Clearcut

1991, R, 100 min. Directed by Richard Bugajski. Starring Graham Greene, Ron Lea, Michael Hogan, Floyd Red Crow Westerman.

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., Sept. 18, 1992

Aside from the obvious ecological sermon about the evils of clearcutting forests, this Canadian film about the struggle of Native Americans to preserve their land and their culture warns us to be careful about what we wish for. Lea plays a lawyer who, until he loses, feels pretty good about defending Indians in their struggle to protect their land from the rapacious greed of a paper mill owner (Hogan). Anger and despair threaten to overcome him while on the other side of the fence, the Indians accuse him of just doing a job so that he can make his car payments. Enter Arthur (Greene) a mysterious stranger who kidnaps both the lawyer and the mill owner and takes them on a harrowing forced march across the beautiful Canadian land threatened by clearcutting. Arthur is up to no good. He's a trickster, Coyote to the western plains Indians, and he's the embodiment of Lea's rage and feeling of impotence. To survive, Lea has to learn who Arthur is. For the self-assured and self-satisfied mill owner Hogan, insight is a long shot and it may never come in time. Polish director Bugajski is best known for his film The Interrogation, a cause célèbre when it was suppressed by the communist government. Here he also focuses on government oppression and pits it against Native American spiritualism in a very black-and-white struggle. Most of the hard work is done by Greene, who steals all the screen real estate just as he did in Thunderheart, Dances With Wolves and the wonderful, if little seen, Powwow Highway. Wry and deadpan, Arthur's offhand comments are cold jokes on humanity. Unfortunately, this modern-day folk tale goes for all the easy buttons. As the champion of logging, the mill owner is stupid and stubborn until Arthur gets hold of him, then he becomes weak and pathetic. To a certain extent the political struggle exists only as a backdrop for the lawyer's internal struggle. He has conjured up Arthur with his inchoate rage. Unfortunately, given the monolithic front of government and greed, we're not given many other paths and little else to wish for. There will be many people who like this film, but very few convinced by it.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Graham Greene Films
The Wolf and the Lion
Sweet-natured animal adventure brings back an old story

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 4, 2022

Antlers
Del Toro-endorsed creature feature is stylish but empty

Matthew Monagle, Oct. 29, 2021

More by Kathleen Maher
The Reporting Life
The Reporting Life
Oh, the places you'll go

Sept. 3, 2021

Incident at Oglala
British filmmaker Apted makes a carefully reasoned, yet passionate statement about the legal system that has ensnared American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier.

July 10, 1992

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Clearcut, Richard Bugajski, Graham Greene, Ron Lea, Michael Hogan, Floyd Red Crow Westerman

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle