Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Indy Jones, the Wrath of God?

Opening with a CGI’d ground hog, an inexplicably recurring character introduced with Elvis’ version of “Hound Dog” (not the same animal, Steven/George), and culminating with Russian soldiers aiming their guns offscreen to a crew of prison guards that are directly in front of them (lame, guys), I knew immediately that the suspension of disbelief would be a factor in being able to enjoy INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL for what it is, which certainly needs no recounting here. And I enjoy I did, for the most part. While basking in one unlikely misadventure after another, one thinks back to RAIDERS and wonders if so many infractions of the sort, CGI aside, bogged down the first edition of Indy. I suspect not, though another viewing of Raiders certainly seems in order. But I digress… The recurring thought for me were the parallels between CRYSTAL SKULL and Herzog’s films shot in the Amazonian jungle, most obviously AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD, which screened at the Belcourt a few weekends back as part of the Herzog/Kinski Weekend Classics this month.

(very light spoiler ahead if you haven’t seen CRYSTAL SKULL)

The clear link is the shared subplot of the myth of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold located somewhere in the Amazonian jungle, arguably the main plot of AGUIRRE. Herzog’s Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) leads his Spanish expedition astray in a mad search for El Dorado. The source for AGUIRRE is inspired by a similar journey of Captain Francisco de Orellana circa 1633, a nod to which can also be found in CRYSTAL SKULL when Indiana Jones enters a tomb of mummified Spanish conquistadors who’d been unheard of since their own search for El Dorado. Indy opens one to find a perfectly enshrined rough-hewn specimen, Aguirre-like armor on his head. Did he name Orellana directly? I can’t be sure.

Also recurring are similar locations, or fake locations in the case of the CRYSTAL SKULL: Following the mummy scene, the journey diverts via plane to Iquitos, which Herzogians will recall is the main village and site of the to-be-built opera house in FITZCARRALDO (playing June 14-16). Whereas Spielberg/Lucas substituted the much friendlier environs of Hawaii to emulate Peru (and in a lowest-common-denominator moment, the world famous Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina), one has to give props to Herzog for actually shooting there rather than animating it (as will be chronicled in MY BEST FIEND, June 28-30).

One can argue that the creative team behind this edition of Indy had Herzog on the brain when plotting the details of CRYSTAL SKULL, and so it seems do others in Hollywood if we’re to believe that Werner Herzog is remaking Abel Ferrara’ BAD LIEUTENANT with Nicolas Cage. Say it ain’t so. Abel Ferrara does.



mr. pink said...

The missing link between Aguirre and Indy 4 must be the DreamWorks animated feature The Road to El Dorado, which as I remember even has a boat scene sorta like Fitzcarraldo. (Also, maybe Kinski's just trying to find a DVD copy of Howard Hawks' El Dorado.)

Enemy of the State has nothing to do with El Dorado, but Gene Hackman drives an El Camino.

wraith7000 said...

If only Aguirre or Indy 4 had more naked guys running around singing songs the missing link would be solidified!...(Guess there's always the DVD cut)

Stacey Q The Winged Serpent said...

There's an even more explicit connection between the Herzogian and IJ universes, though. Klaus Kinski was Spielberg's first choice to play Belloq in Raiders, but KK turned him down.

The very idea of Klaus Kinski in a Steven Spielberg film... the mind just boggles.

Anonymous said...

Eee gahd! Kinski would have made a hell of a Belloq. Ahh what could have been...

Kristin said...

I'm so glad somebody brought the Bad Lieutenant thing up. I can't even form a full thought about this -- I end up with a puzzled expression, staring off into space. Really Werner? Of all the films to remake? I mean, I know he's completely capable, I'm just wondering about his process in choosing to remake this one in particular. And as much as I enjoy many Nicholas Cage performances (except isn't he looking a little taut and shiny these days, kind of like a Ken doll? I find that incredibly distracting) for my money, nobody sobs loudly and hobbles around naked like Harvey Keitel.
My hope is that Cage will just revert to the same acting choices he made in Vampire's Kiss. Ah, the cruel indifference of nature.