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(Le Peuple Migrateur) (2001)
is 85 minutes of birds flying. Just birds flying. Its no Hitchcock.
Thats an invitation, not a warning, about this unusual and quite thrilling
documentary by French filmmaker Jacques Perrin.
Perrins four-decade career in movies and television as an
actor as well as producer is varied and eclectic. He has appeared in more than 100
movies; in the States hes probably best known for work in Z,
Paradiso and The
Young Girls of Roquefort. He produced Academy Award winners Z and Black
and White in Color, among other films. He also made 1996s fascinating Microcosmos,
an intense inside look at the insect world and a movie that presages work such as Winged
Winged Migration, subtitled "the amazing odyssey of
travelling birds," represents a huge achievement, and its something Perrin
didnt accomplish alone. In a four-year effort that spanned space as well as time,
Perrin employed more than a dozen cinematographers to get up close and personal with the
thousands of subjects of his film. Perrin, and co-directors Jacques Cluzaud and Michel
Debats, went to great lengths to capture the four migratory routes, both spring and fall,
of the major bird groups: North American birds, which fly south toward Central and South
America; European or Asian birds, which head toward Africa; Asian birds, which fly toward
India around the Himalayas; and Southeast Asian birds, which may travel as far as
The filmmakers didnt just photograph the birds from planes,
though. They used specialized gliders, helicopters, balloons and even developed an
"ultra light motorized craft," a vehicle that utilizes a camera with a
360-degree field of vision. Viewers get a proverbial birds eye view. The fancy
technology works, and it makes for vistas that simply are out of this world. And
thats why Winged Migration is the success it is. Watching these gorgeous,
graceful birds as they make their way across the world is not only mesmerizing and
meditative, it actually makes humans feel what it might be like to fly.
The film isnt like anything on PBS or Animal Planet.
Happily, Perrin veers away from "educational" constraints, offering only slight,
spare narration. Its no detraction from the film that at the end of the visual
extravaganza it provides, nature novices wont necessarily know the difference
between various types of geese, or a crane or a tern. (Most folks probably will recognize
penguins and a feisty parrot, though.)
Likewise, it's not a problem that bird fanatics may not remember all of
the numerous specimens that inhabit the screen in many amazing international settings --
despite the fact that the images are stunningly beautiful throughout the entire film. New
Age music thats neither cloying nor boring accompanies the one-of-a kind pictures in
the documentary, which deservedly earned an Academy Award nomination.
Winged Migration is film unlike anything most people have
seen. Its not just a movie-going experience. Its a spiritual experience.
- Leslie Katz