Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 117: The Last Valley (1970) - Rank 3/5


When it comes to war films, it seems that there are two principal wars that Hollywood loves to focus on: World War II and the Vietnam War. So it was a breath of fresh air to watch a film focused heavily on the Thirty Years War (Protestants vs. Catholics....FIGHT!!!). The film featured the two staples of the genre: a character who has a change of heart and saves the day and plenty of fighting. Michael Caine plays our "hero/villain" with a decent level of intelligence and complexity (as well as a fluctuating, indiscernible accent). Known only as "The Captain" he settles into an idyllic valley, not unlike the proverbial Valley of Canaan, that remains miraculously untouched amidst the scorched and blood-spattered hills that surround it. He makes peace with the peasants that run the valley, mediated by a mysterious man named Vogel (Omar Sharif), who seems to be doing his best just to stay alive.

The tale is an interesting study in the interactions that occur between peasants and soldiers OR, if I can draw a more apropos analogy to modern day events, the relationships between native citizens and the "protectors" occupying their land. The battle of wits between the Captain and the village leaders is certainly fun, but there are too many subplots that diminish the film's central story (a witch burning seems out of place, despite the historical appropriateness). Furthermore, many of the lines are delivered with a melodramatic air that is reminiscent of Baz Luhrman productions. And yet, despite all this, I was left unmoved by the film's climax - an outcome I don't think was intended.

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