Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Eighteenth Century goes to the movies

"Candidus," the Colonial movie critic, takes on Hollywood's treatment of the 18th century. Here he is on The Patriot:

"In the real war, loyalist civilians were treated as horribly as any patriot civilians. But, you don't hear about that. No, no. Can't have that!"

When it comes to The Last of the Mohicans (1992), it is hard, however, to say much about James Fenimore Cooper that Mark Twain has not already said in his essay "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses."

The only reason that Cooper must have made it into the American literary canon was that the competition was, somehow, worse.

Twain does not tackle The Prairie, but there is a completely silly book. Evidently JFC never saw a prairie. His characters--so-called pioneers--wander in circles. They are 200 miles from civilization, then 400 miles, then 200 miles. The plot repeats itself: captured by Indians, prairie fire, escape from Indians, captured by Indians.

Any literature student asked by a teacher to read Cooper should demand extra credit.

In the movie of Last of the Mohicans, I thought I detected a continuity lapse in a scene where there were X people in a large canoe in one scene, and then X -1 in the next scene. But I was watching in a theatre, so I could not back up and look again. Such a lapse would have been true to Cooper's spirit, though.


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