In 1927, in Kingdom County, Vermont, a large dam is to be built; however, Noel Lord, a logger and cedar-oil harvester, won't give up his lifetime lease on land that will be flooded. The dam...
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In 1927, in Kingdom County, Vermont, a large dam is to be built; however, Noel Lord, a logger and cedar-oil harvester, won't give up his lifetime lease on land that will be flooded. The dam company increases its offer of cash, but Noel refuses. He asks for a trade: a stand of pines for his lease. The company rejects that deal but offers to make Noel a ranger in a new park. Noel, meanwhile, talks with his Indian mate, the spirited Bangor, about their moving to Oregon and buying a saw mill. She wants him to take the company's money; he's pig-headed. Is Noel headed for confrontation with the company and the law or can Bangor prevail to affect a truce? Written by
Director Jay Craven's adaptation of Howard Frank Mosher's 'Where the rivers flow north' is one of the finer transitions from literature to the screen. Craven is an admirer of Mosher's work -- he also directed 'A stranger in the Kingdom'.
The cast is superb -- especially Rip Torn and Tantoo Cardinal. Torn offers what could be the finest role of his career -- Noel Lord, the fiercely independent former lumberjack who is at the center of this story. Tantoo Cardinal's portrayal of Lord's live-in housekeeper/common-law wife is dead-on as well. I'm both amazed and disappointed that neither of them were nominated for Oscars when this film was released. Performances of this calibre should be acknowledged. The only character that's a little hard to swallow for me is the power company executive played by Michael J. Fox. He just looks too much like a kid in this role. I guess there's a curse attached to youthful looks, no matter how much people want them.
Craven has done a nice job here in bringing the character of early 20th century Vermont to the screen -- locations, angles, sets, all combine to transport the viewer to the time and place of the story. Cinematographer Paul Ryan was exceptional. The score by the Horseflies is also first rate -- it fits the mood and scenery perfectly.
And the story itself...? One of the most compelling portrayals of the fiercely independent American pioneer spirit ever -- a trait that is on the wane in this day and age. When it appears in modern times, the person is often looked upon with suspicion and disdain. In Noel Lord, we have a character whom we can admire for his values, and even for his stubbornness.
This is not a stodgy 'period piece', but a vibrant look at an era that is gone, and a type of character that has all but vanished. These are not gold-plated heroes, but real people, with both strengths and weaknesses at play within them. struggling in a harsh environment to live their lives and at the same time be at peace with the world in which they live. Like today, there are those who wield power that would have it otherwise.
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