Forget about Kevin Costner's sun-kissed, water-colored, Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves. Black Robe, which was directed by Bruce Beresford, a director who gave the world the finest film of the early '80s Australian new wave, Breaker Morant, and who continually collides cultures and ethnicity in his films (Mister Johnson, Driving Miss Daisy), matches and surpasses the Costner epic as an expertly crafted, brutal saga of redemption and salvation. In 1634 a young French Jesuit missionary is assigned to trek 1,500 miles through the New France wilderness to a mission settled in Huron Indian country. Black Robe chronicles the journey of Father Laforgue (Lothaire Blutheau) as he leaves his Jesuit brothers and, with the aid of a young translator and guide, Daniel (Aden Young), and eight canoes of Algonquin Indians, moves into the uncompromising Canadian northern territory on a die-hard mission to convert the natives. Mixing elements of Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans and Roland Joffé's The Mission, Beresford offers a restless tale of Laforgue's conflicted faith juxtaposed against the sublime spiritual harmony with the land that the Huron and Algonquin already hold. Black Robe dances to its own drummer and is tuned into the precarious balance between nature's mystery and spirit and the strident, unyielding religious ethic. The cinematography by Peter James is relentlessly cruel and bleak, but it absolutely conveys the obstacles that face the idealistic and blind young priest, who by the end, has faced his own awakening. The film also features one of the late, great composer Georges Delerue's most noble scores. --Paula Nechak
10 wins & 13 nominations.
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