Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Plays Bassoon with the Wolves: Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf (1983) - Ballard

Tyler, a nebbish biologist(played subtly and gracefully here by Charles Martin Smith), sent by the gov't to Alaska to study the disappearance of caribous finds unforgiving mother nature first hand when he gets dropped off in the middle of snow covered vast landscape by a crazy redneck pilot/entrepreneur Rosie (Bryan Dennehy). With all his equipment and cases upon cases of frozen beer and cans of asparagus in tow, he would die out in the cold for sure, but a mysterious Innuit Ooteh saves him. He finally gets his post set up and befriends a couple of wolves (George and Angie) and their cubs. Tyler feels kinship toward Ooteh because in their dreams, they both experienced being devoured by wolves. The all-wise Native mysticism is present here but never plays out as corny. After all, for Innuits, wolves are $350 per pelt each. That means food for the family, a new snow mobile perhaps and even new teeth.

Ballard, a veteran nature doc filmmaker and his cinematographer Hiro Narita capture some of the most beautiful scenery ever filmed. Tyler coming across the caribou herds and hunting naked with wolves is just one of many spectacular scenes in the film.

There are a lot to be loved here. Smith's Tyler is at first bumbling catastrophe but slowly gets into grooves with his surroundings. There are no real good guys or bad guys in nature, just survival of the fittest he learns. It's a beautiful movie.