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September 25, 2007

DVD of the Week – Review of Ten Canoes (2006)


First, I want to establish that, by no means, is this movie better than Knocked Up, also being released this week on DVD. If you didn’t get a chance to catch that film in the theaters, I would recommend it highly. However, if you are are looking for slightly more obscure fare that’s getting less attention, then I would recommend Ten Canoes, an Australian film by Rolf de Heer and Aboriginal Peter Djiggir.

The film is a fairly classic tale of love, jealousy, and betrayal set in the distant past which follows a young Aboriginal man, who covets one of his elder brother’s three wives. The remarkable thing about the film is that it is just as interesting on an anthropological level as it is on a narrative level. The story is told within another story, set in the present day. We soon realize that the lives of the Aboriginal people have not changed much in the past 1,000 years or so.

The other notable aspect is the narration by David Gulpilil, which is told in English rather than the native Australian tongues which dominate the film. The narration always pretends to drift into something spiritual and pretentious, but then comes back to the simple story that is the core of the film.

The film is not without its problems. The framing device is implemented in a fairly awkward manner. Also, though the story at the core of the film is interesting, it is somewhat predictable and doesn’t strike me as anything special.

The DVD has separate interviews with both directors. (I wonder if they talk smack about each other!) It also includes a making-of featurette. There is also a photo gallery that revisits the Aboriginal pictures taken by anthropologist Donald Thomson in the 1930s.

Just a fair warning to anyone who sees this picture. It is almost wall-to-wall nudity of the National Geographic variety. I assume this is consistent with the Aboriginal manner of dress.

Other new releases this week: Black Book, Bug, Chalk, Evening, Knocked Up, Next, Severance, The TV Set