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Cobra Verde (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
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In their last film together, director Werner Herzog drew from actor Klaus Kinski a performance that grounds Kinski's volcanic passions with a new gravity--perhaps age was bringing Kinski down to earth. He plays Cobra Verde, a notorious Brazilian bandit, whom a plantation owner hires to keep his slaves in line. After Cobra Verde impregnates all his daughters, the owner and the authorities conspire to send the bandit to Africa to reopen the slave trade. They expect him to be killed, but through a mixture of his own cunning and the volatile politics of West Africa, Cobra Verde ends up leading an army of women to overthrow the king. Cobra Verde is disjointed, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth watching. Kinski is magnetic in scene after remarkable scene, and though the whole isn't satisfying, the parts certainly are. --Bret Fetzer
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Herzog is concerned with authenticity when portraying African cultures, and this may be one of the most realistic depictions of colonial Africa ever committed to film. Interestingly, the actor who plays the King of Dahomey is a real African tribal king.
Klaus Kinski plays the title role with a crazed intensity which according to Herzog mirrors the fact that he was slipping over the edge in real life. Kinski's character Cobra Verde longs "to go forth from here to another world", but in fact he is already in another world - Herzog's camera captures the sense of strangeness and mystery in each landscape the film passes through.
In many ways 'Cobra Verde' is like an extended dreamscape, hyponotic yet full of surprising juxtapositions. While not Herzog's most coherent film, in terms of stylised cinematography it ranks up there with his best. It is a work of art that demands attentive viewing.
Contrary to the myth that whites are responsible for the African slave trade, the film also acknowledges the historical reality that slavery was practiced extensively by Arabs and Africans (not that whites didn't actively participate in it, of course). Herzog discusses some of these issues in the director's commentary track, which is interesting in its own right.
Klaus Kinski (in his last starring role in a Herzog film) plays a Brazilian cattle rancher forced into poverty due to a drought and a death in the family. He spends some time as a gold miner, but when he is cheated by the paymaster he takes up a life of crime and becomes the almost comically-feared bandit "Cobra Verde".
He almost-accidentally becomes a foreman to the owner of a sugar plantation; when he falls afoul of the man by impregnating his daughters, the plantation owner decides to appoint him as a vice-regent in West Africa, in the hope that he will get himself killed in the process of reviving the slave trade. Unfortunately for everyone, Cobra Verde is resourceful enough to accomplish his mission-- just before the British destroy the slave trade for good. Cobra Verde is cheated again, and he dies in a futile attempt to sail a slave ship back to Brazil.
Again, I don't quite know what the problem is-- all the actors and actresses are fantastic, Herzog achieves epic results on a small budget, the photography and music are beautiful, and the story is powerfully moving. I've decided not to worry about it. The film has some amazing moments: the 360-degree pan at the beginning, the woman who seduces Cobra Verde during a thieving raid ("Your money or your life!" "My life."), the lone holdout from the Brazilian stronghold, the mad African chief,... and the beautiful girls singing a ceremonial song at the end, all build up to an amazing viewing experience. Herzog's films have this quality of almost adhering to a formula, but they let a bit of random strangeness through-- just like real life. I don't think Herzog has anything to worry about.
Most recent customer reviews
COBRA VERDE marked the fiinal collaboration (not counting the director's elegiac documentary MEIN LIEBSTER FEIND) between Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski. Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2003 by Amazon Customer
The dynamic duo team up again and go to Africa but unfortunately Werner Herzog leaves the script back in Germany. Read morePublished on July 8 2002 by the wizard of uz
I thought the film started a little slow,but quickly this movie picks up momentum and ends in a big explosion! Read morePublished on Feb. 8 2002 by mark logg
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