Big budget account of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the Americas. Released in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the discovery. Shows the disastrous effects the Europeans had on the original inhabitants, and Columbus' struggle to civilize the New World. Written by
Guevara smokes a modern tightly-rolled cigar while relaxing in Cuba. In Columbus's time, the native Taino people of Cuba smoked twisted tobacco leaves loosely rolled up in the leaves of other plants. See more »
Young Fernando Columbus:
Of all the words my father wrote - and there were many - I remember these the most: "Nothing that results from human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. And those who are enlightened before the others are condemned to persue that light in spite of others."
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1492 casts a long shadow over my filmgoing life. It is one of the first films I remember seeing where I started thinking of all the activity that went into making a film. My young mind did not process a lot of the plot - and in retrospect I can partly blame the makers of this film
but I did notice shots, sounds, music. Perhaps the music more than
So fast-forward a decade and a half at least... 1492 was massive in Europe when it came out. Ridley Scott, director of Alien, Legend and Blade Runner, was telling the story of Christopher Columbus, starring the venerable Gerard Depardieu, all to a score by Vangelis which flew off the shelves faster than any film score since, well, Blade Runner. What did they have to show for it.
We know the story, or we think we do: Columbus, an Italian immigrant, gets a grant from Queen Isabella of Spain to map a shorter route to India, sailing West. What he discovers is a whole new world, the Caribbean islands. But the "new world" experiment fails badly and before long utopia becomes a stage for jealousy, manipulation, superstition and even genocide.
It took several studios to co-finance this massive undertaking, based on a screenplay by journalist Rose Bosch. Supposedly, Scott immediately had his sights set on Depardieu, which paradoxically leads us to both the film's greatest asset and liability.
Depardieu exudes a very un-Hollywood brand of charisma: grounded, vulnerable, but also prone to hardness and anger. His Columbus is a tragic idealist, likable even when carried away by his own arrogance. It's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. It is a pity then that his English was nowhere near good enough to carry the film.
For many years, I had been warned and had only seen the film dubbed in my native French (it did help that Depardieu dubbed himself, as did supporting actor Tcheky Karyo), but upon seeing the film "as intended" I was simply baffled. This, coupled with a script that leaves a few motivations unexplained and sometimes gets bogged down, severely undermines a film that is otherwise brimming with first-rate craftsmanship.
Despite the odd heavy-handed use of orange gradient filters recalling the younger Scott brother's feature-length Air Force commercial, the film is littered with unforgettable imagery. Vangelis' music, though even more effective listened to on its own, plunges you headfirst into another world, one of infinite possibilities.
The net result is a very imperfect film, but as an exercise in world-creation, an admitted Ridley Scott hobby, you'l be hard pressed to find its equal.
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