The Emerald Forest
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From the director of Hope & Glory comes a "wildly ambitious parable [that] transports us to a singularly imaginative realm" (Boxoffice). The Emerald Forest is "an exotic and erotic daymare replete with one lushly enrapturing scene after another" (Daily News)! For ten years, engineer Bill Markham (Powers Boothe) has searched tirelessly for his son Tommy who disappeared from the edge of the Brazilian rainforest. Miraculously, he finds the boy living among the reclusive Amazon tribe who adopted him. And that's when Bill's adventure truly begins. For his son (Charley Boorman) is now a grown tribesman who moves skillfully through this beautiful-but-dangerous terrain, fearful only of those who would exploit it. And as Bill attempts to "rescue" him from the savagery of the untamed jungle, Tommy challenges Bill's idea of true civilization and his notions about who needs rescuing.
John Boorman's 1985 South American epic never quite gets all of its gears working simultaneously, but it remains an often startling work with an extraordinary performance by the director's own son, Charley Boorman. Powers Boothe plays an American engineer working on a dam project in Brazil. When his young son is seemingly absorbed one day into the dense perils and beauty of the Amazon rain forest, Boothe's character goes on a protracted, 10-year search for him. In the interim, Boorman puts his full storytelling powers to work by characteristically exploring the arcane rhythms and dangers of an indigenous world hidden from ordinary view. Specifically, Boorman leads us into the life of a forest tribe who have assimilated the missing child and who will ultimately send him back with the opposite of his father's pro-development sensibility. The movie is gorgeous to behold, and it's great fun watching Boorman find ever-novel ways of making the same film again and again. But the environmental message and the emotion of the core relationship get in each other's way a bit, preventing the film from uniting on every front. Still, this is a must for Boorman fans. --Tom Keogh
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Someone complained about a lack of subtitles. My version has subtitles for the native language. I could use subtitles for the English, since I have trouble understanding the spoken word even with the volume turned up.
"The Emerald Forest" is awkward at times. I'm not sure of the order in which the scenes were shot, but the director manages to lead us in the right direction. The acting appears to evolve(or is it our awareness that evolves?), as the viewer is lured into the contracting jungle culture of these tribes, and away from the dead world of constant construction, assimilation and expansion. What is most amazing, in a way, is the gentleness with which Boorman treats contemporary culture. This is the key to providing his ecological message the wings of flight that make our jaws drop in the midst of breattaking scenery and well-presented tribal culture and ritual.
Boorman lets the subject of his preaching be slowly revealed through the story and characters rather than bludgeoning us with immensely evil, calculating villains. As it is in reality, the insanity lies in our collective indifference, our willingness to accept a pathetic world of materialism and technology in the hopes that our connection with each other, our bodies and nature will not be missed. Incremental trade-offs leading to "higher standards of living" have left us dispossessed of our souls, seeking solace in hedonism and "pie in the sky" religions that cultivate the greed and abomination they purport so piously to eliminate.
Yet, in this process, key elements of the movie involve psychedelic drugs and nudity, albeit natural and normal in the cultures Boorman portrays. Can we be lured back into the jungle with titillation? Obviously, the life is harsh and dangers abound. Yet, this film isn't about a bunch of teenagers getting high. It is about an adult ritual of expanded consciousness and vision that is meant not to narrow consciousness as alcohol use does, but to expand it, to bring perspective and connection in the quest of vision and leadership.
Likewise, this film portrays nudity in the context of normal life and does not eroticize it. It is refreshingly ironic that, when liberated from enforced prostitution in a heavily armed brothel, the women instinctively remove the scanty clothing and adornments that have been used to make them "attractive." If clothing is a metaphor, what else does our culture uses to conceal our humanity? If hallucinogens are a metaphor, what else does our culture use to deaden our sensibilities so that we seek sexual conquest and materialistic acquisition instead of trusting, healthy relationships with the people and world around us?
Boorman's "The Emerald Forest" is an odd, but remarkable achievement that has stood the test of time quite well thus far. In 2009, this 1985 film seems even more wise than when it was created.