Louisiana Story

"Excellent"

Louisiana Story Review


Robert Flaherty was one of the great documentary directors of the 20th century. One of the reasons was the way he artfully interwove down-to-earth subject matter and fiction in entertaining yet respectful ways.

Louisiana Story, Flaherty's final film, is a simple tale about a significant subject. A big oil company comes to Louisiana to drill for oil and disrupts the life of the plants, the animals, and the people of the bayou.

The world of the film is presented to us from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy (Joseph Boudreaux) - who is given the elongated symbolic name Alexander Napolean Ulysses Latour. He is introduced to us rowing around on his tiny rowboat, hunting small animals and checking out the underbelly of the environs of the swamp. The oil people come to the area and build a huge derrick. The boy inquisitively pokes around and is befriended by the workers who like his innocuous presence.

Louisiana Story could just as easily be titled "A Young Cajun Boy, His Pet Raccoon, and the Oil Company" because it has a rather innocent unpretentious view of the bayou, the oil company and the natives of the Bayou. Yet it is an engrossing film in part because of the Pulitzer Prize winning score by Virgil Thompson, the absolutely shimmering black and white cinematography by Richard Leacock and the fine editing by Flaherty.

Louisiana Story compares and contrasts modernization with that of the people who live off and with the land. While watching the film one can't help but notice the way Flaherty shows life being disrupted by the huge oil derrick. Yet, ironically, the film was financed by the Standard Oil Company, and because of this Flaherty never digs too deep with the negative impact of modernization.

Flaherty used non-professional actors to create documentary-type situations, and because of this the actors all have a stiff acting style. It's also apparent that his camera set ups are very strictly diagramed rather than improvised. And his editing is occasionally obvious too - one scene in particular is a suspenseful cross-cut between the boy and an alligator who is pursuing him. Seen in the context of the rest of the movie it's obvious that the relationship between the alligator and the boy is not unlike the relationship between the land and the oil derrick: Although, no doubt, Standard Oil didn't see it that way.

The DVD released by Home Vision Entertainment has some excellent extras including a 28 minute vintage interview with Flaherty's wife, a 30 minute excerpt from a documentary titled The Land (1942) and another 30 minute documentary title Hidden and Seeking, which is about Frances Falherty's photography. There is also a very good commentary by cinematographer Richard Leacock and Frances about the film's beautiful opening sequence. The best extra by far is titled "Letter's Home" and features an actor reading letters that Richard Leacock wrote to his wife during the shooting of the film. The letters are very insightful about the filmmaking process and opinionated about Flaherty's working methods. This 15-minute section is accompanied by scenes from the film.

In terms of style Louisiana Story is dated but it looks great and is still a rather unique film that should be seen by anyone interested in documentary films. The DVD is a must for Flaherty fans. Note also that Home Vision Entertainment is releasing another Flaherty film titled Man of Aran (1934) at the same time as this one.



Louisiana Story

Facts and Figures

Run time: 78 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 28th October 1948

Budget: 258

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Robert J. Flaherty

Producer: Robert J. Flaherty

Starring: as The Boy, as His Father, E. Bienvenu as His Mother, as The Driller, C.P. Guedry as The Boilerman

Also starring:

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