Last of the Mohicans

Really?  Are we really supposed to believe Daniel Day Lewis to be a Native American?  A white person to be a mocha-skinned Mohican?  So much about this film distracted me from its intended purpose (which is to give, based on the adventure tales of James Fenimore Cooper, the most profound insight possible into the Native American-British alliance during the Seven-Years War).  There was poor acting, lack of continuity, some historical inaccuracies, and on top of that…it was flat out boring.

In class, Dr. McClurken gave a riveting blurb on his thoughts about the film.  One of his main points was how this movie captured the dualism that Cooper implemented in his novels, specifically the perception of the Indians (those allied with both the French and the English) as noble savages vs. evil savages.  However, I what I liked the most about his speech was his argument that Last of the Mohicans is more of a primary source for the time period (1990’s) rather than a secondary source for the 1700’s and the book.  What I felt he was basically saying was that the movie (and I am of course referring to Fenimore’s books as well) took a historical event, developed fictional characters, and created a storyline out of it.  The difference between the book and the movie, McClurken says, is that the film is a romance novel (for the 90’s) that was meant to deviate from the book.  I agree with him because I feel that his points correlate with my main point in my last post (about Pocahontas) that the film industry’s primary purpose is to entertain, and then educate (if necessary).  Unfortunately, Last of the Mohicans struggled to do both.

N.B.  McClurken made a very clever joke about the movie during his speech.  When he said the movie was a primary source for the 90’s instead of a secondary source for the book, he followed that that was like having George Washington throw out the first pitch of a Washington Senators baseball game in the 1800’s:  there was a GW, there was baseball, there was a Wash. Senators, and there was an 1800’s.  Hilarious.

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2 Responses to “Last of the Mohicans”

  1. jmcclurken Says:

    Dan, thanks for the kind words, but that last bit is a quote from an academic’s review of the movie that I mentioned at the start of my class-ending speech.

  2. Reverend Says:

    From the ever-maligned Wikipedia:

    Natty Bumppo, although the child of white parents, grew up with Native Americans, becoming a near-fearless warrior skilled in many weapons, one of which is the rifled musket. Hawkeye (one of his many nicknames) respects his forest home and all its inhabitants, hunting only what he needs to survive. And when it comes time to fire his trusty flintlock, he lives by the rule, “One shot, one kill.” He and his Delaware “brother” Chingachook champion goodness by trying to stop the incessant conflict between the Delaware Indians and the Hurons

    Natty Bumpo was never a “Native American” in his five appearances in Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels, he was a kind of hybrid figure that comes to frame the intersection of the devastating development of European culture on Native American culture.

    I’m not sure why the blogs I have read about this film were often adamantly against it. I think it is one of the best period pieces of the 90s, and certainly does something very few films of its time have done well (if at all), make a compelling visual of the early 19th century. How many early American films are there pre-1860? Very few, one that comes to mind is The Patriot, but that is just Braveheart in American garb, and not nearly as good. Daniel Day Lewis is superb in Last of the Mohicans, and it is one of those movies that does an excellent job interpreting a Cooper novel, which are often far too long and filled with way to many irrelevant details. Quite a hard feat to film it convincingly, but personally I think Mann nails it.

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