Stunning black-and-white imagery of the landscape and people of the Sahara Desert distinguish Raymond Depardon’s study of the life of a young tribesman at the turn of the 20th century. The former Gamma Agency stills photographer-turned-movie director has come up with a rarefied film which, though of considerable appeal to a small minority, will have little attraction for mainstream audiences. Television exposure is likely to be limited by the artistically justified decision to shoot sans color.
Film opens with an extraordinary shot of a landscape so white it could have been filmed in the Arctic, but this is the north African desert, and the baby left abandoned is the hero of the story that follows. Original native language dialogue is overlaid by a French narration as the very simple saga of an intrepid loner and his adventures unfolds. But, despite the film’s formal beauty and its value as an ethnographic reconstruction of a way of life already dead, Depardon’s pic is more a series of beautiful images than a genuinely interesting drama.