Dances With Wolves

Kevin Costner stars, coproduces, and makes his directorial debut in a three-hour epic (1990), adapted by Michael Blake from his novel of the same title, about a Union lieutenant in the 1860s who gradually becomes a member of a Sioux tribe in the Dakotas. In reward for an act of heroism in Tennessee, the lieutenant is allowed to select his own reassignment, and he chooses the western frontier. Finding himself in an abandoned fort, he slowly makes the acquaintance of the nearby Sioux (as well as of a prairie wolf, which eventually leads to his Sioux name, Dances With Wolves) and helps them find buffalo; eventually he falls in love with and marries Stands With a Fist (Mary McDonnell), a white woman adopted by the tribe as a child, who serves as interpreter. By the time he’s arrested as a traitor by the army, he has fully assumed a Sioux identity. Sincere, capable, at times moving, but overextended, this picture is seriously hampered by its tendency to linger over everythingespecially landscapes with silhouetted figures, and not excluding its own good intentions. For all the film’s respect for the Sioux, it has surprisingly little to tell us about their culture, and the implicit link between the hero’s wolf friend and his Sioux friends is rather emblematic of the sentimentality behind the overall conception. With Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, and Tantoo Cardinal. (JR)

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