My favorite film – The Last of the Mohicans


So over at The Guardian’s film blog they’ve been running a series of each staff writer’s favorite movie. I thought that was a great idea, so I thought I would try to start that here with mine: The Last of the Mohicans.

The Last of the Mohicans

The Last of the Mohicans

Mohicans just barely edges out Die Hard as my favorite, and while I tried to come up with a lengthy paragraph to explain how I could relegate to number two the John McTiernan masterpiece that is the greatest film ever made, I could finally only think of one word: history.

Where does one begin on the sweeping vistas of Dante Spinotti’s cinematography or the sweeping vistas of the language of a script written by Michael Mann and Christopher Crowe, itself an adaptation of an adaptation of a novel, where, simply, to begin with this True American Epic? Where to begin with how much this movie meant and still means to my life? Sure, there are some naysayers, but to them I politely ask (as I ask of those naysayers of the tv series Rome) to keep your love of truly accurate history at the door and revel in a world of detail that few directors but Mann could recreate so completely and immersively.

It was my first year of college. Mansfield University in Mansfield, PA. The only movie theater was about an hour away in Tonawanda, I believe it was called. My then-girlfriend was Nicole Keller. (Side note: Nicole was killed in a rollover accident a couple years later. Pretty sad.) We had decided we wanted to see a movie, and so we drove the distance to the theater and saw The Last of the Mohicans.

It seems that with some movies their greatness is not fully understood the first viewing. A couple of movies have been like that for me, namely any early movie of Takeshi Kitano or Edward Burns (I swear his movies grow in stature with repeated viewings).

However, with Last of the Mohicans, I walked out of that theater holding Nicole’s hand knowing full-well that I had just had the greatest movie-going eperience of my life. I was caught-up in all the sumptuous detail, and I couldn’t extract my mind from the experience, even after it was over. And that belief stands to this day, through any and every movie I’ve ever seen.

Madeleine Stowe is perfectly cast, her strong voice quavering at just the right moments and commanding the attention of colonels the next: “Duncan, you are a man of a few admirable qualities, but taken as a whole, I was wrong to have thought so highly of you.”

There is redemption through sacrifice. Misplaced ideological beliefs that one’s goal to destroy another is right and proper due to two wrongs making a right. There is ultimate sacrifice for love. There is revenge through love. And there is some of the best classical music ever put to film.

In short, there is no more perfectly encapsulated blockbuster-as-art than Michael Mann’s Last of the Mohicans, and I am very proud to call it my favorite movie of all time.


18 responses »

  1. DIE HARD is definitely the greatest Christmas movie of all time.

    And this is unrelated to the otherwise enthusiastic movie review as a whole, but this line (Side note: Nicole was killed in a rollover accident a couple years later. Pretty sad.) seems more than a little out of place and casual… especially when followed with fawning over Ed Burns.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. To each his own, but you’re all alone on that one.

    Well, he’s right that The Last of the Mohicans should be ranked above Die Hard.

    Madeleine Stowe is perfectly cast…

    This is particularly true. I don’t know why she wasn’t in more films of the period but she’s definitely underappreciated. She was also perfect in Twelve Monkeys.

    I wouldn’t say that the film is a favorite of mine – it wouldn’t even make my top 3 Mann films – but I agree that it’s pretty terrific. I watched it about a year ago and found mself feeling nostalgic simply for the level of craft in the film. As cliched as it sounds, they just don’t make ’em like this anymore, filming on real locations with real stunt work and, like you say, terrific attention to production detail.

  3. I have no trouble with anyone saying X is my favorite film–especially as Filmman has memories that go with it–it’s a completely personal choice. My favorite movie of all time is Annie Hall, but I’m not going to go to great lengths to say it’s the best film ever made. But to say that Die Hard is the greatest film ever made is off the boil. Yippie-ki-yi-yay, motherfucker, which passes for wit in that movie, is the greatest of all time? Over The Godfather? Citizen Kane? Casablanca? Psycho? Raging Bull? The Seventh Seal? Die Hard, to me, was a routine action film that had its moments, but ultimately was meh.

    A Christmas Story is the best Christmas film of all time, in a close race over the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.

  4. Slim, I did not mean to make ‘Die Hard as number one’ sound as though I was proclaiming that movie over any other movie. Perhaps I didn’t write it properly but I was feeling strange writing a piece about my favorite film NOT being Die Hard. Again, it’s all favorites, and maybe I didn’t write it properly.

  5. I don’t know what my favorite movie is – it’s the kind of question seems like it changes a lot, when I can come up with one in the first place, and it’s something that I don’t want to be nailed down on.

    But I like filmman’s idea of us all writing a “favorite movie” post, so I might get to working on one about Melville’s Army of Shadows in the next couple weeks. I’ll have to watch it again, though.

  6. I have no trouble with anyone saying X is my favorite film

    I would have trouble with someone saying XXX is their favorite film, though. I mean, Vin Diesel? Come on.

  7. If someone’s favorite movie was XXX, I would nod politely while considering that person as hopeless.

    I haven’t written about Annie Hall, so I’ll work up something on that for the new year. I don’t really need to watch it again, I’ve watched it maybe 30 times, and have it basically memorized, but I don’t need much of an excuse to watch it again. Good idea, Filmman!

  8. I did have a guy tell me once that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was one of the best movies he’d ever seen. I reacted pretty much as I imagine you’d expect me to.

  9. :-) I look forward to all of your entries.

    Slim, Broadway Danny Rose is my favorite Woody Allen movie. While Crimes and Misdemeanors is simply sublime and Annie Hall is remarkably well-written, I can’t let go of the awesomeness that is Danny Rose.
    “I hate to bad-mouth the kid but he’s a horrible, dishonest, immoral louse.”

  10. I’d probably lean towards Husbands and Wives, Crimes & Misdemeanors and Hannah and her Sisters, but could make the case for another half dozen.

    Allen from 1977 to 1995 is probably the best string of output for any director in history.

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