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A boy comes across a white-haired wild horse in the Camargue. Ranchers seek to capture the horse, but it escapes. What will happen as the boy sets out to find the horse again? The film is set in the gorgeous landscape of the Camargue, a marsh area in the south of France where the river Rhone meets the Mediterranean Sea. Written by
A young pre-teen is protective of a wild horse that is the target of horse traders in Albert Lamorisse's exquisite black and white film White Mane. The short 40-minute film, winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1953, preceded the director's masterpiece The Red Balloon by three years but is as simple, haunting and magical, telling a story of friendship and love that is filled with wonder and the innocence of a child's imagination. The film is set in the Camargue region in the southwest of France where marshes and barren landscapes convey a sense both of awe-inspiring beauty and of hardship and unexpected danger.
The horse, known as White Mane, though small is not weak and stands out for his fierce independence and disdain of man. He loves to run with the pack and refuses to be reigned in and controlled by the local ranchers who react to his willfulness with growing impatience and confusion. The boy, a fisherman named Folco (Alain Emery), lives close by in a small fishing village with his grandfather and younger brother (played by Pascal Lamorisse, the director's son who later played the boy in The Red Balloon) and watches the struggles of the men trying to tame the wild horse.
Folco, though small and slender, has many of the defiant qualities of the horse but is also gentle and very loving. His desire is not only to protect White Mane from the ranchers but to tame him and claim him as his own and the film explores their relationship which develops into one of friendship and mutual trust. One of the outstanding sequences in the film is the fight between White Mane and another stallion for leadership of the herd. Another great scene is when Folco lassos the horse who, startled, runs off, dragging the boy behind him through the mud. At last, the horse stops running and looks back at the mud-covered little boy as the two sense an immediate and intimate connection.
The ending is dark, perhaps too dark for many children, demanding of them a complexity that they perhaps are incapable of at a tender age. Yet the film does not patronize, introducing the viewer to the notion that standing up for what is right regardless of the outcome is one of the most important things in life and does not depend on age or strength. The poetic narration, delivered by Jean-Pierre Grenier and co-written by the acclaimed author and film critic James Agee, adds an extra dimension of sensitivity to the film that the viewer, whether child or adult, can immediately respond to. White Mane is a truly gorgeous film that will remain with you.
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