Nanook of the North

Nanook of the North ★★★½


Couldn't care less that Flaherty staged some of this, as it plays more like fiction than a documentary in any case—not surprising, since the latter concept didn't really exist at the time (and the word itself, I now learn, was coined four years later in reference to another Flaherty film, Moana). And while the intertitles' descriptions of "Nanook" and his "family" are often patronizing, making allowances for the era permits one to tune that out to some degree and focus on the copious how-to footage, with igloo construction being far and away the most in-depth and fascinating. Unfortunately, quite a bit of Nanook is devoted to hunting, and watching actual animals being killed in a prolonged struggle invariably upsets me, even in cases like this where it's for survival and not merely for sport. Not the movie's fault that I grew up with a stepfather who dragged me against my will on trips to murder beautiful deer, ducks, and pheasant (which, to be fair, we did eat, though that was clearly secondary), but rooting for the walrus and seal to escape inevitably put me in an oppositional place.