Cinema Station

Conquest of the Useless | June 15, 2010

I have begun reading Werner Herzog’s book, Conquest of the Useless.  It is taken from the journals he kept while making Fitzcarraldo, a film about a man who wants to bring opera to the jungle and drags a ship across a mountain in order to accomplish his dream.

I will occasionally post excerpts from this book, like we have in the past with others.  Here in his own words, Herzog explains the book:

“These texts are not reports on the actual filming–of which little is said.  Nor are they journals, except in a very general sense.  They might be described instead as inner landscapes, born of the delerium of the jungle.  But even that may not be entirely accurate–I am not sure.”

The book begins with Herzog in L.A., where he stays presumably in Francis Ford Coppola’s house.  Here is an excerpt about his time there:

“Telegram from Walter Saxer in Iquitos.  Apparently things are looking very good, expect that the whole situation might collapse from one moment to the next.  We are like workmen, appearing solemn and confident as we build a bridge over an abyss, without any supports.  Today, quite by chance, I had a rather long conversation with [Francis Ford] Coppola’s production man.  Over a hamburger and a milk shake he tried to convince me that he would take the project’s fate in hand.  I thanked him.  He asked whether that meant thank you, yes or thank you, no.  I said thank you, no.

Coppola is not completely back on his feet after a hernia operation.  He is displaying a strange combination of self-pity, neediness, professional work ethic, and sentimentality… Coppola did not like the pillows and complained all afternoon about the various kinds that were rushed to the spot; he rejected every one.”



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