Monday, August 13, 2007

As I approaqch the golden age of sixty, I am sometimes relieved to learn that other "classics" are turning older than me. Yes, dear friends, dear old "Bambi" becomes a senior citizen this day-- for the picture was released to theatres sixty-five years ago today. What an amazing film! I can watch it over and over again and still find something new and exciting about it. The original novel by Felix Salten was adapted masterfully (Mr.Salten's works yielded two other Disney classics ("The Shaggy Dog" in 1959) and Rascal in 1974.The story of the natural life cycle—birth, death and re-birth—is the true plot of the film. It is a case study in the very basics of life: the "doe-eyed" innocence of childhood; parental love; discovering and learning about the world around us (both its beauty and its danger); loss and grief; developing friendships; loyalty; balancing risk and need; growing toward independence; being at one and in harmony with nature; and romantic love.Like the majority of Walt Disney's feature-length animated narratives, Bambi embraces both joy and tragedy. Bambi is a movie that alternates frequently between these two extremes, with the one typically being used to set up the other. For instance, the ultimate joy of Bambi's first walk through the forest is interrupted by a frightening thunderstorm. His first visit to the meadow is joyful until it is interrupted by hunters who fire upon Bambi and his mother.
The pivotal scene in the movie involves Bambi's mother and her death at the hands of a hunter. In the sequence, the audience sees the joy/tragedy motif used again. The scene is set in late winter, and Bambi and his mother struggle to find food as mournful music plays. Joy is felt as they discover a patch of new grass, signaling the arrival of Spring, and joyful music is heard on the soundtrack. As they feast, the mood changes again, and we hear Man approach off-screen, represented only by his theme music (a low, three-note motif). Bambi's mother suddenly catches Man's scent, and orders her child to run, but she is too late. As they flee across the snow field, shots ring out. The camera stays with young Bambi as he runs through the forest, finally stopping to catch his breath. He notices at this time (as does the audience) that his mother is nowhere to be seen. Our hearts collectively break at this very moment.In a series of heartbreaking dissolves, Bambi wanders desperately through the forest calling for her, but no answer comes. Bambi is startled by the sudden appearance of his father, the Great Prince, who informs him that his mother can't be with him any more. Bambi casts his head to the ground, and when he lifts it again, the audiences see that he is crying, realizing what has happened. Bambi follows his father into the forest, taking one last look back as he leaves his childhood and innocence behind. Today is also the birthday of dear old Alfred Hitchcock who was born in 1899. What a masterful director this genius was. And of course, let us remember Merv Griffin who has passed from this weary Earth at age eighty-two. You had one hell of a great life, Mr. Griffin-- one fantastic ride. Our condolences to your son, Tony and your two beautiful grand children.

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