Saturday, September 6, 2008

Into the West

Dir: Robert Dornhelm, Simon Wincer, 2005 (10*)
This 12-hr tv miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg is now my favorite western. It's really six different 2 hour films, each taking a different era or event in the history of the west.

The story starts with a Lakota Souix sunwheel, where shaman receive visions of the future. It then blends into a wagon wheel being forged in Ohio, by a family named Wheeler, for pioneers heading west. The entire series will be held together by the symbolism of the wheel. which the author said came to him 'in a dream', just as the Wheeler family breaks up when some of the younger ones decide to head west themselves.

The Wheelers then interact with the Souix in their individual stories. The major Souix character we follow throughout is named Loved by the Buffalo after surviving a stampede, and he becomes a shaman who has visions of the Wheelers heading west. One troubling vision argued over by the tribe is one of the disappearance of the buffalo, followed by the Souix.

Various historical events are used as backdrops for the personal stories, such as the railroad, the gold rush, the Indian wars. The writers managed to keep it all connected by the individual lives and their offspring, plus there were hundreds of historical technicians on the crew, including over 25 experts in Native American linguistics alone. There's one beaded dress that took one woman six months to make. Only Spielberg could have the financial clout to pull this off and do the subject justice from all sides of the story. A not to be missed event.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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