Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fitzcarraldo Reminds Me a Lot of Apocalypse Now

I did something this weekend I've been meaning to do for years: I viewed the 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, the Werner Herzog epic starring Klaus Kinski and Claudia Cardinale, which is about a Caruso-obsessed entrepreneur who sails into a jungle of hostile natives as part of a scheme to push a 300-ton steamboat over a mountain in order to bring the opera to a remote South American outpost.

Among its parallels to Apocalypse Now is the fact that there were serious follow-up documentaries to both films, which followed their multiple-year struggles through actual wars, jungles, sicknesses, deaths, and replacements of principal stars (Jason Robards, Harvey Keitel) who couldn't finish, even after tons of footage was shot with them. We heard Mick Jagger on the radio of the boat in the middle of the jungle in Vietnam, and we actually saw Mr. Jagger (blink and you'll miss the 10-pixel-tall blur) on the boat in the middle of the Amazon jungle, because he was originally cast as one of the primary actors, but was not able to finish filming. Hearts of Darkness documented Mr. Coppola's ordeal, and Burden of Dreams, which I am Netflixxing now, documented Mr. Herzog's. Elements of Conrad emerged (flourished?) in Fitz, though without all the overt connections included in Apocalypse.

Claudia Cardinale -- YEAH BABY!

Note: This image of Ms. Cardinale appears nowhere in any of the above-mentioned films.

Another out-of-the-way film I saw was Black and White in Color, a very clever French satire about an outpost in French Colonial Africa, so distant from civilization that they don't get news about WWI until six months after it starts. This sends the outraged citizenry to attack the German colony next door, until they realize that the Germans actually have a machine gun that works! Here's what I like about movies like this: They're different. If you can get me a movie that's just different, then as far as I'm concerned, you've won half the battle already, in regards to my ultimate opinion of it.


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