Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fitzcarraldo - Werner Herzog (1982)

Another one not appearing on this Sight & Sound poll results, although it apparently did receive vote(s).

Actually... I've now figured out how to identify sub-#250/#100 rankings and will be retro-fitting some earlier posts.

Fitzcarraldo (1982)
dir. Werner Herzog. 1982, Germany.
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #558 / Directors' #224
Roger Ebert's Great Movies
DVD from Amazon
Watch via Hulu-Plus / Amazon Instant / iTunes

Fitzcarraldo trailer (1982)

Inspired by a true(-ish) story (or event), Klaus Kinski plays a white-suited doofus hell-bent on building a grand opera house for his rubber plantation shantytown in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. Once again typecast as the obsessive monomaniac, whose previous doomed project was a Trans-Andean Railroad. Also with Claudia Cardinale as the saucy bordello madam, Molly! Interesting that both of these characters appear Irish - "Fitzcarraldo" definitely is, since he is in reality Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald.

I was immediately struck by the many apparent similarities or homages to previous epic mission films. I scheduled it following Apocalypse Now based on this expectation: the madman on a jungle river (as with Herzog's Aguirre, S&S #90), doing things his own way, his "ideas, methods... unsound." And that previous movie did provide ample food for thought. "Zap 'em with your [phonograph], man!" and "Out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be [a white god in a sacred vessel]"... and one I already knew - the parallel production catastrophes and resulting documentaries. Hearts of Darkness (1991) for Coppola, Burden of Dreams (1982) for Herzog.

Il Caruso
You can also find a bit of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, with the main character being able to work with the dangerous natives only because he's such an oddball, and the two Jivaro urchins who attach themselves (here to the drunken Huerequeque). And there are others. Along with the White God and the Drunken Cook, you could almost create a Tarot deck out of the iconic types on display: the Famous Singer, the Rubber Baron, the Fancy Whore, the Sweaty Host, the Blind Captain, the Head Hunter, the Cholo Mechanic, The River, The Jungle, The Opera House...

I was surprised to learn that the treacherous ship transport was actually not even to build the opera house directly, but for a supporting hare-brained scheme to hopefully raise funds towards the central insane idea. So, doubly mad. Quite a few expectations upended, to tell the truth - the events didn't really proceed as much like I'd thought. This was not Aguirre: The Wrath of Redux... not so much cruelty or fatality, much more logistics.

Popul Vuh provided music for the soundtrack - awesome!!

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