Last of the Mohicans (1992) was not the first film I saw Daniel Day-Lewis in, but it was certainly the most memorable. He was an actor in one of my other favorite films (surely, to be covered here: A Room With A View) but he was almost indistinguishable front that to this.
The 1992 version fo this film is much more “romantic” than the 1936 version–but I’ll get to that.
First… okay, gorgeous men. Not just Day-Lewis as Natty Bumpo/Hawkeye (notice they actually avoid the Natty Bumpo name!), but Eric Schweig as Uncas (Oh, dear!), Wes Studi as Magua, Russell Means as Chingachook, and Steven Waddington as Duncan Heywood.
Second, Madeleine Stowe is marvelous as Cora: fierce, intelligent, intrigued by Hawkeye, and strong.
The music… oh, my goodness.
The film is adapted from a less-than-romantic James Fenimore Cooper novel and directed by Michael Mann, of Miami Vice fame. The action direction and the screenplay are incredibly sexy and romantic… thanks to Mann (director) and the six screenwriter-adapters.
Wow. I’m dizzy….
The 1936 version is far less p.c., and while Randolph Scott is no pushover, Day-Lewis and Stowe are a surprisingly satisfying couple, obvious survivors in a hard land (the American Colonies, 1750s version) and their screen chemistry is amazing.
Here, too, the landscape (North Carolina, rather than upstate NY) is also a stunning backdrop to the action, giving the kind of arcadia/uptopia/New World beauty and savagery that is very honest. It is a gorgeously produced film, and the costume details, the hair and tattoo work, the guns and action sequences, the beauty of the raw ife on the frontier is very, very seductive. All this “cover” disguises the depth of the acting and the nuances of love, desire, survival, civilization, and prejudice that I can only imagine were very, very real in this early pre-colonial America. When the land was new, raw, fearsome, and brilliant.