Sunday, March 25, 2007

Louisiana Story (1948)


Robert J. Flaherty's final feature film, this semi-documentary traces the arrival of an oil derrick into an idyllic bayou populated only by a Cajun boy, his Ma and Pa and his cuddly pet raccoon.
As an opening intertitle asserts, Flaherty devoted his career to documenting "the eternal things in human life" and the necessary changes, and this picture is purportedly his portrayal of the way that industry can blend into and strengthen the harmony between Man and the land. That's right, the underlying message is that the construction of an oil rig can only improve nature. When the oil drill and the workers arrive, our wide-eyed hero greets them like a Holocaust orphan would an American soldier in a tank. The picture's producers - the Standard Oil Company - could only ever nod in earnest approval.
The general impression however, is that Flaherty isn't at all distracted by the political underpinnings of his movie. He just wants to make pretty pictures about a boy, his dinghy and his raccoon. And the pictures are indeed pretty but they lack the majesty of Flaherty's earlier work and they're somewhat muted by the relentless score (which tinkles in innocent glee every time the kid picks up his shotgun).

dir: Robert J. Flaherty
ph: Richard Leacock
cast: Joseph Boudreaux, Lionel Le Blanc, E. Bienvenu, Frank Hardy, C.P. Guedry


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