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Cobra Verde (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on May 10, 2013

The story of Francisco Manoel de Silva (Klaus Kinski), the feared Brazilian bandit also known as “Cobra Verde”.  In the slave market one day, he intimates a runaway to turn back with his intimidating stare.  Impressed, the plantation owner Octavio Coutinho (José Lewgoy) hires him to watch over his slaves.  But when Cobra Verde quickly impregnates all three of Coutinho’s daughters, he gets sent a suicide mission to reopen the slave trade in West Africa, where the maniacal king (Nana Agyefi Kwame II) is sure to kill him.  However, Cobra Verde manages to be quite successful and soon wields power there.

Another Herzog rewatch, and another shuffling of my Herzog opinions.  Like Even Dwarfs Started Small, this was once one of my favorites among his non-documentary films.  And for the second half, it’s pretty amazing.  From the capturing of Kinski by the king to the training of the Amazons to the “nun’s choir” (one of the all-time great Herzog scenes) to the ending, it’s consistently riveting and full of those wonderful Herzogian observations and strange images and Kinski’s raving performance.

But the first half really drags.  Although the photography is lovely and Popol Vuh’s score is great, there are only a handful of those memorable moments (the conversation about snow, the meeting with the woman in the desert) and a lot of treading water.  I’m willing to chalk it up to maybe not being in the right mood to watch this, which is why I’m not lowering my score as drastically as I’m inclined to.  I have been a bit tired lately.  But the lack of focus and meandering storyline were bigger obstacles to me this time than they were on previous viewings.  There’s a lot of great stuff here, but most of it is loaded in the back end of the film.  Rating: Very Good (82)


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