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This is a Canadian classic that many of us were made to watch several times
throughout elementary and high school to teach us about life. It is based on
the book by Canadian author W.O. Mitchell - who is also a professor of
English and an actor (he was in episodes of "Road to Avonlea").
"Who Has Seen the Wind" is the story of a boy growing up in the Prairies in the old days where he bumps into many interesting characters. As a youngster, he is bereft of many of the prejudices that have the grown-ups shunning one another's company. He looks at each character with the eyes of wonder and accepts and loves everyone for who they are - the old crazy hermit who lives in a piano box and is always meandering around preaching verses from the Bible; the foul-mouthed man who gets arrested for setting up a still in a church basement which blows up during a Sunday service (during Prohibition days), the older boy who has failed several times at school. "Brian" looks deeply into each person's heart and finds whatever drops of goodness he can. He watches a school bully suddenly show signs that he cares for life - he pounces on a boy for killing a gopher.
This is a film about the cycle of life - of how things are born anew in the spring and die in the fall only to blossom again inevitably. And the few characters in the film who realise this accept everyone - allow women to smoke when it wasn't proper in those days; suggest to a school teacher that if she had children of her own, she might learn to discipline children through love instead of brutally punishing them; prevent a farmer from killing a runt piglet because everything has a right to live regardless of handicaps; or give a gift to a tearful Chinese girl whose birthday party was boycotted because she has "yellow skin and slanted eyes".
In one of the most stirring scenes of the film, a close family member of Brian gets sick and dies. He is sitting with an obese boy and comments that he is confused because he hasn't cried and he doesn't know why. Later, Brian is out in the fields, and a fierce storm rages. He stands alone, his body erect, not moving an inch. As the black clouds and raging wind and rain burst all around him, the tears stream down his face as he contemplates the death. He is taken in by the old hermit.
Sometimes the simplest, lowest budgeted films are the greatest because they rely on a wonderful theme, a beautiful story, memorable characters, and engaging dialogue. (10 out of 10)
This is a rare film, a unsentimental film about children. There is
cruelty, but not exaggerated Hollywood cruelty, only real life mundane
cruelty to animals and children. It does not milk the dramatic
situations excessively. They roll by much the way they do in real life.
There is a an enormous cast of characters, a whole town. The time and place are accurately reproduced, without excessive newly painted gloss you normally see in period movies.
The casting is wonderful with an almost Felliniesque variety of interesting faces.
The film tugs at your heart without cheap tricks. It depicts life just the way it really is.
The story revolves around a boy about 10. The actor who plays him does a superb job, mostly with subtle facial expressions and body language. It is an understated role. You don't feel emotionally blackmailed with cheap tricks to gain your sympathy. Yet you feel his pain as if it were your very own.
This movie might be considered the archetype for the great Canadian movie.
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