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Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made (1994)

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In 1993, Sam Fuller takes Jim Jarmusch on a trip into Brazil's Mato Grosso, up the River Araguaia to the village of Santa Isabel Do Morro, where 40 years before, Zanuck had sent Fuller to ... See full summary »

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Title: Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made (1994)

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In 1993, Sam Fuller takes Jim Jarmusch on a trip into Brazil's Mato Grosso, up the River Araguaia to the village of Santa Isabel Do Morro, where 40 years before, Zanuck had sent Fuller to scout a location and write a script for a movie based on a tigrero, a jaguar hunter. Sam hopes to find people who remember him, and he takes film he shot in 1954. He's Rip Van Winkle, and, indeed, a great deal changed in the village. There are televisions, watches, and brick houses. But, the same Karajá culture awaits as well. He gathers the villagers to show his old film footage, and people recognize friends and relatives, thanking Fuller for momentarily bringing them back to life. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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river | culture | brazil | journey | 1990s | See more »

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Documentary | Drama

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25 March 1994 (Finland)  »

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Tigrero  »

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Features Shock Corridor (1963) See more »

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one of those great stories about movie-making that only directors tell each other
30 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I didn't find Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made to be one that worked completely as a documentary, but there was a lot that I did admire about it. The director Mika Kaurismaki (of the Kaurismaki brothers, the famous Finnish filmmakers) chooses to not just plunge the viewer into the Karaja culture, of which Tigrero is mostly set in, but sets up a sort of 'huh' opening scene where director Samuel Fuller persuades Jim Jarmisch to go with him on a trip into the jungles of Brazil for some odd reason or another. I could get a sense of what Kaurismaki was after with this, to make the documentary feel more like a hybrid, like something out of Jarmusch's own Coffe & Cigarettes where the real people are themselves, only still playing characters. But the film really only gets some lift once Kaurismaki gives up on the scripted stuff- which isn't awful but feels like it's out of some other movie- and gets to the facts, the images of total reality and the stories of old. In this case, like with Les Blank's Burden of Dreams, Kaurismaki is almost more interested in the native people of the area, the Karaja, who were there for centuries when Fuller arrived in 1956 to do some 16mm rough shooting of the area for a film he was preparing (of the title here).

In fact, I wondered after a while when Kaurismaki would get to the story behind the 'film never made', as he continually shows the Karaja and their customs. This isn't a bad thing at all actually, and there are even a couple of wonderfully strange moments, like the two men doing their chant as their stuck together and go by the cigar-chomping Fuller. Or when we see how the natives do their mating ritual, which involves the men being covered completely by bushes and going around the women, who rub their bellies in hope of having babies. But really, part of the touching factor is just in seeing how these people lived and payed heed to nature, which is their sort of God, however not exactly their God as Fuller observes "they don't know what God is" (he makes a note, however, that Christians don't either, but they just flaunt it more). With all of this footage, either shot by Kaurismaki or Fuller or even through Jarmusch as he carries around a camcorder, it's all very absorbing on an anthropological level, and the history behind the people too is interesting, how the Westerners came into try and modernize, and they almost crushed their culture.

Once this is mostly through with we do finally get to Fuller talking about Tigrero, and it's pretty much worth the wait to hear one of the giants of American film in the 50s and 60s (both studio-wise and independent) talk about the ambition of it all, how John Wayne and Ava Gardner would be cast, how it all rung of slight subversion of the action/adventure picture set in exotic locations. It's always a treat too just to hear how Fuller tells these stories, no b.s. involved ever, and how after the crushing blow from the insurance company that the film could not go on (they wouldn't want to put up the millions of dollars in case, well, one of the stars died), how he integrated the footage into Shock Corridor. Jarmusch also makes sure the questions are direct as possible, however with a good level of adoration from an obvious fan, and with his own dead-pan narration telling of the Karaja's stories and the like. By the end, I knew I had seen at least 2/3 of an excellent documentary on a group of people I'd never known before, and had seen things about their ways of life and understanding of one another that was fulfilling, and from knowing another lot of great lost stories by a filmmaker who knew his stuff. If only Kaurismaki wouldn't get in the way sometimes.


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