In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_ylxcdc106ikiarfthkcacasaacb

La La Land

This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other.

Thumb_jackie

Jackie

There are two movies in "Jackie." One of these movies is just OK. The other is exceptional. The first one keeps undermining the second.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Primary_eb19810920people905049998ar

Werner Herzog's Amazon obsession

Telluride, Colorado -- The most disturbing event at this year's Telluride Film Festival was a screening of scenes from a documentary-in-progress about Werner Herzog, the legendary West German director who has disappeared into the South American rain forest on what looks like a suicidal mission.

The documentary was by Les Blank, a Berkeley filmmaker who visited Herzog twice in South America and has returned with what one audience member described as a “portrait of a man in desperate trouble.” Herzog is in the midst of, shooting “Fitzcarraldo," the story of a visionary 19th century European entrepreneur who wants to move a steamship from one South American river system to another and get rich by establishing a trading route.

To make the film, Herzog is attempting to move a large, steel steamship 10 miles through the forest, from one river to another. To date, according to Les Blank's documentary, the project has encountered the following problems:

- Nighttime attacks by warring Indian tribes, resulting in arrow wounds to several crewmembers.

- A civil war that forced Herzog to stop shooting at one location and move his entire production 1,000 miles to a different river system.

- The accidental deaths of three crewmembers.

- Serious injuries to five more in a plane crash, including the paralysis of one crewmember.

- A near-fatal illness by Jason Robards Jr., the original star of the film, who had to be rushed back to the United States. Herzog had to re-shoot all of Robards' scenes with his replacement, Klaus Kinski (who starred in Herzog's 1970 South American epic, “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”).

- The beaching and near-destruction of one of the two steamships Herzog is using for the film.

- Dysentery and other jungle diseases.

Blank's documentary shows Herzog growing more distraught, strained and worn down; the fairly optimistic Herzog photographed during Blank's first trip turns, in footage from the second trip, into an exhausted, wild-eyed man not unlike the Aguirre of the 1970 film. “I will make this film or I will die in the attempt,” Herzog vows at one point.

“Aguirre” was a Spanish conquistador who dreamed of finding the lost El Dorado. “Fitzcarraldo” (an Indian mispronunciation of Fitzgerald, the character's real name) is another man who wants to get rich on a fool's errand in the unforgiving jungle.

But to the viewers of Blank's footage about Herzog, it looked disturbingly as if Herzog has set himself an Aguirre-style mission that is similarly suicidal. His attempt to make a fiction film by recruiting Amazonian Indians to actually move a ship through the jungle seems like a doomed obsession.

If Herzog survives and “Fitzcarraldo” is finished, the production will be one of the most extraordinary achievements in the history of movies -- regardless of the quality of the film.

Popular Blog Posts

Why Critics Should See Bad Movies

A piece on the experience gained from seeing bad movies.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part 36: "Lisztomania"

For the 36th installment in his video essay series about maligned masterworks, Scout Tafoya examines Ken Russell's "L...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus