If you’ve seen Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo but not Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, then you haven’t really experienced the whole story of Herzog’s epic. The undertaking of Fitzcarraldo was mammoth—and more than a little mad. In deciding to make his tale of a European man (Klaus Kinski) determined, against all odds, to open an opera house deep in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru, Herzog showed an ambition that matched that of his crazed protagonist—they both insisted on pulling a 320-ton ship over a mountain, after all, no special effects involved. Nonfiction auteur Les Blank was there to capture the visionary filmmaker’s process and occasional insanity for Burden of Dreams, surely one of the greatest of all behind-the-scenes documentaries. Berkeley-area moviegoers can see an archival print of Burden of Dreams today, August 30, at Pacific Film Archive, with Maureen Gosling (the film’s editor and sound recordist) in person. Below, watch a scene from the film showing Herzog, at wit’s end, offering his take on the natural surroundings he was battling.
Two Stark Visions of the American Underbelly Hit the Big Screen
A new restoration of the groundbreaking vérité documentary Streetwise joins its companion piece, Tiny: the Life of Eric Blackwell, at New York’s Metrograph theater this weekend.