One of our own, Juliette, has posed a very first “Corner Booth Question of the Week”. This one is inspired by the critics at CriticWire: what film or films do you keep coming back to? That is which films get better each time you watch them? Or which film have you watched more than any other? Or…look, it’s a simple question, answer it as such.
The Last of the Mohicans. I love the opening scene. Two men are running through overgrown eastern woods, literally chasing a white-tailed deer. You see them from the side, they’re running full tilt through dark green foliage. One of them stops, breathes hard, steadies his rifle, swings it around toward the camera and fires. The deer falls on a knoll. The rifleman is a white man and his companion is a young Indian. They race up to the deer, and kneel and thank him for his life.
Then a really good story begins to unfold. French and Indian War. Homesteads in flames. Colonial powers surging through the wilds. Indians displaced, massacred, and massacring, employed as mercenaries. Virtue shows up here and there, but men are doing evil on all sides. And in the middle of it two lovely daughters of an English officer, and their English escort (who is in love with the eldest, Cora) are kidnapped by Magua. It becomes clear that Magua is working for no one. He is a powerful Huron with a simmering rage against the English. Hawkeye, the white man in the first scene, and his Mohican father and brother, Chingachgook and Uncas, go after Magua to rescue the three English.
Also the music is really beautiful. I have the soundtrack and listen to it regularly.
I first saw this with my dad when I was in middle school. It was one of those weekends Mom and Sis were away, and Dad took the opportunity to pass one of his favorite movies on to me. He told me that Daniel Day-Lewis had prepared for the role by living in the woods for several months, teaching himself primitive skills like hunting with a muzzle-loader, sewing his clothes from animal pelts he had cured, making fires with a flint. I didn’t bother to verify any of those facts, and they may have expanded a bit in the retelling (like all good Day-Lewis anecdotes: “Did you know he actually killed a man to prepare for —“). But this struck a ringing harmonic in my adolescent heart. I happened at the time to be very taken with survival skills and stories. I had made my own survival kit, complete with bandaids, a bottle of alcohol, a whistle, and a mirror with a hole in the middle (for God knows what purpose). My best buddy, Tommy Tourje, was trapping illegally on his own property, and he would tell me how to skin a squirrel or rabbit. The woods around the house I grew up in look very similar to those in which the Last of the Mohicans was filmed, and that, almost as much as the story and the grand music, brings me back to the film almost once a year.