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The Bear (1988)

In preparation for my Bart the bear post yesterday I watched a film that was recommended to me on here a while back.

The Bear (1988)

Original title, L’ours

I’ve seen the cover of this film pop up here and there for years but I’ve never felt compelled to watch it till now.

The movie came up in a lot of articles I read about Bart while doing a bit of research on him for the post, and since it was mentioned in such high regard I figured I ought to watch it in order to be able to talk about it myself.

I’ll tell you though, it was tough to track down! It’s available on HBO Max (which I don’t have) and Amazon Prime (.com), which despite being able to access via my VPN I was unable to purchase because my bank details are registered to the UK. 😵

Thank god for YouTube! 🙌

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a strangely compelling and beautifully shot French adventure/drama starring Bart the Bear (Legends of the Fall), Youk the Bear (in her only film appearance), Tchéky Karyo (Bad Boys) and Jack Wallace (Death Wish).

The film is an adaptation of the 1916 novel, The Grizzly King by James Oliver Curwood.

This is what it’s about:

When a young bear cub is orphaned after her mother is killed in a rockslide, she meets and befriends an adult male also in need of help.

The two new friends make their way through the Alaskan wilderness but find themselves pursued by two trophy hunters who’ll stop at nothing to claim their prize.

This film has virtually no dialogue and although the version I watched is in English, French actor Tchéky Karyo’s lines are dubbed in American which, as well done as it is, is quite comical when you know how strong his native accent actually is.

The cinematography is beautiful with amazing mountainous backdrops making it almost impossible not to make every shot look impressive. The score by Philippe Sarde is used sparingly but is gorgeous and highly effective.

There were a couple of things that really struck me with this movie…

The first thing is how real, authentic and natural a lot of the scenes are.

The opening scene in particular where the bear cub’s mother is attacking a bee’s nest for the honey and is getting swarmed by bees really got my attention.

This film was made in the late 80s, long before CGI was good enough to make scenes like this look convincing without real bees. Seeing the bears react to something that’s actually there rather than a digital effect really makes this feel like you’re watching something real and not a film at all.

The second thing is the fact that, again, if this film was made today, the whole thing would be done with CGI, yet here’s a film where a whole story is told using real animal actors convincingly playing their parts to brilliant effect!

I’m not sure about the vocal effects put on the bear cub (I might be wrong but they seem overdubbed by a human to me) but at the same time I kept thinking to myself that without them a lot of the emotion being conveyed by the cub probably wouldn’t have come through.

All in all this is an enjoyable movie if you can appreciate a film that tells the story from the animal’s perspective and not the human’s.

It’ll give you a new appreciation for how films like this used to be made before CGI became a much easier option than using actual animal actors. You certainly wouldn’t see a film like this made today. 😞

Seen it? What do you think? 🤔

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