Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Black Robe (1991)

A post yesterday reminded me of Bruce Beresford's stunning (and stunningly under-appreciated) Black Robe (1991), a XVIIth Century tale of a Jesuit's spiritual journey to a Huron mission. It is a story of conversion, not so much of the Indians but of the priest, and not to some politically correct relativistic eco-religion as you might expect, but to the hard gospel of love as preached by Jesus Christ.

The film's major goof was a casting issue. While there is nothing wrong with having the lovely Eurasian Sandrine Holt play an Indian maiden, hearing the Algonquin language butchered with a Chinese accent by some guy named Harrison Liu was grating on the ears. And Catholic nerd that I am, I also noticed the anachronism pointed out on International Movie Database page for the movie: "In one of the flashbacks to France, Father Laforgue's mother says she is praying to St. Joan. However, Joan of Arc was not canonized until 1920."

Those quibbles aside, this movie stands the test of time after twenty years. It would be an insult to compare it with the laughable Dances with Wolves (1990), and it is better than either The Last of the Mohicans (1992) or even The Mission (1986), both excellent films in their own rights. Aside from the monumental Little Big Man (1970), the only such film to give Indians a more central role in a story about them (other than Cheyenne-Arapaho Chris Eyre's delightful Smoke Signals (1998), obviously) was right-wing Catholic Mel Gibson's Apocalypto (2006), and Berenson's film ends on an even more apocalyptic (for the Indian) and ambiguous note.

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Blogger Steve Hayes said...

What about The last warrior?

October 5, 2011 at 3:00 AM  
Blogger Zach said...

What about "Geronimo" (1993) ?

October 7, 2011 at 10:19 AM  

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