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Tony Grist

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Fitzcarroldo [Jul. 13th, 2008|09:16 am]
Tony Grist
Fitzcarroldo is the one about the Irish opera buff who hauls a steamship over a mountain in the middle of the Amazonian jungle. Klaus Kinski plays the loony- as usual- but this time he's a likeable loony not a hateful one. Herzog refused to fake anything. That's a real steamship being winched up the hillside and getting battered about in the rapids.  Here- as in much of Herzog- the legend of the film's creation feeds into the images on screen. It helps that Kinski really was a loony, that he and Herzog were both a little careless with firearms, that Herzog is even more of an obsessive than the subject of his film. But if we didn't know the off-screen story, if we believed  the effects had been contrived by Industrial Light and Magic, would we really be so much in awe of it? 

There are wonderful moments: Kinski silencing a jungle full of drums by broadcasting Caruso through his big-horned gramophone, the first apparition of the massed canoes in the river, the Indians gliding like ghosts about the ship or sitting in massed ranks to watch the four white men eat dinner.  Yes, this is a great movie- in parts. But the footage of the ship going up the hill isn't all that spectacular, really;  David Lean would have framed it better; so would many others. And after all that staring into the heart of darkness the ironic ending is abrupt and trite.  There are ragged edges too-  the lip-sync is abominable- and it's obvious that by the time they came to shoot the final scenes Claudia Cardinale had long since schlepped off back to Europe- sensible girl- and her presence had to be patched in from what was already in the can. 

These days Herzog mostly makes documentaries. And that's essentially what this is too. It's a documentary about a situation contrived by its director.  The wonder is that no-one was killed.

From: ex_redrain
2008-07-13 11:49 am (UTC)
I just watched Burden of Dreams and Grizzly Man yesterday.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-07-13 12:01 pm (UTC)
I'd like to see those. I've not kept abreast of Herzog's recent career. I need to catch up.
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From: ex_redrain
2008-07-13 12:14 pm (UTC)
Grizzly Man is the recentish documentary Herzog did. Burden of Dreams is about the making of Fitzcarraldo.
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[User Picture]From: internet_sampo
2008-07-13 02:19 pm (UTC)
What a coincidence! My wife and I just watched:

1. My Best Fiend, Klaus Kinski
2. Fitzcarraldo
3. Burden of Dreams

It was by accident but I'd recommend that trio.

My Best Fiend, was a Herzog documentary about Kinski done after Kinski's death. Herzog and Kinski were teenaged friends and the documentary is about Herzog working through his feelings about Kinski. Fortunately, for us, My Best Fiend didn't have that many spoilers about Fitzcarraldo even thought much of the film was about their relationship on Fitzcarraldo.

Burden of Dreams is a Les Blank documentary about the making of Fitzcarraldo. All I can say is that Herzog would make a great mad scientist ;-)
Burden in many ways is a traditional documentary about Herzog's unbelievable problems (besides engineering) with Fitzcarraldo -- however it's not a fluffy "the making of ..." studio production.
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From: ex_redrain
2008-07-17 12:41 am (UTC)
Also check out Werner Herzog eats his shoe :)
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2008-07-13 04:29 pm (UTC)
And after all that staring into the heart of darkness the ironic ending is abrupt and trite.

I didn't find it ironic. After so much time spent on Fitzcarraldo's dreams (which always go bust in one way or another), it seemed only reasonable that underneath the entire story of the steamship and the mountain had been someone else's dreams, which Fitzcarraldo had not seen.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-07-13 07:03 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I'll have to think about that....

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[User Picture]From: ibid
2008-07-13 07:59 pm (UTC)
He had originally concieved it with Jason Robards.

I'm sure you've posed about this before!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-07-14 08:21 am (UTC)
Jason Robards would have been good.

And he'd have been able to pronounce "Fitzgerald" correctly- though I guess, actually, they'd have got some German guy to dub his lines.
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[User Picture]From: internet_sampo
2008-07-14 06:48 pm (UTC)
It was Jason Robards and Mick Jagger as his slightly retarded assistant. When Robards got sick, Jagger had to drop out and Herzog rewrote both parts. I've seen a few scenes with Robards and Jagger and Robards played the scenes ... well

Being a psychologist, it's hard to read/watch fiction w/out seeing psychopathology.

With Kinski's Fitzcarraldo it was hard not to see Axis 2 Cluster B behaviors


most likely a narcissistic personality disorder. Robards' Fitzcarraldo was more warm and quixotic and seems less psychopathologic.

Oh, and even in the Kinski version the actors spoken English.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-07-17 08:53 am (UTC)
Mick Jagger is a lousy actor, so I'm glad that piece of casting fell through.

I can imagine Robards in the role. He's a warm and likable screen presence.

They were all speaking English were they? Well that explains why the dubbing was so bad in the subtitled German language version I saw.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2008-07-23 12:29 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if you know who Roger Ebert is--he's an American film critic with a blog here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/

He's written a lot about Herzog recently.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-07-23 08:45 am (UTC)
Yes, I know Ebert. I like his work. I'll check out what he has to say on Herzog.
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