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gigi

Fitzcarraldo & Burden of Dreams

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I treated myself to this double bill last night and wow. Just wow.

Surprised there's no thread on it, so thought I'd get the ball rolling.

whilst tending towards melodrama, is incredibly powerful. This is at least in part attributable to the wonderful images that accompany it. I particularly like this idea that opens Burden of Dreams that the natives call this jungle 'the land where creation is unfinished', and that it is in Herzog's words the land that 'God created in anger'. It reminds me of the title of Sebald's book "The Natural History of Destruction".

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We have talked about Herzog around here a lot over the years, and Fitzcarraldo in particular, but it is too scattered around other threads to point to anywhere specific. I have the same "wow" experience everytime I watch early Herzog, as he seems directly in tune with the fallenness of creation. And not "creation" as some abstract idea, but nature in specific locations. It becomes his antagonist over and over again in these films about people battling against the indifferent violence of ecosystems.

I didn't quite understand what it means that creation "groans and labors" in a theological sense until seeing films like Fitzcarraldo/Burden of Dreams, Scream of Stone, Heart of Glass, Grizzly Man, Fata Morgana, Lessons in Darkness, and Wodaabe. In all of these films, "nature" is concieved as a chaos that makes civilization necessary, but sometimes overcomes civilization in the individual actions of people that find themselves existentially lost in the wilderness. Nature as chaos also makes film as an art a necessary means of understanding ourselves, because it is capable of catching nature at its game when it least suspects it. The entire boat scene in Fitzcarraldo is essentially about this combat between Herzog as filmmaker and nature as something that can only be momentarily overcome by the kind of fleeting craziness we see in Kinski. It is an awful, glorious moment for all involved.

I like that melodrama in Herzog, it is like watching an intelligent soap opera.

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Quick post: have been mulling on this and will post more when have thoughts in order (and it's not bedtime!).

I like the phrase 'intelligent soap opera.' Heh. Although, as a lifelong watcher of Neighbours, I'm not convinced that soap operas aren't intelligent. Is it 'intelligent' because it deals with grander themes? And perhaps more acceptable to men?

On a side note: the idea that art catches 'nature at its game when it least expects it' echoes Dziga Vertov's writings on Kino-Pravda.

Edited by gigi

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STILL thinking on this one. I want to rewatch to mull over it in detail. And also because ::blushing:: I also watched it in German - doh!

For now, though, I'm finding it difficult to decide what I think about this - it's clearly a magnificent film, but I struggle with the self-righteousness, self-justification, self-importance (self-self-self) of the artist struggling against nature ("black blaaaaaack BLAAAAAAAAACK!"). I can't decide whether the brutality of it is a grandiose fist-shake in the face of overwhelming destruction, or an empty gesture that overlooks the grace to be found in humility. Perhaps that says more about me than the film, though.

It would be interesting to contrast Herzog's vision of nature - which is perhaps a very European vision - to that of Ang Lee's, or Ki-duk Kim's.

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Werner Herzog Remembers the Good Old Days in Peru, the Bad New Days in New Orleans

Fitzcarraldo, the 1982 epic that Werner Herzog shot in the jungles of Peru, using a team of locals to pull a 320-ton steamboat up a mountain, may have been the most troubled production of the director's long and adventurous career, though the competition for that title is fierce. . . . It's probably the most well-documented production in Herzog's career, though. The director Les Blank recorded it all in his won 1982 feature documentary Burden of Dreams, and now it's reported that, in June, Ecco Press is bringing out Herzog's journals written during the production, under the title Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo. For those of you who can't wait, The Paris Review has a selection in their Spring 2009 issue. ("These texts are not reports on the filming --of which little is said. Nor are they journals, except in a very general sense. They might be described instead as inner landscapes, born of the delirium of the jungle. But even that may not be entirely accurate--I am not sure." Coming from anyone else but Werner, this sort of thing would count as discouraging.) The excerpt isn't available online, but hey, it's a good magazine, so throw them twelve bucks if you're so inclined. . . .

The ScreenGrab, April 17

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I am split on this Youtube development. There are times in which Herzog's natural cinematography is exquisite, which often the point when he seems to get stuck on image for image's sake. But there are times where his own admittedly hackneyed approach to certain scenes lends itself to the compression of Youtube. As all things with Herzog, I can imagine he hates it and loves it.

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That's fab. Thanks, Peter, for bringing that to my attention.

Does the voice in everyone else's head have a strong German accent when they read this? It is so characteristic of Herzog. I, for one, love how he takes his art and himself so seriously. I know people that recoil at this, but for me there is a distinct pleasure in reading an artist's unapologetic pretension.

"A vision had seized hold of me, like the demented fury of a hound that has sunk its teeth into the leg of a deer carcass and is shaking and tugging at the downed game so frantically that the hunter gives up trying to calm him."

Wonderful stuff.

And this just made me laugh out loud:

"Coppola is not completely back on his feet after a hernia operation. He is displaying a strange combination of self-pity, neediness, professional work ethic, and sentimentality. The office on the seventh floor was trying feverishly to get a hospital bed delivered and set up in the mixing studio, and another one in some other location. Coppola did not like the pillows and complained all afternoon about the various kinds that were rushed to the spot; he rejected every one."

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