Picks and Pans Review: The Emerald Forest

updated 07/29/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/29/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Director John (Excalibur) Boorman started with a naturally dramatic story: An American engineer working in Brazil is picnicking with his family when his young son is kidnapped by Indians. The father spends 10 years searching the jungle for the boy (the plot is based on a real incident). While that premise ought to be enough for a movie, Boorman mostly uses it to excoriate modern society. He makes a sloppy case of it. For one thing, the Indians are often ruthless, sometimes cannibalistic, given to sadistic initiation ceremonies and hallucinogenic drugs. For another, it is at best dishonest for Boorman to use the skills and technology of an industrialized country to make a movie belittling industrialization. He also resorts to idiotic mumbo jumbo. The boy can turn into an eagle and fly around inciting frogs to start big storms by croaking. While Boorman's son Charley as the kidnapped boy, Powers (Guyana Tragedy) Boothe as the father and Rui (Fitzcarraldo) Polonah as an Indian chief lend the film dignity, its real star is the rain forest. Photographed by Philippe (Diva) Rousselot, the jungle is full of rich beauty, yet man's creations also can be full of nobility and beauty. By biasing his argument so cheaply, Boorman loses the sympathy he's trying to arouse. (R)

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