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Enzo G. Castellari
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A young boy witnesses his parents' murder. Later, as he grows up, he befriends a bear in the wilderness and the chief of a local Indian tribe, and he stays with the Indians, but makes an enemy of the chief's son. As he enters adulthood he sets out to find the men responsible for his parents' deaths. Written by
The two Men behind the great "Keoma," Enzo G. Castellari and Franco Nero, have here returned to familiar territory with perhaps a broader and more accessible (read: "not quite as good") vision of much the same character. Or at least he has the same hat.
While "Jonathan Degli Orsi" doesn't have the uncompromising, feverish fantasy feel of its predecessor, it is perfectly convincing in its chosen setting, a forested wilderness about to be exploited by a would-be oil magnate (John Saxon) that is currently inhabited by an Indian tribe and their sacred burial ground. Enter Jonathan (Nero), an orphaned white man of Polish descent who has been raised by bears and the aforementioned tribe. After leaving his adoptive family to seek revenge for his parents' murder, a quest which has brought him face to face with the futility of his rage, he returns to his true people, the ones who raised him, only to find them under attack by the world he wants nothing to do with.
And what do you think he does?
This film could be seen as Castellari and Nero's answer to the previous year's "Unforgiven," as it both pays tribute to and meditates on themes of the Western genre; the meditation is coming from a similarly aged and wisened point of view. For my money, this particular meditation/tribute is more clever, more accomplished and has a much wider scope. It is beautifully filmed, excellently acted, and superbly written. It has a soundtrack that, while not having much to do with Spaghetti Westerns, enhances the story quite well. In one way it improves over "Keoma" in that it contains songs with lyrics that actually COMPLIMENT the film rather than taking away from it.
This film's winks and nods to the by-gone "Spaghetti" genre are all quite clever; some of them made me laugh out loud. Watch as Castellari actually provides a real-world explanation for the mysterious fog that always rolls in for the climactic shoot-out. There's also a great scene that I'm sure was meant to evoke "Django the Bastard" as well as plenty of references to the director's own "Keoma." What's really cool, though, is that this film doesn't try to BE a Spaghetti Western while doing this. It finds its own place in the scheme of things. It very much feels like a nineties kind of film, but a damn good one.
Castellari's Peckinpah-style action has come a long way and is a pleasure to watch. The actor who plays Jonathan as a child is quite good and has an uncanny charisma. I would definitely urge fans of "Keoma," Castellari and Nero to seek out this rather difficult-to-find film. Like I said, I was not disappointed.
I would also encourage fans of "Dances With Wolves" type dramas to check out this one and see how it ought to be done.
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