Published May 31, 2007Ten Canoes begins with a voiceover stating, "once upon a time then laughs at the pomposity of such a leadoff. Thus the movie had me at "hello, with its remarkably loose and humorous trip through Australian aboriginal legend.
Nobody beats any Joseph Campbell drums here, its just a story told to a young tribesman by his older brother as they build canoes to hunt for goose eggs. And its a fairly mundane story at that, a largely political affair in which a wife goes missing and mistaken identity leads to death and intertribal tensions.
It wouldnt be cricket to reveal more, as you should discover the details and nuances on your own, but let it be known the film is funnier, better made and more compelling than most of the pretentious "archetypal romps that litter the multiplexes these days. Not only is its approach to myth in general remarkably relaxed but it also explodes the stereotype of so-called "primitive peoples being solemn, mystical beings without a sense of humour.
The parallel stories of Ten Canoes are told with a casual touch and a flair for vulgarity, not missing the opportunities for mocking a fat leader with a craving for honey and examining the negative magical properties of captured bowel movements. Directors Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr cap things off with a languid, flowing aesthetic in which images of the bush all flow into each other, keeping continuity with both the narrative lines and the idea of the land as infinite.
Its one of the most enjoyable films of the year, not some virtuous chore one feels duty-bound to sit through but an entertaining yarn that draws you in and makes you laugh. (Kinosmith)