Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cobra Verde


Cobra Verde; Adventure drama, Germany/ Ghana, 1987; D: Werner Herzog, S: Klaus Kinski, José Lewgoy, King Ampaw, Salvatore Basile

A Brazilian town, 19th Century. Francisco, called Cobra Verde, is mourning on his mother's grave. The drought destroyed his cattle and his boss didn't pay his work in the coal mine so he becomes a thief. The rich land owner Don Octavio hires him as a slave supervisor on his sugar plantation, but when he impregnates his three daughters, tensions arise. Don Octavio sends him to Africa to find new slaves, hoping he will get killed there by the local king Ahadee. The king really captures Francisco, but he gets released by his nephew who gives him the role of the leader of a mutiny. Francisco dethrones the king and becomes a sub-king, but then the slavery is abolished and he dies, trying to push a boat into the sea.

"Cobra Verde" is a legendary flop, the weakest and last film by Herzog/Kinski duo, but it enjoys cult status due to abundant display of bizarreness which is why it pays out to see it. The movie actually has all the attributes of the Herzog/ Kinski opus, but just chaotically put together, mixed up, with too much unnecessary episodic characters and a lot of trash. Among the unbelievable things are also the locations in Ghana and the cast (King Ampaw!), while Kinski once again plays an elevated character who in the night eliminates his rival who double crossed him ("I want you to be awake while I'm killing you!") and who even shouts and stops a mob running after a slave. Among other mad scenes: a priest gives a host to a goat; Kinski simply kicks away the "damned" python. The direction and the story are otherwise eclatant and obviously extremely deteriorated by the now legendary conflict between Kinski and Herzog on the set that reached an all time high, since the actor's anger and psychic instability was at an all time peak and he would be impossible to work with - the fact that Herzog actually managed to tame him 5 times in their 5 movies, is a wonder. The symbols are also monotone and the hero magniloquent, which is why one shouldn't expect much for entertainment. And yet, as the end credits start to roll, it's somehow hard not to think what would be if Herzog worked once again with Kinski if the actor hadn't died 4 years later.

Grade:++

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