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Ten Canoes

A Cain-and-Abel style story
By BRETT MICHEL  |  June 20, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE: Natural exposed genitals on the run.

“Once upon a time . . . in a land far, far away,” intones David Gulpilil (the Aborigine in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout) before bursting into laughter at the outset of his ongoing narration for Rolf de Heer’s experimental film, which was inspired by the photographs of the late cultural anthropologist Dr. Donald Thomson. “Nah, not like that,” Gulpilil resumes, before launching into a thousand-year-old Cain-and-Abel-style “story like you’ve never seen before” set among a swamp-dwelling tribe of Aborigines (including Gulpilil’s son, Jamie) — a story that’s beautifully shot in color and framed by a parallel tale presented in the equally enticing black-and-white-lensed past of a hundred years ago. With its frequent cross-cutting, ancient spoken language of Ganalbingu, and “too many names to remember,” De Heer’s bold balancing act fights collapse like the warrior who expires during a Death Dance, but its humor and warmth are as natural as his actors’ exposed genitals.
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  Topics: Reviews , Nicolas Roeg, David Gulpilil, Rolf De Heer
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 See all articles by: BRETT MICHEL