Monday, February 27, 2006
Watching Nanook hunt seals and foxes, watching his adorable children and beautiful wife, watching them scratch a frail subsistence out the world's harshest environment--all of this was thoroughly engaging. Trying to imagine how amazing this film must have been in the 20's was even more engaging. I've been after all jaded by years of Jacques Cousteau and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, Marty Stouffer, David Attenborough, etc. I can watch arctic animals on TV daily. Footage of walruses 85 years ago must have been like footage of aliens would be today.
Nanook's awful fate, disclosed at the beginning of the film, made everything more poignant. The final scenes of his dogs enduring a miserable storm are awe-inspiring. Sure, there's more than a bit of what we'd regard these days as anthropological ignorance behind the lens, but far less than expected (chief among these sins is using actors and staging a sort of narrative in order to capture Eskimo culture). Still recommended, and still an important film.