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, Darryl F. Zanuck had sent Fuller to scout a location and write a script for a film called Tigrero, which was to star John Wayne, but ultimately the picture was scrapped due to the insurance costs being too high. Fuller, frustrated with the bullshit involved with getting the picture off the ground with the studio, threw himself into his work on the screenplay for Run of the Arrow.
Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made (1994)
The film begins as a chronological diary of the trip, with Fuller and Jarmusch (sporting a Ramones T-shirt through most of the filming) boarding a small cargo plane and arriving among the Karajá. Fuller had shot approximately sixteen minutes of 16mm Cinemascope footage back in 1954, depicting the indigenous people and the landscapes who would become a vital part of a sprawling Fox action film starring John Wayne, Ava Gardner and Tyrone Power. Due to insurance issues, the production never came to fruition. The natives are shown the existing scenes (which later wound up visually squished as a surreal passage in Fuller’s Shock Corridor) and are moved by the images of themselves and their kin preserved on film. The subtle technological changes in the culture are the only major marks of the passage of time, and the two directors ruminate on what could have been if the film had been produced and released.
Every bit as engaging as his reputation might suggest, the cigar-chomping Fuller makes an enjoyable guide as he simultaneously discusses the abandoned Tigrero project. (The title, Tiger, refers to the hero of the film.) Most interesting is his opening monologue discussing his proposed opening for the film, in which a tracking shot along the Amazon would capture the predatory behavior of various animals. The pacing of the film is fairly langorous, soaking in the atmosphere as two like-minded Americans bounce off each other as they learn more about a culture as far removed from the American filmmaking scene as possible. —mondo-digital via frame-paradiso
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