|Index||3 reviews in total|
Customs of Polynesian natives on a Samoan island,
centered on the daily life and on the coming of age ceremony of the young
man Moana. It reconstructs Polynesian culture before the coming of Western
culture, though iron blades are used. Daily tasks like cooking, fishing,
hunting and gathering are most of the picture.
Mainly interesting for the material settings. Flaherty treats the Samoan life as almost that of a paradise - the only discomforts being wild boar and the pain of tattooing.
Moana was filmed in Samoa in the villages of Safune district on the
island of Savai'i. The name of the lead male character, moana means
'deep water' in the Samoan language. In making the film, Flaherty lived
with his wife and collaborator Frances and their three daughters in
Samoa for more than a year. Flaherty arrived in Samoa in April 1923 and
stayed until December 1924, with the film being completed in December
The youngest of the children Robert and Frances Flaherty brought with them to Samoa was their then-3-year-old daughter Monica. In 1975, Monica Flaherty returned to Savai'i to create a soundtrack for her parents' hitherto-silent film, including recording ambient sounds of village life, dubbed Samoan dialogue and traditional singing. The resulting "Moana with Sound" was completed in 1980, with help from filmmakers Jean Renoir and Richard Leacock, and first shown publicly in Paris in 1981.
The version I saw on Netflix was the sound version, and I can hardly imagine watching it any other way. Although there may be dubbing and it is not the original cast, this does not seem to hurt the picture (especially because I cannot understand what they are saying).
Maybe this is "docufiction", but it still has some level of authenticity that could not longer be done today. Samoa of the 1920s is not Samoa of the 2010s. Even if some scenes are staged or a little bit fake, it captures the people in about as close to reality as is possible. And for that reason, it is worth seeing if you have an anthropological interest. (I feel like it is more realistic than "Nanook", at least.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Interesting mix of old (black and white) photography, with new, modern sound. In 1926, Robert Flaherty filmed and directed this documentary of Samoa. Lots of climbing up the trees for the coconuts. Beautiful (black and white) crashing waves, pushing water up through the volcanic cones. That volcanic cone looks very similar to the one on the south side of Kauai. But maybe i'm just being too cynical. Tattoo and dance rituals, mostly as we follow one young couple around. The photography at the beginning and the end is washed out, faded quite white, while the photography in the middle is almost too clear, too perfect. Had me wondering if there was some recent photography mixed in here. Who knows? The ceremonial mats that they unroll seem to be brand new, as are the wraps worn by the couple. Interesting film. The cards at the beginning and end tell us that Flaherty's daughter went back to obtain a soundtrack to accompany the original film. Flaherty must have known what he was doing... he was nominated for an Oscar in 1949 for Louisana Story. An interesting watch, whatever is really going on.
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