The Feast of Salt. Reflections on Werner Herzog's Conquest of the Useless

Neil Young

THIRTY years after the filming of what remains perhaps Werner Herzog's most famous film, Fitzcarraldo, the notes which the film's star – and Herzog's stormily frequent collaborator – Klaus Kinski dismissed as his “distortions” were published in English as Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo (Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins, New York; hardback 2009; paperback 2010).

/.../ Reading Conquest of the Useless – and the book is nothing if not a page-turned, stuffed with incident, vivid characters and exotic situations - one is torn between taking Herzog's word for events, and dragging ourselves a sufficient distance away to attempt something of a more objective perspective. Les Blank's film Burden of Dreams is a filmed documentary on the making of Fitzcarraldo, but in terms of the written word the only alternative voice is that of Kinski in his memoir Kinski Uncut – a swaggering, self-justifying, disgracefully entertaining barbaric yawp of a book, filled with the most vituperative verbal demolitions of Herzog.

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