25 August 2014

Whatever Floats Your Boat

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I think that a persons obsessions tells you a lot about who they are. Are you obsessed with football, fashion or kiddie porn? Meh... Then fuck it- we probably wouldn't get along. For me it has to be films with one particular highlight of my life being the year I spent alone watching three or four of them a night... anything to break up the crying and wanking I suppose. Anyway, during this time I basically face planted the world of cinema and learned as much shit as I could to help distract me from the great depression that is my life. As a result I learnt about a chap called Werner Herzog whose bleak outlook made my own darkness look like a warm puddle of piss in a vast ocean of grim. To be frank, I think that the guy is a fucking genius. For anybody unaware of who he is, I'll explain a bit more in a second but to set him up I have a little quote. You know the sheer beauty of the exotic jungle? Well, during the making of his film Fitzcarraldo, Herzog saw it a little differently, “Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they- they sing. They just screech in pain.” There is nothing that I want more than for Herzog to develop a second career as a zoo tour guide. Can you imagine it? “The Lion is suffering in his rusty man-made cage while the Kangaroo hops about with an ecstatic insanity... And the Orang-utan? Well he just stares into the abyss like a great ginger cunt”. Ah... A boy can dream.
Of all the Herzog films that I've seen, I think that for me the most impressive must be the previously mentioned FitzcarraldoReleased in 1982, it tells the story of a man who became obsessed with a bat-shit crazy idea that got lodged in his bat-shit crazy head. Fitzcarraldo wants to sail a crew through the treacherous waters of the Amazon until the river ends and they all have to nip outside and drag their 320-ton steamer ship over a mountain and to the water on the other side. Oh and to make this piece of piss mission a little trickier, the area is crawling with natives who traditionally welcome any visitors by killing the living shit out of them. Kind of like a Friday night in Liverpool. And why do they have to do this? What possible end game might they have for such impossible bullshit? Well.. it's because the man in charge wants to harvest some rubber trees to help fund the construction of a fucking Oprah house. I mean- Jesus Christ! Who could be bothered? Just get a bloody jukebox and pump out some crap like Lulu or Sinead O'Connor instead! It'd still make a pretty penny but you know... minus the risk of having some native stick a spear through your fucking head.  

Anyway, so I think that anybody whose seen this film would agree that it's clearly a masterpiece. You know how our tender and pampered actors all need their personal assistants to drive them around, get them drinks and massage their anuses or whatever? And how they hang out in their house sized trailers that are worth more money than any hardworking prostitute could ever dream to suffer for? And all so that they can say a few words in front of a camera to the adoration of millions of fans who are all oblivious to their heroes raging addiction to heroin and attention? Well, this isn't that kind of film. Herzog needed a madman to drag a boat over a mountain, whilst surrounded by killer natives and so he took a madman to a mountain and made him drag the boat over whilst surrounded by killer natives. The film was scripted but to all intents and purposes, the story that you see on screen is exactly the story of how it was made. Imagine a Borat/Bad Grandpa type of film in which there's clearly a script but everything else is real and that's basically what this film is. Except that where they have a hidden camera and jokes, this has poetic brilliance and the kind of images that are so beautiful that once seen it'll be as though they've been tattooed onto your retinas with a rusty knife. Fitzcarraldo was obsessed with the idea of getting his boat over the mountain and so too was Herzog who in another of his many quotable quotes claimed that, “If I had to climb into hell and wrestle the devil himself for one of my films, I would do it.” Crikey... And all most directors have to worry about is interference from the fucking studio! 

"Put your hand up if you don't want me dead"
So yeah, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice how this film might share certain autobiographical elements with its director but what of its main star? Fitzcarraldo is played here by Herzog's right hand man Klaus Kinski, with the pair forming a director/actor partnership that was more than equal to the likes of Scorsese and De Niro or Burton and Depp. However unlike other partnerships Herzog and Kinski's relationship was a little fractured with the two constantly at each others throats. The director lived for the film and the actor was an out and out nut case. At one point, and whilst filming in the jungle, Kinski got into such a rage that the natives became so afraid that they asked Herzog if they should kill him to which he responded “No, for God's sake! I still need him for shooting. Leave him to me”. This might sound like a joke except for the fact that Herzog had already threatened to shoot both Kinski and himself if Kinski had dared to quit filming their previous masterpiece 'Aguirre, The Wrath Of God'. Herzog is famed for being one of the few people actually able to work with Kinski and yet there's surely no denying the brilliance of their results. Most actors find their motivation by demanding somebody bring them more cushions and a four-dicked poodle with pink fur. Herzog however simply stuck Kinski on a boat in the jungle and surrounding him with a tribe that wanted him fucking dead. To be fair, you can't argue with the results! 

Speaking of things that are insane though, I think that there's nothing more annoying than our world and the stupid people that live here. Bollocks like Transformers has money pissed all over it during production and as a result is enjoyed by an audience containing significantly more people than braincellsFitzcarraldo on the other hand has now sadly slipped into oblivion in the minds of the mainstream audience. Michael Bay getting some over-paid dweeb to create a personality-free piece of metal on their computer is so dull when compared to seeing the obsessions of Werner Herzog appear on screen. I mean, this film literally has a three storey boat dragged over a mountain and yet somehow hasn't and won't be seen by a fraction of the cross-eyed dullards that'll traipse towards Bay's aptly named, Age Of Extinction. I honestly can't think of a bad thing to say about Fitzcarraldo and yet to some people it's as though the film doesn't exist. I don't know... It just doesn't make sense to me how something as monumental as this isn't an essential part of our popular culture. Why this film isn't considered as educationally important as any book and taught in schools is not only a shame but proof that the world still doesn't understand the artistic contributions of cinema. Perhaps if kids were taught the difference between something of creative merit and something that is essentially diarrhoea with a light shined through then perhaps we would have a slightly more open-minded and cultured society.  

Two wrongs making a masterpiece
So to conclude, I think that a persons obsessions tells us a little about the person with Fitzcarraldo being a film about an obsessed man and made by an obsessed man. For anybody with even half an interest in watching images flicker on their screen like the dancing shadows of the magical lantern then I beg you to watch this again- or for the first time. As people like Bay fart their uninspired money-magnets out, I think that it's vital for our culture that you do! I understand that films are more important to me than they are for a lot of people but fuck it, if you've gotten this far through a movie blog, you're either already one of my kind or at least getting curious! Herzog and Kinski made seven films together with the last being Cobra Verde where Kinski's behaviour became apparently so mental that the two had to call it a day together. Considering Herzog had already planned to literally fire bomb Kinski in his house after the ordeal of one of their previous collaborations, you've got to assume that them parting ways was probably for the fucking best. However, while it lasted, the two created some of the best films ever with this, for me, representing the pinnacle of their success. In 1982 Herzog had the drive to lead a crew to the heart of the jungle and pull a huge boat up the steep slopes of a mountain. And to think I was proud of myself for spending eight hours building a hotel on fucking MineCraftWerner Herzog: Director, Producer, Screenwriter and man who shows how fucking lazy and unambitious we all are. What a guy!

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