Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God

Aguirre 4

“After the Spaniards had conquered and sacked the Inca realm, the sorely oppressed Indians invented the legend of a golden kingdom El Dorado. Its alleged location was in the impenetrable bogs of the Amazon tributaries. Near the end of the year 1560, a large expedition of Spanish adventurers under the leadership of Gonzalo Pizarro set off from the Peruvian sierras. The only document to survive from this lost expedition is the diary of the monk Gaspar de Carvajal.”

This is the text preceding Werner Herzog’s 1972 film Aguirre, The Wrath of God and, though Herzog claims historians repeatedly ask him where he found these documents, it doesn’t claim to be anything more than a fabrication–which it is. How could it be anything else? Certainly Don Lope de Aguirre, Gonzalo Pizzaro, and Gaspar de Carvajal were real people, but the story itself, its cinematic presentation, chronicles a megalomaniacal odyssey through the gates of hell. The Spanish conquistadors, spurred onward by their hubris and insatiable desire, rush through the dense Amazonian tributaries toward El Dorado as quickly as the current will carry them.…

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Agnès Varda’s Clèo from 5 to 7

1 Cleo

At night, as my head sinks into my pillow, I often wonder if I’d be able to recognize love when it appears in my life. I usually arrive at the conclusion that I have, on countless occasions, obliviously waltzed right past it with a big, dumb grin on my face–and then I start thinking about Agnès Varda’s 1962 film, Clèo from 5 to 7.

There are a handful of terrific films in history that successfully portray action in real time, but none of them quite as precise, as meticulously committed to capturing real human experience, as Cleo from 5 to 7. After watching the film I feel like I’ve just spent 90 minutes marching down the Left Bank of Paris, soaking in the energy of the early sixties alongside our protagonist. Breaking away from conventional film technique, in which narrative rhythm and drama is manufactured through the manipulation of space and time, Varda embraces the subjectivity of her lead, ensuring the viewer experiences every moment the way Clèo (Corrinne Marchand) does, in real time.…

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