Monday, April 13, 2009

"Fitzcarraldo" (director: Werner Herzog)

Among Herzog's many masterpieces lies this 1982 film, starring Herzog mainstay Klaus Kinski as Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald -- a financially-troubled railroad man/opera lover who finds himself in colonial Peru, contracted to helm a steamship deep into the Amazon rainforest in search of a lucrative rubber tree forest situated in a dangerous and inaccessable location. Well, after most of his nervous and grumbly crew leaves him, the few remaining steamshipmen manage to tenuously befriend (and enlist the help of) the native Peruvian Indians, and defying all logic and odds, they manage to create a true engineering marvel and drag their steamship over a mountain in order to reach the remote rubber forest. Fitzgerald (aka 'Fitzcarraldo' to his friends) does all this in order to fund his dream of opening the first opera house in Peru. This, his true passion for the world of music and art, is what drives him to these lengths (well, this and his love interest, the beautiful and remarkably understanding Claudia Cardinale as Molly, who helps fund his seemingly mad quest).
Like most of Herzog's films, the cinematography is stunning, as he captures the grand and epic scale of remote locales (and creates amazingly dreamlike images) like few directors can. His characters are memorable and well-cast, and the scale and scope of his stories are far-ranging, unique, and very human. 'Fitzcarraldo' is a masterpiece of cinema, and here's to it getting it's due one day.

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