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In Fort Lamy, French Equitorial Africa, idealist Morel launches a one-man campaign to preserve the African elephant from extinction, which he sees as the last remaining "roots of Heaven." At first, he finds only support from Minna, hostess of the town's only night club, who is in love with him, and a derelict ex-British Army Major, Forsythe. His crusade gains momentum and he is soon surrounded by an odd assortment of characters: Cy Sedgewick, an American TV commentator who becomes impressed and rallies world-wide support; a U.S. photographer, Abe Fields, who is sent to do a picture story on Morel and stays on to follow his ideals; Saint Denis, a government aide ordered to stop Morel; Orsini, a professional ivory hunter whose vested interests aren't the same as Morel's; and Waitari, leader of a Pan-African movement who follows Morel only for the personal good it will do his own campaign. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Have lately been reading Zolotow's Book about Billy Wilder wherein he relates the following: Wilder encountered by chance Romain Cary in John Huston's office and told him(in so many words) that he didn't think the shooting script for "Roots," was very good. Naturally, Cary was less than thrilled with this remark and riposted with several remarks of his own that were probably less than well thought out. I've always been a fan of Wilder and respected(nay, admired)most of his work; obviously feel the same about Huston and "Roots," so how does one "digest," all this,ie what's the point? No doubt, there's some problems with the script. It does have a on site improvised feel to it-when we see Errol Flynn on screen, the dysfunction's palpable-which shouldn't be all that much of a bad thing. After all, Wilder himself usually started production with most of the script still in his head, so why the problem. Probably because "Roots," is about people searching for something-if the title hadn't been retired with Robert Ruark's novel and film,also about African themes-Something of Value. Morell, one of the few in the film who's entirely clear about what's real and valuable in this life, knows that it's the animals that need protecting and conserving and sometimes not the people. Muddled perhaps? Probably, but clearly at odds with 50's era sentiment. Still, after all this time(64 maybe, since I first saw it NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies)the visual ambience holds up admirably as does Malcolm Arnold's score-as transcendent as anything he's ever written for film. I wish it were available on VHS.
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