"Winged Migration" is a spectacular bird's-eye view of . . . birds.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Take flight and soar like an eagle in the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Winged Migration" ("Le Peuple Migrateur").
Four years in the making, this majestic film documents the flight patterns of migratory birds as they fly south (or, for some species, north!) for the winter. That's pretty much the sum total of it we are not overwhelmed with information other than to learn, for example, that "the red-breasted booby flies 2,500 miles from the west coast of Africa to Rey's archipelago" but the film is never less than fascinating because of the startling cinematography and the filmmakers up-close and personal approach to their subjects.
|Original title: Le Peuple Migrateur.|
Directed by: Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats, Jacques Perrin.
Written by: Stˇphane Durand, Jacques Perrin, Valentine Perrin, Francis Roux.
Narrated by: Jacques Perrin.
Cinematography: Olli Barbˇ, Michel Benjamin, Sylvie Carcedo-Dreujou, Laurent Charbonnier, Luc Drion, Laurent Fleutot, Philippe Garguil, Dominique Gentil, Bernard Lutic, Thierry Machado, Stˇphane Martin, Fabrice Moindrot, Ernst Sasse, Michel Terrasse, Thierry Thomas.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
This is indeed a bird's-eye view with the cameras hovering right alongside the Canada geese, sooty terns, and pelican, soaring, dipping, taking flight and (occasionally) resting. Oftentimes the only sound to be heard is the beating of wings; the cameras get so close we can see the birds' muscles straining as they pump the air (the film's prologue makes a point of claiming that no special effects were used in the filming of the birds themselves).
Complementing the arresting visuals is a soundtrack that starts out sounding like warmed-over Enya but quickly settles into a successful fusion of musical styles deep baritones accompanying swoops into monumental valleys and basins; chorale-based motifs playing against setting suns and sea-swept soundscapes; the brattle of metallic percussion outside a factory in Eastern Europe, where fowl run afoul of chemical waste. The footage is remarkable, often awe-inspiring, and the music fits the bill.|
All indications point to the film as being "in French with English subtitles" but the print I saw featured a heavily accented English-speaking French narrator (Jacques Perrin) with frequent, unspoken captions heralding the next milestone in the miracle of migration. Miraculous because these birds fly the same exact route, often thousands of miles, each and every year.
Written and directed by Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats, "Winged Migration" is an intimate, uplifting tribute to our fine-feathered friends who weather incredible odds in their quest for survival. I, for one, will never look skyward at a big honking V in quite the same way again.
|JULY 15, 2003|
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