Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Fitzcarraldo (1982): written and directed by Werner Herzog; starring Klaus Kinski ('Fitzcarraldo'), Claudia Cardinale (Molly), Miguel Angel Fuentes (Cholo), Paul Hittscher (Captain), and Huerequeque Enrique Bohorquez (The Cook): Werner Herzog's epic tale of obsession and opera sees big-dreamer Fitzcarraldo (really 'Fitzgerald,' a name the Peruvian natives pronounce per: the title) planning to build an opera house in early 20th-century Peru. His scheme to make enough money to do so involves getting a bunch of dangerous natives to help him move his steamship a mile over a small mountain to reach a river otherwise made unreachable by rapids. 

Of course, all this is filmed on location. And Werner Herzog actually does move a steamship overland without dismantling it. The movie is as much a testament to Herzog's obsession as it is to Fitzcarraldo's. The whole thing is surprisingly funny and light on its feet, shot through with sequences that play like fevered dreams and others that sparkle with wit and humanity. 

This may be Klaus Kinski's most sympathetic performance. He's as crazy as a loon, but boy, is he dedicated! The supporting players are uniformly excellent, as are the natives who play versions of themselves. The making of the movie is chronicled in Burden of Dreams (1989). Highly recommended.

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