Tuesday, September 27, 2011

the jungle book

what it is: werner herzog's diaries from the amazon
where i found it: the public library

If you're a Herzog fan you may feel you can get enough of his ranting and raving about his Amazon adventures in the documentaries My Best Fiend and Burden of Dreams, which are fairly expansive. Conquest of the Useless, however, his diaries from that time period which weren't translated into American until last year, goes much further and more intensely into the same incredible warp. The entries are unrelenting, and it's not going too far to say there is greatness on just about every page. To prove this point I'll pick a few excerpts, flipping through the book at random:

The helicopter of the Bolivean president, Barrientos, flew into a power line and crashed from a low altitude. He had suitcases full of money with him. presumably from drug deals. The helicopter immediately caught fire, but although people were there and tried to rescue him form the blaze, no one could get close, because the heat made the submachine guns carried by the president and his entourage start firing wildly.

I had a violent, absurd quarrel with Kinski about his mineral water, with which he wants to wash himself now. Otherwise peace and quiet. Suddenly Kinski started yelling again, but it had no conneciton to anything here. He was beside himself, calling Sergio Leone and Corbucci rotten vermin, no good so-and-sos and cyclopean assholes. It took a long time for him to wear himself out. Then his yelling flared up again briefly, as he called Fellini a bungling idiot, a fat bastard. Then in late morning I finally got some sleep.

On my mosquito net, in the light, sits a green, prehistoric looking animal, motionless, gazing down at me.

You get the idea. It is full of the heartbreaking, the enraged, and the hilarious, and while this post has already been long, I have to mention three other things in particular:

1) Herzog's ongoing bewilderment at absurd animal behavior,
2) Long rants about the soul-less cowardice of Jason Robards.
3) A scene in which Mick Jagger is found walking through ankle-deep jungle mud in a tuxedo 

If you're a person who's ever been sucked into to Herzog's deceptively calm German drone narration and kind of don't want to come out again please read this thing.