As witnessed from director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s work in Quest for Fire, Seven Years in Tibet, and Enemy at the Gates, man is consistently beset with larger than life challenges and journeys. That struggle can also be felt in the animal kingdom, and his work The Bear is an compelling story of survival. Shout! Factory recently released The Bear: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD, and it’s definitely worth a look.
Annaud, whose latest film Wolf Totem was released stateside this year, is known for his eye catching visuals, often setting animals and humans in the middle of a beautiful yet ultimately unforgiving backdrop. Amidst the lush scenery is danger at every turn, and the film deals with a young cub’s bonding with an adult Grizzly after his mother’s untimely death.
Though the adult Grizzly is initially hesitant at befriending the motherless cub, they eventually need one another for survival and a little companionship. Tchéky Karyo, best known for his work in La Femme Nikita, is a bear hunter who, while tracking down the Grizzly, manages to capture the cub. Though collecting bear skins is part of his stock and trade, the hunter’s belief system is temporarily thrown for a loop after his encounter with the bears.
The ensuing years have not dimmed the captivating power of The Bear, and credit goes to Annaud for refusing to imbue the narrative with honey dripping sentimentality. Instead, his straightforward tale of perseverance strikes an evocative tale thanks to its unadorned storytelling.
The Blu-ray and DVD versions also come with a new, hour long “Making Of” featurette of The Bear. The footage is culled from the actual production, and much of the segment centers trainer Doug Seus’ diligent work with the trained bears on the film. Certain moments of Seas’ interaction with Bart the Bear left me wondering if the trainer has ever been seriously injured from his work with the bears, as playfully wrestling with or feeding a bear isn’t exactly recommended for the average citizen.
The making-of also gives viewers a look into Jean-Jacques Annaud’s unflappable and focused working style. Shooting outdoors (the movie is set in 19th century British Columbia) with bears led to its share of headaches for the filmmaker, but Annaud remains relatively calm through the process (at least, that’s what the featurette displayed!). Even a rainy day which temporarily halted production didn’t unnerve Annaud, and his level headed demeanor is possibly one reason his best work has a refreshingly straightforward approach to storytelling.
To order The Bear: https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/action-adventure/the-bear-25th-anniversary-collector-s-edition
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