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Germany 1987
Directed by
Werner Herzog
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Cobra Verde

Werner Herzog’s film is adapted from Bruce Chatwin's novel, The Viceroy of Ouidah and tells the story of Francisco Manoel da Silva, sometime farmer, itinerant labourer, bandit and finally, slave trader on the coast of West Africa during the mid-18th century.

The third of Herzog’s South American films (the others being Aguirre, Wrath of God, 1972 and Fitzcarraldo, 1982), and his final film with Klaus Kinski, who died three years later, Cobra Verde is an often imagistically-striking film with a sense of visual choreography that recalls Kurosawa, notably in the sequences dealing with the flag semaphore and the training of the women soldiers.

Concerning, as the opening scene makes clear, with a legendary character, the narrative provides little detail about da Silva’s life, particularly once shifting to West Africa, which is represented in only the broadest strokes whilst Kinski’s struttings and ravings (according to Herzog, Kinski was by this stage of his life “completely mad”) do not constitute characterization. The result is visually impressive but with little sense of the main protagonist within a generalized narrative that is of interest in its depiction of the history of slavery .

DVD Extras: A informative commentary by Herzog with interviewer/prompter Norman Hill; Biographies and the theatrical trailer. The DVD is issued by Umbrella Entertainment as part of their Herzog/Kinski Collection that includes the 5 films they made together as well as the documentary Herzog made about their collaboration, the wittily entitled, My Best Fiend.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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