Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Last of the Mohicans


Norman has had a good week this week, despite the unfortunate episode of seasickness that kept him down for a day or two. Nurse Tameka and Nurse Lynn were invaluable at preparing succulent and mild dishes for him to calm his tummy and the vomit stains came off the  back deck planking with a minimum of fuss. I did receive a letter from the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s Home for the Aging requesting, politely but firmly, that Norman not entertain their residents in the future as, apparently, some of his guests are still recovering from the effects of sloe gin.

All would be well if I had not received a registered letter from my internet service provider telling me that they were shutting down my VickiCam web site immediately for having content inappropriate to their family friendly policies. I, of course, immediately contacted my lawyers, Fajer and Hellmann, and asked them to clarify this outrageous charge. I have always been known as a purveyor of wholesome, family oriented entertainments and I could not imagine that my leotard and leg warmers could be considered in any way immodest. After some exploring, Mr. Fajer let me know that Norman has been using my rehearsal studio for his nude yoga exercises when I have been away. The sight of him stretching in rather unusual ways apparently led to a number of coronary events in web surfers, some of which required hospitalization; the AMA, of all people, wanted the site shut down as a threat to public health. I was simply devastated but could see it was for the best and, after redoing my mascara, retired to the home theater with Nurse Lynn and Norman to recover.

This week’s movie was Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeline Stowe, a story of the French and Indian War in colonial America; a place where people led a rough and tumble life on the frontier and always have fabulously conditioned hair, even in the midst of Indian massacres. Not many people know this but Norman's family roots are from the Scots-Irish who settled this part of Appalachia and he kept yelling 'It's great great great grandma!' every time there was a scene with a lot of extras.

Daniel Day-Lewis is Nathaniel Poe (I guess Natty Bumpo, James Fenimore Cooper's original name for the character wasn't quite heroic enough), a frontiersman and adopted Mohican Indian, who with his adoptive father (Russell Means) and adoptive brother (Eric Schweig) runs fleetly through the forest showing off the most luminous male hair since the court of Charles II. One day, while hunting, he saves and falls in love with the equally luminous Cora Munro (Madeline Stowe), traveling with her sister Alice (Jodhi May) and a smarmy redcoat captain (Steven Waddington) to visit her father at a besieged fort. This small band of individuals, brought together by necessity, survives Huron Indian attack, the bombardment of the French, and blood vengeance feuds until, in a searing finale, not everything comes to a happy end. The performances are excellent all the way around with both incredibly romantic and painfully hideous moments skillfully blended.

The true stars of the movie however are the stunning cinematography of the mountains and woods of Western North Carolina and the lush orchestral score, which sounds wonderful in surround sound. A close runner up is the hair and wig department with bouncing curls and incredible shine even on those who have been camping out in the woods for days on end. It’s a good thing that much of the film takes place alongside streams or lakes as the characters must have repeatedly stopped for a quick rinse and blow-dry between sequences and a supply of fresh water would be essential. The costumes, from the buckskin fringed jackets on the men, to the delicate panniers and farthingales on the women, are also lovely to look at, even if the elements do eventually take a bit of a toll on them.

For the DVD release, Michael Mann has re-edited the movie and included footage not in the original theatrical version. There are no new whole sequences, but various scenes have been expanded giving more texture and depth to the minor characters and the period. The additions while interesting don't add much but allow you to see that such actors as Terry Kinney and Colm Meaney are actually in the film. Some of the added footage, around the siege of the fort, gets tiresome; we know the French are digging trenches and don't need to see them at it over and over. On the other hand, the more we get of Wes Studi's villainous Magua, the better - and his actions are a bit better explained in this cut. The one major faux-pas in the original version of the film, the caterwauling Enya sound alike, who sang something that had nothing to do with the period or the action, has been removed, much to its benefit.

Farthingales. Buckskins. Tomahawk throwing. Mortar firing. Gratuitous evil British general. Sacrificial burnings. Cliff top showdowns. Gratuitous waterfall jumping. Off-camera little hair salon in the big woods.

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