on camera. That begins to add ballast. But Herzog's Nietschean voice-over ruminations about nature being characterized by chaos and murder ultimately create an odd spectacle of self-aggrandizement: The auteur at one point exhibits himself looking pained as he dons headphones to hear the audio recording of the attack that killed Treadwell and girlfriend, Amie Huguenard.

If Herzog's horror seems contrived, consider the context: Californian Treadwell, not his birth name, sometimes declared himself an Australian orphan. He exaggerates his isolation in video-diary entries - proclaiming he was alone when he was not. Even the film's wide-eyed coroner acts as if he's auditioning (some viewers charged Herzog with staging interviews). Filmmaking's Picasso takes liberties. Decide for yourself if he exploits. Grade: C

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