Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1982. Independent Documentary Fund, The National Endowment for the Arts, Ford Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Television Stations, SDR Fernsehen, Flower Films. Screenplay by Michael Goodwin. Cinematography by Les Blank. Produced by Les Blank. Film Editing by Maureen Gosling.
Having not yet seen Fitzcarraldo, I am not in a position to say whether or not this documentary about making the film is better than the film itself, but it would be a Herculean task if it weren’t. Les Blank’s scintillating film follows Werner Herzog through the jungles of South America as he tries to accomplish his near-impossible dream of making the above-mentioned epic, a drama about a music enthusiast (played originally by Jason Robards who was later replaced by Klaus Kinski) looking to bring opera to the natives of the Amazon. In the film itself, bringing classical singing to jungle primitives is basically a task worthy of Greek mythology and, as it turns out, making a film about it is even more so. Herzog has to deal with native extras, political turmoil in the countries he films in and the generally unwelcoming atmosphere of the jungle as he manifests the difficulties of artistic creation into something life threatening (and in some cases, lethal). At the same time your eye is dazzled by the sights and sounds as Blank and his crew capture the surrounding world of this incredible production, which drops you headfirst into an unbelievable rabbit-hole and holds you there until the end. Awe-inspiring work.
The Criterion Collection: #287