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BMZ Review: Water and Man
By Herb Lash


BMZ Review of Water and Man
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: Dec 2000


Category: Reviews

Water and Man is a love story, but like most love affairs that have lasted for millions of years (or feel like they have) there are only occasional moments of excitement.  The relationship is a one sided affair - water supports man, water allows man to thrive and it always seems to be around when man needs it most.  Man though, is a bad lover. We pollute water, we use too much water and we take it for granted. Director of Water and Man, Pierre Willemin, leads a hopscotch around the globe in an effort to show the many faces of this relationship. But in telling their story the filmmakers utilize a style that is too close to industrial filmmaking - flat pronouncements are made, facts are given, places are described and problems identified.

Inspired documentary storytelling is lacking here, the film is tasteless and odorless - but it is not colorless. The masterful cinematography is the real and passionate center of Water and Man. The film plays a meandering game of connect the dots between subjects as diverse as asparagus growth in Arizona and the power of Niagara Falls.  The subject choices are hit and miss, but the images are almost always beautiful. 

Glowing blue icebergs rise from arctic waters and we are told that seventy-five percent of the Earth's fresh water supply is locked inside icebergs drifting across the ocean... And then later in the film we see...  Snaggle toothed Morray Eels with a scuba diver - if you are like the diver (daring/foolhardy) you can reach out and pet the little monsters for no apparent reason... And later still... Shafts of heavenly sunlight and a Navy submarine together penetrate ocean depths with a shared grace... And then on to Venice, the city is sinking. We watch as scientists study and try to stop the inevitable. . .The sum total of these and other scenes is a sort of slapdash collage - the filmmakers require only that the many images somehow relate to water.  This too broad, too general approach misses some good opportunities.

Perhaps the most engaging sections of Water and Man have to do with the water village of Tofinus. We stumble into this extraordinary world without warning and are offered a glimpse of lives lived entirely on, around and in water.  School children of Tofinus crowd shoulder to shoulder and do their best not to squirm as the instructor drones on. They are like school kids everywhere - except their desks are situated atop an open air, thatch-roofed platform floating in the middle of a landless nowhere. Before the wonder of this scene sinks in, the filmmakers are off and running toward a new subject.  One is left wishing more time could have spent in Tofinus - maybe a whole film's worth of time. Water and Man proves the old adage that the best lovers are not always the ones who get around the most.

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