In the oppressive jungles of the Amazon, Les Blank’s documentary follows the tumultuous production of Fitzcarraldo which charts the travails of the film’s director Werner Herzog whose own obsessive behavior, which is worsened by heated disputes with his star Klaus Kinski, major technical problems, overages, and clashes with the natives, begins to mirror that of his own protagonist.
When asked why he shirks studio settings in favor of dangerous location shoots, Herzog often speaks to the magic of place and how it is enhanced on film. While I believe this to be true of Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre, and many of his other works, it somehow fails to be realized here on Blank’s highly touted doc and may even take away from some of the mystery Herzog’s masterpiece. It also fails to capture the sensation achieved by Hearts of Darkness, the likewise jungle based Apocalypse now documentary to which it is often compared. Still a lot of good stuff here including film footage featuring Jason Robards and Mick Jagger (they both exited the picture after a short stint) and Herzog’s bombastic, humorous addresses to the camera.
*** out of ****