At the end of World War I, 20 year-old Angèle is determined to become the first woman veterinarian. Her life is an adventurous one and she becomes the object of ruthless rivalry between the...
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At the end of World War I, 20 year-old Angèle is determined to become the first woman veterinarian. Her life is an adventurous one and she becomes the object of ruthless rivalry between the man she is supposed to marry, a visionary but unscrupulous industrialist and a simple man who has withdrawn to the mountains to live among wolves, away from the madness of humans. Angèle exploits this rivalry to attain her real goal: saving the wolves. Written by
The Film Catalogue
This is a truly marvellous film by the French director Gilles Legrand, the original title of which is LA JEUNE FILLE ET LES LOUPS (The Young Girl and the Wolves). When I learned of its existence, as a great lover of wolves, I rushed to order the DVD, which conveniently has English subtitles. I was not disappointed. Several wolves star in this film, along with the humans. Apart from the black wolf cub at the beginning, these wolves are not 'cute', and this is far from being a Walt Disney movie. This is gritty stuff. The lead is played by French/Corsican actress Letitia Casta, a beautiful creature who became a famous model as a teenager and is now a well-established film actress. She wants to be a veterinarian, and everyone scoffs at her about this, because it is the 1920s. (We are informed in a post credit that the first woman to become a vet in France obtained her qualifications in 1931.) But most of all, Casta wants to save the wild wolves in the foothills of the French Alps above her home town, which is on the border with Italy. In the 1920s, wild wolves still existed there, so this story is very authentic. But the wicked Jean-Paul Rouve wants to kill all the wolves and ruin the area for commercial development. Meanwhile, 'the madman', a wild young man called Giuseppe who is considered 'fou' by the locals, lives alone in a remote shack high up in the mountains where he keeps a donkey in his bedroom and has befriended a pack of wolves who hang around his door and are his only friends. The leader of the pack is the amazing black wolf whom he calls Carbone, whose eyes blaze from his black face like two searchlights. Casta and Giuseppe meet when he and Carbone jointly save her from freezing to death, and Carbone licks her face to revive her because he remembers her scent, as she is the one who saved him years before as an orphan cub. Having dislocated her leg, Casta has to remain for many days in Giuseppe's shack and gets to know him and realizes that he is a deeply sensitive and sympathetic soul. Indeed, Casta carried this realization beyond the screen, because she is now married to the actor who played Giuseppe, Stefano Accorsi, and has two children by him. The story is complex and cannot easily be summarised. Can Casta and Giuseppe together save the wolves, or will the forces of 'progress' win? There is a fascinating 34-minute 'making of' documentary on the DVD entitled BETWEEN MEN AND WOLVES. It has no English subtitles but is well worth watching regardless, as it reveals the incredible feats of the special effects men which were carried out on location in the snow, and above all it shows the work with the wolves and the tame eagle. Eagles are really terrifying if they attack, or even if they don't, frankly. They can kill any animal within seconds. The film features a scene where the eagle attacks a wolf cub and swoops just as the cub escapes into a hole in the rocks. Not long ago I came face to face with a wounded buzzard on the ground, and his vicious hissing and his savage beak as he faced me down and refused to retreat were pretty scary, but a buzzard is nothing compared to an eagle, being only about half the size. I hope I never 'scale up' and come face to face with a desperate eagle. In the documentary, we are informed that both French and American wolves were used, but there were many complaints about the American wolves being too wild and difficult to work with compared to the French ones, who were easier and had greater politesse, being French of course, and thus better mannered. At the end of the documentary, we are treated to scenes of the entire cast and crew howling like wolves. They freely admitted to getting very carried away by their wolfish friends during the filming and doing wolf howls became something they did regularly. Wolves are some of the most fascinating and gentle animals except when they are upset, and then watch out. There is one suckling scene with a female wolf nursing her cubs in a den. So the wolves are by no means just 'extras', they do have real acting roles in this film. This is a genuine, rather than a mawkish and superficial, film, and the director, cast and crew all deserve great praise for making it such a wonderful experience. It is suitable for families, unless parents are concerned at their children seeing a horse with an erection who attempts to mate with a mare, for as we know, farm life is very distant now from modern audiences, and there are some people who really believe that meat only exists when wrapped in plastic and who think that carrots grow on trees. This film is not only deeply satisfying but is an incredible achievement, considering how very difficult it was to get the wolves to make such excellent film debuts.
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