In this blend of documentary and fictional narrative from pioneering filmmaker Robert Flaherty, the everyday trials of life on Ireland's unforgiving Aran Islands are captured with attention to naturalistic beauty and historical detail.
Robert J. Flaherty
Colman 'Tiger' King,
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Documents one year in the life of Nanook, an Eskimo (Inuit), and his family. Describes the trading, hunting, fishing and migrations of a group barely touched by industrial technology. Nanook of the North was widely shown and praised as the first full-length, anthropological documentary in cinematographic history. Written by
Apparently, Flaherty's working method was to shoot a lot of footage, then piece together a scenario back in the cutting room. That clearly has to be an oversimplification. Regardless, he did a remarkable job of showing the daily drama in the lives of these people -- ordinary within their own society, and impervious to cold by the standards of ours -- and treating them with great warmth and humour.
Nanook is really quite a dashing and self-effacing hero.
Flaherty subsequently had trouble finding backing, and in any collaboration with another director, his influence is said to be the lesser of the two. Did he ever recapture quite this quality of mood? Perhaps he came closest with the delightful Sabu, in "Elephant Boy" (1937), collaborating with Zoltan Korda on that occasion.
Some people believe he did in "Man of Aran" (1934). At the moment, I remain unconvinced, although I have not had the opportunity to see that one projected on a proper screen.
If "Nanook" does not come to life for you at home, it will in a theatrical setting.
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