Monday, May 30, 2011

The Last of the Mohicans

Michael Mann, 1992 (8.2*)
Memorial Day War-a-thon film #20
Based on the James Fenimoore Cooper novel, this is the definitive version of this American classic.

Daniel-Day Lewis has the title role as Nathanial Poe, known as Hawkeye, who was adopted and raised as a Mohican. Native American Russell Means plays Chingachgook, the title character. Means was an Indian activist who was at the last clash with the FBI at Wounded Knee. Lewis does a pretty good job, but it seems they could have found a real Native American actor for this part as well.

The story is about British and French troops warring in colonial America, with various Native American tribes helping on either side. Hawkeye seems to have his own agenda, which largely involves a British officer's daughter, played by Madeleine Stowe. Hawkeye, Chingachgook and his son rescue Stowe and some others from renegade Hurons and return them safely to a fort.

Unfortunately the film is more about this romance than the actual nation-shaping war. Michael Mann always seems to have more of a 'tv look' to his films (he created Miami Vice), everything is a little too clean, too pretty, but he escapes that for the most part here with a feature film that looks like a big budget adventure. The cinematography and the music are superb.

This finally brought color to Cooper's work, the previous best versions were all in black and white. Some say this was the first chase story in literature. The climactic scenes on a mountain were shot in the beautiful area of Chimney Rock, North Carolina, one of the nicest parts of Appalachia.

An Oscar® winner for sound, a BAFTA for cinematography, two for actor Daniel-Day Lewis. Winner of 6 awards out of 16 nominations


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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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