September 18, 2012

Tuff Fest II: Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Hey cool kids, I'm back with another post from my Tuff Fest series.
Simul-posted here: The Movie Advocate

Fitzcarraldo is an impossibly large movie.  It is up there, and maybe surpasses, well known classic epics like Ben Hur, Cleopatra, or the Ten Commandments.  Part of me doesn't want to spoil seeing one of the most unbelievable things ever dedicated to film, but that one thing happens to be the main selling point of the movie.  So, I urge you to simply do everything you can possibly do to get your hands on this movie, suffer through the relatively slow first hour or so, and marvel at the last half.  It is one of the greatest feats in cinema's long and complex history.  That said, minor spoilers follow, but it really is a movie that you have to truly see to believe, so spoilers don't really enter into it.

Fitzcarraldo is a tale inspired by true events (though, exaggerated for cinematic purposes) of a failing European entrepreneur's last ditch attempt at greatness.  I feel like after every sentence that follows, I'm going to want to say "seriously," but I'll abstain.  In Fitzcarraldo, our titular protagonist, after failing to market ice to Peruvians, sets out to build an opera house in the middle of the Amazon.  His funding for such a task will come from the money he plans on making from selling rubber he'll acquire from a nearly inaccessible rubber-tree-trove, also deep in the middle of the Amazon.  He plans on bypassing the rapids that make the trove inaccessible by sailing a 320 ton steamship up a parallel river, and, somehow, getting it over a mountain between the river it's on and the river he wants to be.  Seriously.

There are maybe 30-50 other absolutely bat-shit-crazy things that occur before he gets the steamship to the point where he plans on transporting the ship from one river to another.  This is a "throw your hands up and scream because this movie couldn't possibly exist" kind of movie.  Months after, I am still in a state of awe when I think of it.  There is one documentary about it, and several other biographic pieces talk at length about the filming of the movie, and how it almost ended in several people's deaths.

The most shocking thing about this movie is the fact that everything that you see on your screen actually occurred.  There were no special effects.  There were no cranes assisting in the the impossible feats.  It's as raw and terrible as it looks, and, if the documentaries are to be believed, it's probably worse.

There is no movie the equal of Fitzcarraldo.

-Luke Hunter James-Erickson
To see all the movies written about so far, click here: Tuff Fest II
To see all the movies written about during Tuff Fest I, click here: Tuff Fest I 
For an explanation as to what this is all about, click here: Tuff Fest Introduction.

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