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With: Warren Oates, Timothy Bottoms, Louis Gossett Jr. (credited as Lou Gossett)
Written by: James Houston, Thomas Rickman, adapted by Martin Ransohoff, based on the novel by James Houston
Directed by: Philip Kaufman
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 109
Date: 07/21/1974

The White Dawn (1974)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Eskimo Sigh

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For his second professional feature film, director Philip Kaufman took asmall crew thousands of miles north of Alaska to shoot this leisurelybut intense film, a kind of Nanook of the North with a plot. Inthe 19th century, three sailors from a whaling ship (Warren Oates, LouisGossett Jr., and Timothy Bottoms) are stranded and rescued by Eskimos.Dubbed the "dog children," the Eskimos take them in and treatthem as family. They live in igloos, learn to hunt and sleep with othermen's wives (with permission). Things fall apart when the abrasive Oatesbegins feeling restless.

The White Dawn is definitely a film of the 1970s, with a kind of hippie message that Dances With Wolves would years later carry to Oscar gold. It suggests that the savages are really gentle and wonderful and we civilized folks are really savages. Timothy Bottoms' wide-eyed peace-n-love performance only underlines this. Otherwise, the film concentrates on the rituals of day-to-day Eskimo life, punctured -- deliciously -- by Oates' crusty grumbling.

The film feels completely authentic, and we really get a flavor for the chilly life of the Eskimos. After this Kaufman stayed home in San Francisco for his great Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake.

DVD Details: Paramount's new DVD � released in conjunction with Kaufman's new film Twisted -- comes with a director commentary track, plus a video "introduction" and a new "making of" featurette. An additional featurette talks about the lives of the Eskimos.

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