was a time when Europe was covered in verdant forests. Apparently, they have
not pursued nature conservancy as proactively as we have in America, but at
least they gave us the Renaissance and the Enlightenment while converting vast
areas of land to agricultural and urban uses. Fortunately, Jacques Perrin &
Jacques Cluzaud, the filmmaking team behind Winged
Migration and Oceans, could still
find enough surviving forest habitats for their latest nature documentary, Seasons (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
nature documentarians, Perrin & Cluzaud have probably crafted the most
inventive strategies for filming wild animals in their natural habitats.
Shooting on land should be easier than the sea and air, but they continue to
capture some arrestingly up-close moments. However, their ambition also
extended to the film’s narrative structure this time around. With their regular
co-screenwriter, Stéphane Durand, they use the changing of the four seasons to
represent the passing of 80,000 years in the forest. They also let the film
evolve into an environmental morality play, with the wasteful folly of man
represented in impersonal dramatic recreation scenes.
one would expect, Seasons works best
when it focuses on the animals. There are a number of scenes involving newborn
wolf and fox pups, who are just as cute as wild beasts can ever get. There are
also extended sequences with bears, which are always cinematic. Perrin &
Cluzaud cannot resist filming some of the birds that make the forest home, but
for the most part, the film centers on highly relatable furry mammals.
the scenes involving mankind are (not so surprisingly) often didactic and
awkward. At one point, they suggest the mustard gas employed during World War I
wreaked havoc on the local bird populations. From what I understand, the
soldiers getting gassed weren’t so crazy about it either.
the distributor opted to subtitle the solemn narration, because it most likely
comes off less unintentionally funny via the printed word than through overly
dramatic proclamations. Frankly, there are also one or two
man-as-the-most-dangerous-predator scenes that make us doubt the film’s ASPCA
disclaimer: “no animals were hurt …”
Regardless, when Perrin & Cluzaud stick to
what they do best, Seasons is quite
impressive. The large battery of cinematographers (including Winged Migration and Oceans alumni Michel Benjamin and
Laurent Fleutot) all deserve awards consideration. However, its allegorical layer
is just too pretentious and clunky. Yet, most viewers will still argue the wolf
pups make it worth seeing. For fans of dazzlingly produced true nature films, Seasons opens this Friday (11/25) in New
York, at the Lincoln Plaza uptown and the Landmark Sunshine downtown.
Labels: Documentary, French Cinema, Nature films