The Last of the Mohicans: Daniel Day-Lewis has the flame (review)

The Last of the Mohicans: Daniel Day-Lewis has the flame (review)

Arte dedicates its Sunday evening to the British-Irish actor.

In 1757 in the state of New York, while the war rages between the French and the English for the appropriation of Indian territories, a young English officer, Duncan Heyward, is responsible for leading two sisters, Cora and Alice Munro, to to their father. They are saved from an ambush by Hawkeye, a frontiersman of European origin, raised by the Mohican Chingachgook and his son Uncas. The three men agree to escort the two girls to their destination.

The Last of the Mohicans of Michael Mann will return to television this evening, followed by an interesting documentary about its lead actor titled Daniel Day Lewis: The Heir.

Nicolas Maupied and Jeanne Burel, who designed it in 2020, return, with the help of numerous archives, to the funny career of the famous actor to blend completely into his characters. Thanks to his daring choices, the actor immediately shone in the cinema, and is today the only actor to have received three Oscars for best actor during his career (for My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood And Lincoln). However, this was also interspersed with long breaks to recharge our batteries between two memorable incarnations. The documentary also emphasizes his complicated relationship with his father, the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, who pushed him towards several works evoking the subject of father-son relationships, notably In the name of the Fatherby Jim Sherridan, released in 1993.

The Last of the Mohicans can be seen on Première Max

As for The Last of the Mohicans, it is one of the great classics of American cinema. Rarely, it was first released in France (August 26, 1992) before being offered to the public in its country of origin, on September 25 of the same year. First had loved this historical fresco, publishing a long favorite review in the September issue of the time (n°186) before proposing an article on the treatment of “native americans” in Hollywood titled “Indians on the path to glory”. Because at the same time they also came out Dancing with the wolves Or 1492, Christopher Columbus.

By adapting this novel, Michael Mann attacked a monument of popular American literature: The Last of the Mohicanswritten in 1826 by James Fenimore Cooper, had already been adapted many times on both the big and small screens before it. Under his leadership, The Last of the Mohicans experienced one of its most famous rereadings, inspired by the version given by the director George B. Seitz in the 1930s. Worn among others by the couple formed by Daniel Day-Lewis And Madeleine Stowe but also by its unforgettable soundtrack composed by Trevor Jones And Randy Edelman (who replaced the latter, exhausted by the countless changes that had to be made to the music throughout production), the film received a very warm critical reception and proved to be a public success upon its release which attracted 1.3 million spectators in France.

Here is an extract from François Forestier’s review, published at the time:

“A very tight scenario, extraordinarily rich in documentation. Images of incredible beauty, where the ‘red coats’ English wage war in close ranks, facing Montcalm’s henchmen. Directional tricks (camera movements, tracking shots in the forest…) which energize the story… Michael Mann knows that, to convey ideas (the injustice of the white settlers towards the Indians), it is necessary a strongly structured story (which the novel is not) and well-defined characters. In doing so, he gives Hawkeye an unsuspected depth: the latter evokes, in passing, his childhood and his taste for freedom. Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the hero, is simply extraordinary: he has the flame. (…)

The Last of the Mohicans comes on the heels of Dancing with the wolves, to which he will not fail to be compared. However, they are two very different films. Where Kevin Costner took his time, Mann gallops. There where Dance… had a (small) weakness (on the female character, visibly too American), the other is sharp as a razor (not a ribbon, not an anachronistic hairstyle for Madeleine Stowe). Costner was more elegiac, Mann is more rhythmic. But the directors say, finally, the same thing: the time of the deceitful and cruel Redskins is over. John Wayne is dead.”

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