White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

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White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

White Mane (1953)
DVD5 | VIDEO_TS | NTSC 4:3 | 00:40:02 | 2,66 Gb
Audio: #1 French, #2 English - AC3 1.0 @ 192 Kbps (each) | Subs: English
Genre: Short, Drama, Family | The Criterion Collection

Director: Albert Lamorisse
Stars: Alain Emery, Laurent Roche, Pascal Lamorisse, Clan-Clan, Francois Perie

In the south of France, in a vast plain region called the Camargue, lives White Mane, a magnificent stallion and the leader of a herd of wild horses too proud to let themselves be broken by humans. Only Folco, a young fisherman, manages to tame him. A strong friendship grows between the boy and the horse, as the two go looking for the freedom that the world of men won’t allow them. Long unavailable in the U.S., this extraordinarily shot wonder from Albert Lamorisse, the director of The Red Balloon, is a work of technical sophistication and immense natural beauty.


Three years before "The Red Balloon," Lamorisse had his first international success with the 40-minute "White Mane," another fable-like children's film with strong documentary elements. (It's like a more poetic take on Walt Disney's "True Life Adventures" series.) Alain Emery plays a ragamuffin preteen fisherman who takes a liking to a wild horse, and does what he can to protect it from a band of trappers. Much less fanciful than "The Red Balloon," "White Mane" is action-packed but stark and unforgiving. It's filmed in stunningly bright black and white, and filled with scenes like the one where two horses fight for dominance, with no violence faked. And yet "White Mane" can be beautiful, too, as in its long chase scenes through the marsh, in which the horses look like they're running on glass.

Lamorisse's work pre-dates the French New Wave by a couple of years, but there's a lot of the rising generation's spirit in his emphasis on blending docu-realism with pure imagination. At the least, he proved there was a wide audience for this kind of art, which falls halfway between poetry and juvenile fiction.
Noel Murray, A.V. Club
White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

Filmed prior to the extraordinary The Red Balloon, what appears to be an old fashioned boy’s adventure story is actually another beautiful allegory about the eternal battle between good and evil. Nominated for a BAFTA in 1954 for best documentary, it won the Prix Jean Vigo and the Grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953.

Written eight years after the war ended, it features a narration co-written by the great James Agee and it is shot to great effect in black and white on the arid and startlingly beautiful marshes of the Camargue.

White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

White Mane is a wild stallion that the local gauchos are determined to capture and tame. Chased into a pen, White Mane resists being subdued and escapes in a dramatic fashion, watched by a young fisherman, Folco (Alain Emery), who barely scratches an existence with his grandfather and younger brother (played by Pascal Lamorisse, who later played the boy in The Red Balloon to great effect).

The cowboys, fired with greed and wounded pride, then try to flush the stallion out by setting a brush fire but the stallion allows Folco to help him out of the marsh to safety. Unfortunately he is captured again when he tries to protect his herd from capture by the gauchos and then, penned once more, battles with another stallion for leadership of the herd. This particular scene is filmed quite brilliantly by Lamorisse. Eventually White Mane escapes and returns to Folco who nurses him back to health.

White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

Once again the cowboys return, determined to gain ownership of White Mane, despite the fact they had told Folco he was his if he could tame him. A breakneck chase across marshland and dunes ensue. The ending is something of a shock to the system. One expects something neat and happy, but while it IS open to interpretation, it is undeniably a shock in a children’s film to suggest death may be a possibility. We realize the film is really begging us to face life’s eternal questions: what is hatred and why does it exist? What causes war and why can’t we just co-exist? The film tells us that if the young boy and horse cannot find peace in the marsh then they will have to find it elsewhere – perhaps in oblivion.

White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

White Mane is a fabulous mix of docu-realism, myth and pure imagination. This film is a tad longer than The Red Balloon at 50 minutes but it is just as memorable and it too leaves us with a whole raft of questions for which we need to find answers. Featuring wonderful cinematography this film is most notable because it does not pander to or patronize the child viewer, instead demanding of them complex approaches to perennial problems.
White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

Disc Features:
* New, restored high-definition digital transfer
* New English narration spoken by Peter Strauss
* Theatrical trailer
* New and improved English subtitle translation
White Mane / Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage (1953) [The Criterion Collection] [Re-UP]

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