Thursday, April 23, 2009

Burden of Dreams

Les Blank, 1982 (9.1*)
Whether you liked or even watched Werner Herzog’s ambitious epic Fitzcarraldo, this documentary on its making is one of the best films about filmmaking ever made. Herzog became so obsessed with his story that he repeated the character's prodigious feat of bringing opera to the Amazon rainforest by moving a huge steamship inland over hills and up to a huge lake where it could move around a large, remote area to bring the first opera ever seen or heard by Amazon natives.

Les Blank and his assistant Maureen Gosling take us to Herzog’s film locations in the jungle. His first location became the scene of a border war between tribes, so he had to move to another location. Moving the steamship using manpower, pulleys, and one bulldozer for backup was very dangerous, so many crew members and a structural engineer walked off the job; another was bitten by a green mambo and immediately amputated his own leg with a machete – if not, he would have died in minutes. Such are the burdens of filmmaking dreams, and none were more grandoise than Herzog’s insane obsession.

Lead actor Jason Robards succombed to dysentery and wasn’t allowed to return to location, so Klaus Kinski completed the film. Herzog also lost Mick Jagger to a concert tour, so this film had many setbacks, and Burden of Dreams becomes a chronicle of Herzog's obstacles to his maniacal obsession - perhaps the most 'larger than life' of all films. This is one of the best documentaries ever made.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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