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This movie won an Oscar for best Cinematography

‘Legends of the Fall’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 13, 1995

"Legends of the Fall" is a magnificent bore: a western saga lolling in its own immensity -- its big music, its big scenery and, yes, its big hair. Brad Pitt sports a coif that practically comes right out and says, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Oh, Brad, you silly, we'd sooner hate the waving wheat.

Pitt plays the untamable Tristan, the second son of Col. William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), a cavalry officer turned cattleman. Sickened by the government's treatment of the Native Americans, the colonel withdrew to a ranch in the Montana Rockies with his sons -- the dutiful elder Alfred (Aidan Quinn), the unknowable Tristan, and the youthful idealist Samuel (Henry Thomas).

Basically it's "Bonanza" without a Chinese houseboy. Instead there's a stubborn old Cree, One Stab (Gordon Tootoosis), who taught Tristan the skills of a great warrior and the secrets of nature. "He was a rock they broke themselves against," opines the sagacious Native American. Ah, Tristan, wouldst that they had named thee Hoss.

Growing up, the brothers are the dearest of friends, which they remain until Samuel returns from Harvard with the stunning Susannah Finncannon (Julia Ormond) upon his arm. Though betrothed to Samuel, she is drawn to Tristan. Both are too honorable to act upon their desires, as opposed to Alfred, who can barely suppress his longing for the captivating Miss Finncannon. This pot is left to simmer when the brothers, against their father's wishes, ride off to fight in the First World War.

The story might have been written by Barbara Cartland, but Susan Shilliday, formerly with TV's "thirtysomething," penned the adaptation of the Jim Harrison novella with the help of coproducer Bill Wittliff. As directed by Edward Zwick, the yarn doesn't so much sweep as sprawl across the screen in all its panoramic idiocy.

Shot in the Canadian wilderness near Calgary, it is a gorgeous anthem to an American West that never was, a Ralph Laurentian fantasy -- a gallop with hunky boys in Chaps and pre-washed jeans.

"Legends of the Fall" is rated R for violence, sexual situations and profanity.

Copyright The Washington Post

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