LAST TRAPPER, THE
Docu-drama of a year in the life of 50 year old trapper Norman Winter, who lives in the wilds of Canada. He lives a simple life hunting and fishing, with Nebaska, a Nahanni Indian. Norman makes his sledge, snowshoes, cabin and canoe with wood and leather from the forest and Nebaska tans the leather as did the Sekani Indians for generations.
Review by Louise Keller:
The opening shot will take your breath away. To the sound of pipes and timpani, we see mountains, snow and pine trees, extending forever, until the hint of a sunset smiles on the horizon. From an aerial shot over the snow, the camera dips into a remote chasm and we hear 'yep, yep' and answering yaps, before we see the silhouette of a man on a sled, drawn by a pack of huskies. Under a haze of burnt orange sky, a large herd with its majestic antlers gallops in formation. In the river, there's a large grizzly bear fishing for its supper, and a nearby duck negotiates a wriggling worm.
It is a pity that filmmaker and adventurer Nicolas Vanier did not simply make a documentary about Norman Winter, observing his life 'in harmony with the wild', instead of a dramatisation with forced dialogue. 'Take away but don't endanger,' is the trapper's motto, says Norman, and while his philosophy about the environment and the evils of logging are sound, the impact would be greater without its preaching, repetitive tone.
Norman obviously cares deeply for his huskies (and what superb creatures they are), yet the scene when his favourite dog is run over by a truck is clunky and his reaction unbelievable. His indifference to the beautiful 10 month old husky he is given as a replacement is equally unbelievable; it is simply too fake that he does not warm to the dog, until it saves his life on the ice. Vanier's choice of music is hit and miss; the orchestral and choral pieces work well, but the inclusion of Leonard Cohen's distinctive, gravelly voice singing 'By The Rivers Dark' ('I lived my life in Babylon..') to accompany the huskies pulling the sled, curiously inappropriate.
Shot in the Canadian Yukon, the scenery, however, is drop dead gorgeous. The multi-colours of autumn's palette contrast the starkness of the ice and snow. I fell in love with the huskies and the tranquillity of the setting captured by cinematographer Thierry Machado. Perhaps Vanier was so close to his subject, he could not see the forest for the trees.
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LAST TRAPPER, THE (G)
Le Dernier Trappeur
CAST: Documentary featuring Norman Winter, May Loo, Alex Van Bibber, Ken Bolton, Denny Denison, Robert Lafleur, Alain Lemaire, Christopher Lewis, Roy Ness, Kaori Toregai
PRODUCER: Jean-Pierre Bailly
DIRECTOR: Nicolas Vanier
SCRIPT: Nicolas Vanier
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Machado
EDITOR: Yves Chaput
MUSIC: Krishna Levy
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 12, 2006 (Sydney/Melbourne/ACT/Brisbane)