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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hawaii (1966)

In the early 19th century, a young minister (Max Von Sydow) and his new bride (Julie Andrews) come to the Hawaiian Islands with a group of Calvinist missionaries with the intention of bringing God to the "heathens". But what they bring is far more destructive than intended. Based only in part on the massive James Michener book (almost a 1,000 pages), the George Roy Hill film takes the third section of the six segment novel and gives its a rich and full presentation. It's uncompromising in its look at how the Caucasian invasion of the islands destroyed a paradise and nearly wiped out an entire civilization. It's quite remarkable that a film in which Christianity doesn't come off very well (indeed, it may be the movie's "villain") got made in 1966. If made today, I wouldn't be surprised if it was softened to not offend. Von Sydow's man of God is one of the most insufferable characters in 60s cinema and Von Sydow plays him uncompromisingly without making him one dimensional. It's Von Sydow's best English language performance and it may be Julie Andrews best non-musical performance. The gorgeous score is by Elmer Bernstein. With Richard Harris, Gene Hackman, Carroll O'Connor, Torin Thatcher, Lou Antonio, Bette Midler (in her film debut) and a superb performance by Jocelyne LaGarde, a non professional, whose Oscar nominated performance as the ali'i nui walks off with the film. 

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