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April 1994


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Sean Axmaker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 10 Apr 1994 20:11:55 -0700
text/plain (45 lines)
In response to your query for Utopian films, here's a short list I came up
with: Things to Come (1936) and THe Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936) are
two early SF pictures which present "perfect" societies ruled by benign
Excalibur (1981) and Camelot (1967) also present "perfect" societies of
justice and harmony ruled by a just and good (but all powerful) monarch,
but both Utopias fall by the end.
Many filmsd about Native American cultures present idyllic societies,
which are almost invariably destroyed and/or corrupted by Western society.
Just a few of them: A Man Called Horse (1970), Little Big Man (1970),
Dances WIth Wolves (1990), RUn of the Arrow (1957). Interestingly enough,
all of these
films are told from the perspective of a white figure from society who
prefers the utopian existence of the Native American over his own
society's. This kind of mediated understanding is typical of almost all
films made about other cultures, such as the following films that take
place in South America.
Emerald Forest (1985) and Medicine Man (1992).In the latter film, the
white figure doesn't become one of the tribe; rather, he becomes a benign
authority figure by virtue of his western education. Thus, I prefer
Emerald Forest, where the boy embraces and becomes one with the culture,
choosing to remain with the natives and their lifestyle rather than return
to his white father's world.
Finally, Paint Your Wagon (1969) must be the strangest utopia ever
presented on film. It's a terrible film, but the endearing anarchy does
have a certain fantasy-like charm to it, and again the corrupting forces
of society (in the forms of mores, religioun-based ethics and proper modes
of behavior brought by settler families) destroy the little piece of
testosterone heaven carved out by our miners.
It seems that all of the utopian films I mentionned are only partly
utopian, because the societies only exist when the corrupting or
destroying forces of other cultures (usually our own) are out of reach or
out of contact. Once contact is made, the utopia begins its descent,
sometimes to dystopia.
Hope the list helps out.
                                        Yours in cinema,
                                        Sean Axmaker