Picks and Pans Review: Black Robe

updated 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Lothaire Bluteau, Aden Young

Black Robe is Dances with Wolves minus the latter's severe case of the cutes. Like Dances, Robe has majestic scenery, noble Indians and a white man who comes to see that there is worth in the Indians' ways. Unlike Wolves, this Canadian-Australian coproduction features a pared-down plot, no stare and is minus the pandering romp-with-a-pet scenes.

Based on a novel and screenplay by Brian Moore and directed as a mini-epic by Bruce (Driving Miss Daisy) Beresford, the movie tells the story of Father LaForgue, a French aristocrat turned priest who in 1634 journeys to the new French colonies in Canada to help convert the Native Americans to Christianity. His reasoning is simple: "If we do not change them, how can they enter Heaven?" The priest, played with a deft mixture of piety and pomp by French-Canadian actor Lothaire Bluteau, seems to realize, during the course of a brutal winter journey up the St. Lawrence River to an Indian encampment, the irony of bringing his Heaven to the Indians in their afterlife when they already have their own paradise on earth.

Black Robe (the Indians address Father LaForgue as Black Robe because of his cassock) is a movie for those who prefer an intellectual, ironic approach to story and characters rather than an emotional one. Though involving, it plays more to one's head than one's heart. (R)

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