(1948)4.5Tom WienerWhatever questions attend Robert Flaherty's last film (Is it really a documentary? Does its sponsorship by a major corporation contradict its celebration of the natural world?), it is inarguably his loveliest film. Cinematographer Richard Leacock, editor Helen van Dongen, and composer Virgil Thomson were among the most talented collaborators Flaherty ever enjoyed. And it must be admitted that the support by a "producer" (the Standard Oil company) with deeper pockets than any Flaherty had ever known in his long career allowed him the luxury to craft a stunning evocation of life in the wilds of Louisiana's bayou country. Choosing locals to "act" out the script Flaherty and his wife Frances wrote (it was nominated for an Academy award) was a risky decision; though these people look and sound like the real deal, their stilted line readings undercut our emotional involvement with them. One film historian has pointed out that the film is essentially autobiographical, a recasting by the director of his own childhood spent around mining camps in Michigan and Canada, where he discovered a love for the wilderness and its beauty. Ultimately, Louisiana Story overcomes its limitations and should be seen as one of the cinema's great poetic odes to the natural world.