Cobra Verde (1987)
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Critic Reviews for Cobra Verde
The type of crazed, folkloric epic that Germany's own De Niro-Scorsese duo usually excelled at.
The final third of this film contains sequences of horrifying sublimity and ethereal beauty, moments that have a clarity and power beyond the reach of reason.
Verde is too blankly amoral to sustain interest, but the film has isolated moments of haunting poetry.
It's easy to understand why this was Herzog's final collaboration with the actor, but Kinski's performance nevertheless serves up a potent confusion of documentary and fiction that has long been an essential element of Herzog's filmmaking.
Though less apocalyptical than usual, the imagery is as lavish as ever, but the film is wrecked by an underwritten narrative.
Audience Reviews for Cobra Verde
"Cobra Verde" may be unjustifiably obscure, but it's also no match for its heralded older brothers "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo." Director Werner Herzog and enfant terrible Klaus Kinski are teamed for the fifth and last time, but the chemistry seems off. "Cobra Verde" has a more complex story than "Aguirre" and "Fitzcarraldo," despite having a similar plot about a driven fanatic undertaking a seemingly impossible mission. Kinski plays the title character, a roaming South American bandit who takes a job at a sugar plantation, only to fall out of favor after he impregnates the boss's daughters. As a result, he is pressed to sail overseas to barter slaves from Dahomey. It is expected that he will not return alive. Settling down in Africa, he becomes embroiled in a conflict between two rival kingdoms, and his original objective fades away in the chaos. Kinski's performance is a bit erratic -- sometimes he's a man of sullen intimidation, other times he's the feral lunatic we expect -- and Herzog fails to get inside his head, instead seeming more interested in choreographing large crowd scenes. The rites and costumes of the natives *are* fascinating, but the illusion is punctured when they speak to Kinski in perfect German. Even Popol Vuh's droning soundtrack seems indifferent next to the group's masterful work on earlier Herzog projects. The film's quirkier virtues include a goat receiving communion and a tribal girl's choir so shockingly charismatic that one wonders why they didn't follow Ladysmith Black Mambazo to international success. Hey, they even worked topless.
The problem with this film is the main character. Kinski does a great job but he feels two-dimensional and seems to go with the flow rather than having any actual goal - ala Forrest Gump. Fortunately, Herzog's skills as a director are in full flow here and there are countless lingering shots of absolute beauty that seem to strain the camera lens as he tries to encompass the entire scene. Visually, it's a wonder, but it lacks a soul.
Pure unadulterated delightful madness.
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