Classic Movie Review: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

Title: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Release Date: December 29, 1972
Director: Werner Herzog
Production Company:  Werner Herzog Filmproduktion | Hessischer Rundfunk

This the first narrative film by Herzog that I’ve watched, and it is as bleak as his reputation.  It tells the story of Spanish conquistadors in 1560 traveling through the Andes in search of the legendary city of El Dorado.  Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) is the second in command of a scouting party sent down a river on four rafts.  Kinski portrays Aguirre not only as ambitious but so literally drunk on power that he staggers when he walks.

The movie features some startling shots, including the introduction when hundreds of soldiers, enslaved indigenous people, and two women (carried in sedan chairs) process in a long line on a muddy mountain trail.  It was filmed on location and must’ve required dozens of extras but it’s an impressive scene and serves also to introduce all the main characters.

The sight of armored Spanish soldiers bearing swords and guns against the wilderness is a great satire, because nothing is going to protect them from nature.  Of course the indigenous people are also a threat, but its more likely that the Spaniards will enslave them or kill them for unknowing acts of blasphemy.  Ultimately, though, the greatest threat to the party is one another as power and greed turns them against each other.

It’s a grim film, but an honest depiction of colonialism, exploitation, and in humanity.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Saludos Amigos (1942)

Title: Saludos Amigos
Release Date: August 24, 1942
Director: Norman Ferguson | Wilfred Jackson | Jack Kinney | Hamilton Luske | Bill Roberts
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions

Saludos Amigos is the first of the package films Disney released in the 1940s, and due to the random order of my viewing, the last I watched.  This movie is most directly connected to the Walt Disney company’s goodwill tour of Latin America in 1941, and features full-color documentary footage of Disney artists traveling by plane around South America.

The short film features four segments, one each set in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.  “Lake Titicaca” features Donald Duck visiting the titular lake as a tourist.  “Pedro” is the story of young airplane making his first flight to collect the mail in a journey over the Andes.  In “El Gaucho Goofy” the American cowboy and the Argentian gaucho are compared and contrasted.  The final and best segment, “Aquarela do Brasil,” introduces José Carioca, who teaches Donald Duck to dance the samba. Amazingly enough, the famous title song was only a few years old at the time this movie was made, and Disney actually made it popular in the United States!

The film is slight, but enjoyable enough, especially the music.

Rating: ***