Based on true events (or at least on tales told by the Inuit), The White Dawn is setin 1896, when three whalers are stranded on Baffin Island, and are rescued by an Inuitcommunity. The three men are Timothy Bottoms (who is instantly converted to this way of life),Lou Gossett (who is skeptical) and Warren Oates (who’s just plain trouble). The meeting ofcultures is not an easy one.
The film is leisurely, but never dull, and much of the running time is spent sho…ing us howone hunts, sleeps, eats, loves and so on in this part of the world. Interested viewers might want todouble-bill this feature with the even better Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2000), whichfinally is a film actually made by the Inuit. Kaufman, to his credit, is not simply interested inusing the American characters as a means of filtering the Inuit experience for the audience.Rather, his project is to show the often negative impact that very different cultures have on eachother when they enter into collision.
Viewers have the choice of selecting the original mono or a new 5.1 remix. The surroundelements of the latter are minimal, largely confined to some good, ominous wind noises. The left-right separation isn’t bad, though, and there are no improper sound effects, such as wraparounddialogue. Henry Mancini’s fabulous score is well served.
I am a little suspicious of the 1.78:1 ratio (there is one scene where Bottoms is pointing to aboat, and it is unclear whether we should be able to see the boat in frame or not), but I can’tconfirm my doubts one way or the other. There is some dirt on the print, and a fair bit ofspeckling, particularly in the early goings. The colours, however, are fine, the image is sharp,the blacks and flesh tones are terrific, and the edge enhancement very minor indeed. Pretty finestuff for what was a low-budget film.
Kaufman provides both a brief introduction and a commentary, and he is thoughtful andpointed in his opinions throughout. Very informative. “Welcoming the Dawn” is a retrospectivemaking-of featurette, with interviews primarily of Kaufman and producer Martin Ransohoff. “AWay of Life: The World of the Inuit” is exactly what the title suggests, and the shortdocumentary runs about 10 minutes. The menu’s intro is animated and scored, while the mainscreen is scored.
A strong film that draws you in, even if you don’t think it will. Well worth rediscovery, andit’s nice to see some solid extras on a low-profile release.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- “Welcoming the Dawn” Making-of Featurette
- “A Way of Life: The World of the Inuit” Featurette
- Introduction by Philip Kaufman