Thursday, March 3, 2016

Long Ago, Longer Ago

I believe I heard about Ten Canoes (2006) the Projection Booth podcast - mentioned in passing during discussion of another Australian movie. I didn't end up watching that one.

This is a story about a story about a story. It starts out flying over the swamps of Australia's Arnhem Land. It is narrated by Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil. I saw him last as the Aboriginal boy in Walkabout (1971). He tells a story about a long time ago, when a group of Aboriginal men - let's just say men, everyone in this movie is an Australian native, and it's becoming a pain to type "Aboriginal" - a group of men are on a hunt. They are just a regular group, goofing around, telling fart jokes and son on. An older hunter knows that his younger brother is interested in one of his wives. So he tells a story about a long time ago...

It's a story about a younger brother who wants one of his older brothers wives, but it is also about many other things. A stranger shows up, from another tribe. Is he dangerous? He looks dangerous. A woman disappears - should they go to war to get her back? Or did she just leave, or get eaten by a croc? The happenings, the culture are both strange to us moderns and very familiar.

The setting is the beautiful Australian bush. The frame story is in black and white. As the older brother tells his story over several days, the group strips bark from trees, soaks and heats it to make it pliable and makes it into canoes. The inner story, from long, long ago, is in color, although things didn't seem that different then. I guess this is all before Europeans arrived, but after Dreamtime.

The actors are fascinating, with lovely faces and hair. Other than David Gulpilil's narration, the dialog is all in a native language. One of the joys of this movie is hearing people's names - Ridgimiraril, Dayindi, Nowalingu - it's a rippling, bubbling sound full of soft consonants. There's also a bit of dancing and some magic.

So, you get some beautiful scenery, strange tales of long ago (and longer ago), acted by people who live very differently from you, I would guess. In conclusion, watch it.

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